Nobody likes fruitcake, right? Sixties talk show host Johnny Carson once called it 'the worst gift. There's only one fruitcake in the whole world, and people keep sending it to each other." In fact, I don't like it myself. So, why make it?
Well, it's in the cookbook, so here we go. I had thought of making this for the Appalachian Trail hikers when I was in Massachusetts, figuring that they would eat anything. I am glad I didn't because it has a set of ingredients that are A. hard to find and B. that would then become leftovers, and would require dragging back to DC. But when my husband's church announced that they needed donations for the hospitality hour for their annual celebration in honor of their patron saint, I leapt at the chance. it was time for some major foisting.
If you want to make fruitcake, this is the season for buying the ingredients. Red and green maraschino cherries have a very short shelf life these days. The supermarkets are out of them by mid December. Also, who knows about things like Brazil nuts?
I handled the ingredient issue by sitting down at the computer and ordering everything I could from Nuts.com. This may be a giant corporation for all I know, but the story they tell customers is they grew from a little family nut stand started by grandpa. They ship fast, I'll tell you that. You no sooner order than their box is on your doorstep, without having to pay for next day shipping. I ordered English walnuts, glazed diced orange peel, pitted dates and....Brazil nuts. In the shell. It says so, right here on my receipt. Did I check that and say, Oh, my God, I don't want these in the shell? I did not.
So, when I sat down to make the fruitcake and opened the bag of Brazil nuts, I was horrified to discover them in their enormously hard, triangular shells. So, I went to look for the hammer. Our basement is in more than the usual disarray, due to a dispute we are having with the District of Columbia. We want to install geothermal heating, and some bureaucrat at the DC Department of Consumer Affairs seems hellbent on making sure we do not. So stuff is everywhere, and I could only find a skinny little hammer designed to hammer those skinny little nails used in making picture frames.
I wrapped the nuts in a dishtowel and began whacking away. I discovered that once I was able to penetrate the diamond like shell of these damn things, the meat still had to be picked out of the remaining shell. It was an arduous task. Then, I had Brazil nut pieces and finally some whole Brazil nuts, but they were still coated with the skin of the nut. Unlike peanuts, the skin does not just slough off.
How to get the skin off? I tried boiling the nuts, which worked sort of, and then scraped the skin off with my fingernails. Fun.
An hour later, I was ready to open the next bag and begin making the fruitcake. Basically, it's all measure, dump and mix. I did one thing by mistake which increased the flavorfulness of the fruitcake. I didn't check the size of the aperture on the vanilla bottle and dumped in at least two teaspoons of vanilla. You do that too. It made the cake taste better.
If you have never made fruitcake before, be prepared for having a lot of fruit (and nuts) and very little cake. The recipe does warn you about this. It says, "Resulting mixture will be stiff." That's what that means. Also, if, like I did, you find that you have too much batter for one loaf pan, prepare both loaf pans at the same time, stir the batter really well, and ladle the batter into them at the same time. What little actual batter there is has a tendency to trickle down to the bottom of the bowl, leaving the fruit on top with a light glaze of batter. My second loaf was more cake like than my first.
I was pleased to discover, when I finally took my unloved creation out of the oven, that it tasted good. (This recipe does not call for rum, which I consider a good thing.)
One thing you must know. THIS RECIPE CALLS FOR WAXED PAPER. YOU CANNOT MAKE THIS FRUITCAKE WITHOUT WAXED PAPER. BUY WAXED PAPER. Okay? Got that?
You may be wondering why this woman is railing on about waxed paper. Well, waxed paper is not mentioned until step 4. At that point many of us would find ourselves with a bowl of fruitcake batter and no time to run out and buy waxed paper. And, thusly, would just decide to do without it. Big mistake. Unless you want to have to dynamite your cake out of the pan, buy waxed paper.
So, if you want to try this, make it for an open house or something, so those that like it can eat it, and those that think they hate it will miss out. And buy waxed paper. And shelled Brazil nuts.
1 1/2 cups shelled Brazil nuts, left whole
1 1/2 cups walnut halves
1 eight ounce package pitted dates, left whole
2/3 cup chopped candied orange peel
1/2 cup red maraschino cherries drained
1/2 cup green maraschino cherries, drained
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon (or more) vanilla
1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
2. Mix together the Brazil nuts, walnut halves, dates, orange peel, red cherries, green cherries and raisins. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt and sprinkle it over the fruit mixture.
3. Beat the eggs until light and fluffy, add vanilla and combine with fruit mixture. Resulting mixture will be stiff.
4. The baking utensil(s) to be used should be greased, lined with unglazed brown paper, parchment paper or wax paper and greased again. (Skip this step at your peril.) Spoon the fruitcake mixture into a prepared 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan or one and one half quart mold or into two prepared one pound coffee cans.
5. Bake loaf one and three-quarter hours and other tins two hours. Cool cake in baking utensil ten minutes; then loosen and finish cooling on a rack. Makes 14 servings.