To fulfill a long-time follower’s request, here is Wildlands’ Fruitcake recipe. In the years I have the extra time, I make the fruitcake in August or early September and let them age (drizzling them with cognac or brandy every week) until Christmas time. First, let me tell you what this fruitcake is not. It’s not vegan, gluten-free, or alcohol-free. Most importantly, it’s not the brick-like hunk of weirdness, complete with luminescent candied fruit.
What is it, then? It’s a ginger carrot cake filled with candied citrus (recipe follows), dried fruit, and warm winter spices and the recipe dates back to 1790s Philadelphia.
I’ve included several notes which provide tips and suggestions based upon my experience making this recipe from year to year. Typically, I make 3 double batches. Due to the large ingredient list and the way I’ve organized the recipe, there is a shopping list at the end of the post.
Step 1: make candied citrus (recipe here)
Step 2: combine the below ingredients in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
1/2 c. shredded carrots
1/2 c. slivered almonds (untoasted)
1/2 c. sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 c. finely chopped candied citrus peel
1/4 c. dried currants
1/4 c. dried cherries
1/4 c. finely chopped dried pineapple
1/4 c. finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 c. rum, cognac, or brandy (whichever you prefer), plus more for drizzling over the fruitcake (fresh out of oven and every week until Christmas)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. If using loaf pans or round springform pans, line with parchment paper (see note 1, below). Grease and lightly flour any pan you do not line with parchment paper. As I use a combination of pans to maximize each batch, I prepare a few extra pans to give myself options when it comes time to get the batter into the pans.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the following dry ingredients and set aside (see note 2 below):
2 1/4 c. flour
1 TBSP baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. dried ground ginger
1 tsp. dried ground anise
1 tsp. dried ground nutmeg
1 tsp. dried ground allspice
1 tsp. dried ground cloves
1 tsp. dried ground cardamom
1 tsp. mace
1 tsp. salt
Combine the wet ingredients as follows:
In a large bowl (that will accommodate all ingredients) whisk together until light in color:
2 c. brown sugar
2 c. olive oil
Then, add 9 large eggs, whisking after each addition.
Lastly, whisk in:
1/4 c. honey
1 TBSP vanilla extract
2 tsp. almond extract
2 tsp. rose water
Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in three additions, mixing well after each addition.
Using a spatula, fold in 2 c. preserves (apricot or marmalade) and 1 TBSP fresh grated ginger.
Lastly, fold in the pre-soaked dried and candied fruit, including liquid (if any).
Divide the batter among your prepared pans (See note 5). Fill each pan between 1/2 and 3/4 full. The batter will rise significantly. Bake for 20-25 minutes (depending upon the size of your pans) or until an inserted toothpick in the center comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the pan, then unmold.
Once cooled, I wrap the individual cakes and loaves in wax paper and then aluminum foil. Before sealing up each cake, I drizzle 1 TBSP of brandy or cognac over each loaf or cake. Every few days, I open each one and drizzle another 1 tsp. of preferred booze (brandy or cognac) over it. As time goes on, the cake, which comes out of the oven a light-brown hue, darkens as the booze caramelizes.
Notes on this recipe:
1. You could skip lining the pans with parchment paper and grease and flour each pan, however, if you line with parchment, you’re insured the fruitcake does not stick to the pan. As I also use kaiser pans, lining with parchment isn’t possible. If not lining with parchment, the pans must be thoroughly greased and floured. Second, when those come out of the oven, allow them to rest for no more than 10 minutes and then unmold—otherwise, chances are the fruitcake will stick to the pan—no matter how diligent you were.
2. I purchase the anise, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon whole (bulk section at the Coop) and grind them in the coffee grinder. First, this saves on overall costs and second, provides a superior flavor over the pre-ground options at the grocery store.
3. In the past, I’ve used brandy or rum in lieu of cognac. However, over time, I find I prefer the cognac over the rum. All told, depending upon how many batches you plan to make, you’ll need approximately 2-3 cups. As such, just buy a decent-sized bottle and don’t dishonor your fruitcake by using cheap booze. Cheap booze will taste stringent and does NOT mellow with aging. Stick to the good stuff, folks.
4. There is a long list of ingredients and while long, many of these items may already be in your pantry. However, if you do not, I recommend you search your local market’s bulk section; otherwise, the cost to make this holiday treat is perhaps cost prohibitive. If you’re local, I highly recommend Pedrick Produce.
5. Each recipe makes approximately 5 or 6 small loaves or 3 kaiser bundt cakes. I choose to make smaller loaves simply to maximize the number of loaves while keeping down costs. I also use small springform rounds and mix and match the pans, thus maximizing each batch. I am considering purchasing these recyclable loaf pans for next year. I always make a few of the kaiser pans to take along to holiday parties.
6. If you plan to age the fruitcake open them up once every few days and drizzle with booze. If you’re in for the long haul (a few weeks), after the first week, you can reduce the drizzling to once a week. Again – the quality of the booze matters. Don’t go for the cheap booze.
Candied citrus (if not making your own)
slivered almonds (untoasted)
sweetened flaked coconut
bottle of cognac, rum, or brandy
16 oz. preserves (apricot or marmalade) – per batch
eggs – 9 eggs per batch