Writer.Chef.Romantic.

Grandpa Baker’s Amazing Fruitcake

If you want to tackle a big, yummy, heavenly, totally-worth-it labor of love…make my fruitcake. I guess if you make it, it will be your fruitcake, but I’ve been baking these for so many years now I kind of feel possessive of them. In a good way. Such a good way!

IMG_3371

It started because my father has everything, and I could never figure out what to get him for Christmas or his New Year’s Eve birthday. We share a love of books–for example, he introduced me to both Tolkien and the Outlander series–but every time I bought him a book, I struck out. I can’t even remember how many different books I bought him, and then quietly stole out of the basement the next year. But I struck gift gold with fruitcake.

Fruitcake lovers are a unique breed. Maybe you have to be brought up with it, as my father was. His mother’s fruitcake is, of course, the best. I will never top it. Unfortunately, she passed away a good twenty years ago. I named my daughter after her, so her name lives on lives on. Unfortunately, her fruitcake recipe does not.  Many years ago, I found an old-timey recipe in Richard Sax’s book CLASSIC HOME DESSERTS, and gave it a shot. My father loved it! And I’ve made fruitcake every year since. A labor of love, indeed! This fruitcake is Christmas to me. It’s the intoxicating smell of warm, buttery dried fruit soaked in brandy. It’s the search for the perfect gift for someone I love.

I’ve tweaked Mr. Sax’s recipe a bit because I like more fruit, less lemon, less time in the oven, less cheesecloth. Oh, fine, I’ve tweaked it until it’s nearly unrecognizable to anyone but me! However, I mention the book because I love it, and you might love it, too. A last-minute Amazon Prime gift for the home baker on your list? If your holiday baking is done, keep this recipe on tap for next year. It’s a delicious, delightful, holiday tradition in-the-making!

Grandpa Baker’s Holiday Fruitcake

(makes seven mini-loaf pans or two regular-size loaf pans)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 pound unsalted butter, softened

2 1/4 cups sugar

6 large eggs, separated

IMG_3359

I separate my eggs with my hands. Less chance of breaking yolk on the edge of the shell. Egg whites won’t whip up with any kind of fat in the bowl, so be careful!

1 Tablespoon vanilla

1/2 pound golden raisins

1/2 pound dried cranberries

1/2 pound prunes, cut into pieces the size of raisins

1/2 pound dried apricots, cut into pieces the size of raisins

1/2 cup crystallized ginger, diced into tiny pieces

Use any kind of dried fruit that suits your fancy. I like a variety of colors!

Use any kind of dried fruit that suits your fancy. I like a variety of colors!

1 pound walnuts, chopped

pinch of salt

2 cups brandy, as needed

1.Preheat oven to 235

2. Line pans with parchment so that the ends overhang the long sides of the pan. Then cut a strip to line the short sides. I’ve discovered it likes to stick to the pan, and lining both sides makes it MUCH easier to get it out without cracking the top. Spray lightly with pan release.

I spent a lot of years lining them like this before I discovered lining both sides works better.

I spent a lot of years lining them like this before I discovered lining both sides works better.

MUCH BETTER.

MUCH BETTER.

3. Toss 1/2 cup of the flour with cut-up dried fruit.

I've heard tossing it with flour will keep your fruit from sinking in the batter.

I’ve heard tossing it with flour will keep your fruit from sinking in the batter.

4. Sift remaining 1 1/2 cups of flour with the baking powder. Set aside.

5. Cream the butter and sugar on medium-high until pale, light, and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time. Then beat in the vanilla.

Pale, light, and fluffy!

Pale, light, and fluffy!

6. Lower the speed to slow and beat in sifted flour mixture. Mix only until flour disappears.

7. Add dried fruit mixture. Combine.

8. Add walnuts. Combine.

Abort! Abort! (Not really.)

Abort! Abort! (Not really.)

9. At this point, I exceed the capacity of my Heavy Duty Kitchen-Aid mixer and have to transfer the very thick batter to a bigger bowl.

It's all good now. Gotta have some room to work.

It’s all good now. Gotta have some room to work.

10. Wash your mixing bowl well to eliminate all traces of butter fat, and then whip the egg whites with the salt until they hold a nice shape/medium peaks/just past soft peaks. Do not beat them until they are stiff. If they are stiff, it’s hard to fold them into the batter.

This will work.

This will work.

So will this.

So will this.

11. Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter. Then fold the rest of the egg whites into the batter. The first time I did this, I was very skeptical. The batter is super thick, and whipped egg whites are…not. However, once you get everything combined, the batter becomes a little more friendly and manageable. The egg whites make it nicer, I promise!

12. Divide the batter among 7 mini loaf pans or two regular loaf pans. Or any permutation of pan you desire, although I would not pick an intricately designed pan. As I said, it likes to stick.

13. Bake for about 3-4 hours at 235. Seriously. They take forever, and your house will smell amazing. Mostly I judge by color. I take them out of the over, stare at them, and wonder if they are done yet. Then I make my husband look at them, and I ask, “Do they look done?” Mostly he says “Yes,” and follows up with, “Can I eat one now?” I poke them a few times, and if they feel firm, I declare them done.

Done looks something like this.

Done looks something like this.

14. Cool in the pans for 15 minutes, and then ease them out using the overhanging edges of parchment. Cool completely.

15. Baste them with brandy. My father insists I wrap his in cheesecloth and baste it a few more times through the cheesecloth over a period of weeks, so I do that for him. For the rest of the legion of fruitcakes, I put them in individual Ziploc bags and baste them a few times without the cheesecloth. Does the cheesecloth make a difference? Probably. Dad says it’s slimy without it. I disagree but am willing to humor him!

16. Store them in the refrigerator and baste them with brandy once a week for a couple weeks.

17. I highly recommend eating one while it’s warm. 🙂 I always give the kids a warm one before I baste it with brandy. Especially this year’s brandy…

The secret ingredient in my fruitcake.

The secret ingredient in my fruitcake.

Merry Christmas and Happy Fruitcake!

Just the facts, ma’am straight-up recipe no pictures version:

Grandpa Baker’s Holiday Fruitcake

(makes seven mini-loaf pans or two regular-size loaf pans)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 pound unsalted butter, softened

2 1/4 cups sugar

6 large eggs, separated

1 Tablespoon vanilla

1/2 pound golden raisins

1/2 pound dried cranberries

1/2 pound prunes, cut into pieces the size of raisins

1/2 pound dried apricots, cut into pieces the size of raisins

1/2 cup crystallized ginger, diced into tiny pieces

1 pound walnuts, chopped

pinch of salt

2 cups brandy, as needed

1.Preheat oven to 235

2. Line pans with parchment so that the ends overhang the long sides of the pan. Then cut a strip to line the short sides. I’ve discovered it likes to stick to the pan, and lining both sides makes it MUCH easier to get it out without cracking the top. Spray lightly with pan release.

3. Toss 1/2 cup of the flour with cut-up dried fruit.

4. Sift remaining 1 1/2 cups of flour with the baking powder. Set aside.

5. Cream the butter and sugar on medium-high until pale, light, and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time. Then beat in the vanilla.

6. Lower the speed to slow and beat in sifted flour mixture. Mix only until flour disappears.

7. Add dried fruit mixture. Combine.

8. Add walnuts. Combine.

9. At this point, I exceed the capacity of my Heavy Duty Kitchen-Aid mixer and have to transfer the very thick batter to a bigger bowl.

10. Wash your mixing bowl well to eliminate all traces of butter fat, and then whip the egg whites with the salt until they hold a nice shape/medium peaks/just past soft peaks. Do not beat them until they are stiff. If they are stiff, it’s hard to fold them into the batter.

11. Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter. Then fold the rest of the egg whites into the batter. The first time I did this, I was very skeptical. The batter is super thick, and whipped egg whites are…not. However, once you get everything combined, the batter becomes a little more friendly and manageable. The egg whites make it nicer, I promise!

12. Divide the batter among 7 mini loaf pans or two regular loaf pans. Or any permutation of pan you desire, although I would not pick an intricately designed pan. As I said, it likes to stick.

13. Bake for about 3-4 hours at 235. Seriously. They take forever, and your house will smell amazing. Mostly I judge by color. I take them out of the over, stare at them, and wonder if they are done yet. Then I make my husband look at them, and I ask, “Do they look done?” Mostly he says “Yes,” and follows up with, “Can I eat one now?” I poke them a few times, and if they feel firm, I declare them done.

14. Cool in the pans for 15 minutes, and then ease them out using the overhanging edges of parchment. Cool completely.

15. Baste them with brandy. My father insists I wrap his in cheesecloth and baste it a few more times through the cheesecloth over a period of weeks, so I do that for him. For the rest of the legion of fruitcakes, I put them in individual Ziploc bags and baste them a few times without the cheesecloth. Does the cheesecloth make a difference? Probably. Dad says it’s slimy without it. I disagree but am willing to humor him!

16. Store them in the refrigerator and baste them with brandy once a week for a couple weeks.

17. I highly recommend eating one while it’s warm. 🙂 I always give the kids a warm one before I baste it with brandy. Especially this year’s brandy…

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