Fruit cake is a Christmas tradition. The combination of dried fruits and nuts makes the cake hearty and delicious, while the addition of alcohol gives the cake a subtle kick and lots of moisture.
Classic Fruit Cake
Coat a spring pan with either nonstick vegetable spray or butter and line it with parchment paper that ends about two inches over the sides of the pan. Set the oven to 325 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix 1 cup of unsalted butter with ½ cups each of brown and white sugar until the mixture if fluffy and light. Add 3 large eggs one by one and beat well. You may need to scrape down the bowl’s sides.
Next, add 3 tablespoons of brandy and the zested skin of one lemon and one orange. Fold ¾ cups of ground almonds, 1 cup of chopped walnuts, pecans, almonds or hazelnuts and 2 ¼ pounds of dried and candied fruits to the batter. Include a variety of fruits, including dried figs, apricots, prunes, currants, cranberries, raisins and cherries.
In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk together 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 2 cups of flour and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Fold this mixture into the cake batter.
Pour the batter into the spring form pan and decorate the top with blanched almonds. Set the spring form pan on a baking sheet and bake for one hour. Lower the temperature of the oven to 300 degrees, then continue baking for another hour and a half. A wooden skewer should come out clean when inserted into the center of the cake.
Remove the cake and let it cool on a wire rack. Poke small holes in the surface using a wooden skewer, then brush the cake with brandy. Wrap the cake in foil, then keep brushing it twice a week with brandy until it is ready to be served. The cake can be frozen or will last for several weeks at room temperature.
Panforte Fruit Cake
This Italian fruit cake has a flavor and texture that is very different from a traditional fruit cake. The chewier cake also contains a honey syrup and rich chocolate, making it taste more like candy than a classic fruit cake.
Coat a tart pan with parchment paper and butter. Next, melt 3 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water. Set the chocolate aside, then mix 1 cup of chopped hazelnuts in a large bowl with 1 cup of candied citrus fruits, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon of allspice, 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder and ½ cup of flour.
In another saucepan, stir 2/3 cups of granulated sugar with 2/3 cups of honey. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. Stop stirring and boil the mixture until it reaches 240 degrees.
Remove the syrup from heat and stir it into the chopped fruits and nuts. Pour the chocolate over the mixture, then quickly transfer it to the pan before it stiffens. Spread the mixture evenly throughout the pan using a wooden spoon.
Bake the Panforte fruit cake for 35 minutes at 300 degrees. The surface should be finely blistered. Remove the Panforte and place it on a wire rack. While it is warm, take the Panforte out of the pan and dust the top with powdered sugar. When the cake is cool, wrap it in foil and store it in a dry, cool place for up to several months.
Christmas Fruit Cake
In this video, master baker Betty, of Betty’s Kitchen, shows you how to make a traditional fruit cake that is perfect for Christmas: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IofPRTuKWqs.
YouTube: Betty’s Christmas Fruitcake (Betty’s Kitchen):