02 November 2014

Making a fruitcake: it’s a labor of love

Preparing to make a fruitcake today. As many of my readers know, I am not a fruitcake maker, or even a baker, in general. However, I recognize that the homemade ones are usually the most delicious. Because of this, I always intended to make a fruitcake this year. My friends are having their annual fruitcake tasting right after Thanksgiving, which is why I might be starting a bit earlier than some. I did purchase a Neiman-Marcus fruitcake, which is on back order (how could I resist? this is, after all Mondo Fruitcake), and might consider the purchase of a couple more, but mostly I’m focused on this one.

When I make something, I tend to start with something traditional or time-tested as a baseline before moving onto variations—for example, I almost always follow a recipe to the letter the first time. So for this fruitcake, I haven’t selected any fancy recipe, but rather the Dark Fruitcake recipe out of my Joy of Cooking cookbook (the 1997 publication, which I believe was skewered by some because it also contained fancy/exotic recipes, but I love it to death—it’s my Bible when it comes to cooking).

This gosh-dern fruitcake. I’m sure anyone who has made one will agree with me that it's a freakin’ scavenger hunt to assemble all the ingredients needed.

My friend Laura graciously stepped up to be the candied fruit coordinator for three of the fruitcake bakers for aforementioned party, and purchased, received, and stickily sorted all of the candied fruit: lemon and orange peel, citron, pineapple, and Morello cherries (from Market Hall Foods). They are very nice quality and I'm sure that will reflect well on this fruitcake.

It was up to me to come up with the dried fruits and spices, then. Not too difficult in a metropolitan area such as Chicago, but I did have a bit of a tussle with the currants and mace. I should have just found a gourmet shop but ended up wandering aimlessly through several fruit/international food markets near me, finally giving up and purchasing dried blueberries instead of the currants. Honestly, I don’t think it’s going to make that much of a difference (and OK, I admit, the recipe is not being followed to the absolute letter--but who cares but me, really?)

I started all the fruit out with a red wine soak last night. This is what the makers of my favorite fruitcake do. Today’s the day to put it all together and get it baked. I’ll report back soon!


Michelle said...

How did the fruitcake turn out? I've never made one, but my grandmother and great aunt used to...and it was almost a "chore" to get it done!
My mother likes fruitcakes, so maybe one day I will attempt to make her one. But, for the time being I'm content buying them for her. I don't enjoy them as much as she does. :)
I just ran over your Mondo Fruitcake Reviews...love it! This year I bought one from Gethsemani Farms and one from Holy Cross Abbey...on your recommendation. :)
My question is: Have you ever tried from The Vermont Country Store: Brandy-Soaked Harvest Cake (with maple syrup, walnuts, raisins, apples, carrots, cranberries & currants)? Sounds like a fruitcake of sorts to me. How about, from same store: the British Marzipan Fruitcake with royal icing? They also offer a Vermont Fruitcake made with dates, apricots, cashews, raisins, walnuts, honey, brandy & orange liqueur.I have not. I'm curious what you think? Thanks! Michelle Billeaudeaux

Isabelle said...

Hi Michelle, The fruitcakes are currently soaking in brandy, and we'll be trying them this Friday, so you'll definitely learn how they turned out!
I have never tried that harvest cake, nor the marzipan fruitcake--I don't think I've purchased anything from the Vermont Country store yet. But what a cornucopia of fruitcakes! Thanks for pointing it out--that British fruitcake looks lovely!