Eighteenth-century cookbooks are filled with recipes for dense, rich butter cakes flavored with dried and candied fruits, spices and wine or liquor.
According to British tradition, what we know as "fruit cake" was served at weddings and became known as "Bride Cake," recipes for which most often appear in English cookery books.
The practice of making a fruit cake at Christmastime continues as cooks carry on the tradition of their mothers. It is a labor of love, with the outcome being a cake worth sharing. Even the aroma from the baking is worth the work involved. One has to shop early to find all the necessary ingredients, as those who bake fruit cakes are small in number.
Makes: 2 10-inch cakes, serves 10 to 12
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 cup finely chopped candied citrus peel
2 tablespoons dried currants
2 tablespoons golden raisins
2 tablespoons finely chopped dried pineapple
2 tablespoons finely chopped candied ginger
1 cup dark rum
2 1/4 cups sifted bread flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon each ground nutmeg, ginger, allspice and cloves
Pinch of ground cardamom
Pinch of ground mace
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups olive oil
9 large eggs
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoon rose water
2 cups apricot preserves
1 tablespoon peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
Confectioners' sugar for dusting
Whipped cream for serving
In a medium-size container, combine the carrots, almonds, coconut, candied citrus peel, currants, raisins, dried pineapple and candied ginger. Add the rum and soak overnight.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease two 10-inch round cake pans with butter and coat lightly with flour. In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves, cardamom, mace and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and olive oil until light in color. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking after each addition. Whisk in the honey, vanilla and almond extracts and rose water.
Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in three additions. Using a spatula, fold in the apricot preserves and fresh ginger, followed by the presoaked dried and candied fruits.
Divide the batter between 2 prepared cake pans. Bake for one hour or until set and a toothpick inserted near the center of each cake comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the pan and then unmold and dust with confectioners' sugar.
Serve with whipped cream
"City Tavern, Baking & Dessert Cookbook," by Walter Staib (2003)
FRUIT CAKE WITH GLAZE
Makes: 6 small (3 x 7 x 2-inch) loaves
3 cups broken English walnuts
1 pound candied pineapple sliced, diced
1 pound candied cherries (whole)
1 pound dates, diced (pitted)
2 cups sugar
5 cups flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons salt
2 cups salad oil
1 1/2 cups orange juice
Glaze (recipe follows)
Place ingredients in large mixing bowl in order. Mix well, following addition of sugar. Mix again after adding eggs. Final mixing after oil and juice.
Pour into loaf tins lined with waxed paper. Bake at 275 degrees for 2 hours or 4 large (4 x 10 x 2 1/2-inch) loaves and bake at 275 degrees for 2 1/2 hours.
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
2 tablespoons water
Combine and ring ingredients to boil. Boil 2 minutes. Brush over tops of cakes. Before glazing, liquor of choice (1/4 cup) may be poured over each cake.
From Dorothy Fetters in "Celestial Chefs," by The Women's Club, St. Peter's Catholic Church, Beaufort (1994)