Twenty years ago, my best friend, Claudette invited me to join her in a baking class at St. Paul’s in Pampanga. I was excited to join her in the class so once I was home, I quickly asked my mom about it, and if she could give me extra allowance to pay for the lesson fees. I was so delighted that mom allowed me to join and most of all, I was so glad that she gave me extra money even though I knew that she already budgeted it for my future school lunches.
The baking class was scheduled for two days and we were the only students. The instructor taught us how to make tarts and Christmas Fruitcake. Back in those days in the Philippines, people gave Christmas Fruitcakes to their relatives when visiting them on Christmas.
When I was planning my Christmas menu, I terribly missed two of my best friends, my friend Claudette and my mom. Oh well, special occasions like Christmas could really make me feel homesick. (Oops! Pardon me if I’m getting too emotional here already…) So to bring back those happy memories, I thought of making Christmas Fruitcake for my Christmas dinner menu. This recipe is adapted from Alton Brown’s Free Range fruitcake. Some quick info about Christmas Fruitcake: It is made up of dried fruits, candied ginger and lemon and orange zest. Some websites say that this cake can last up to 2 years. Making a fruitcake can take time because the dried fruits need to be soaked in a rum for at least 24 hours, or ideally 72 hours.
The “regular” Christmas Fruitcake may not be suitable for kids it contains too much dosage of liquor. Liquor is used not just for soaking the dried fruits, but also for basting. While rum is recommended for the former, you can use rum, brandy, bourbon or whiskey for the latter. If you want to make the fruitcake kid-friendly, you can substitute the liquor with your kid’s favorite fruit juice such as apple juice, grape juice, cranberry juice, or orange juice. You can even use mixed fruits juices! But of course, if you use fruit juice, the taste is not that as good if you use liquor.
- 4 cups assorted mix fruits (at least 4 types of any: golden raisins, currants, sun dried cranberries, sun dried blueberries, sun dried cherries, dried apricots, dried date, dried fig, glazed cherry, dried prune and some touch of Asian like dried mango and dried pineapple)
- Zest of one lemon, chopped coarsely
- Zest of one orange, chopped coarsely
- 1/4 cup candied ginger, chopped
- 1 cup gold rum
- 1 cup sugar
- 5 ounces unsalted butter (1 1/4 sticks)
- 1 cup unfiltered apple juice
- 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup toasted walnuts or pecan or mixture, broken
- Brandy for basting and/or spritzing
- 2 cups confectioners' sugar
- 3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Combine dried fruits, candied ginger and both zests. Add rum and macerate overnight. The rum (or fruit juice) should completely cover the fruit. Cover with plastic wrap or container lid. (As an alternative, you can microwave the dried fruits for 5 minutes to re-hydrate them.)
- Place fruit and liquid in a non-reactive pot with the sugar, butter, apple juice and spices. Bring the mixture to boil stirring often, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for at least 15 minutes. (Batter can be completed up to this point, then covered and refrigerated for at least 6 hours up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before baking.)
- Heat oven to 165C or 325F.
- Combine dry ingredients and sift into fruit mixture. Quickly bring batter together with a large wooden spoon, then stir in the eggs one at a time until completely integrated, then fold in nuts. Spoon into a 10-inch non-stick loaf pan and bake for 1 hour. Check for doneness by inserting toothpick into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, it's done. If not, bake for another 10 minutes, and check again.
- Remove cake from oven and place on cooling rack. Baste with apple juice or with the any preferred liquor and allow to cool completely before turning out from pan.
- When cake is completely cooled, seal in a tight sealing, food safe container. Every 2 to 3 days, feel the cake and if dry, spritz with brandy. The cake's flavor will enhance considerably over the next two weeks.( If you are using fruit juice, baste with preferred fruit juice after 2 days; it should be ready to serve on the 3rd day.)
- Place confectioners' sugar in a medium bowl or liquid measuring cup; stir in lemon juice (glaze should be thick, yet pourable). Add more sugar or lemon juice, as necessary, to achieve desired consistency.
- Pour the lemon glaze icing on top of the fruit cake.
Cook with love and your heart…trust me your food will come out perfectly! Happy cooking!