I'm going to go out on a limb here and say something pretty controversial: fruitcake gets a bad rap. Yes, I am a supporter of the holiday fruitcake. I have always liked fruitcake, even when I was a kid, and as such, do not get the bad press over this traditional holiday comestible with its beginnings dating back to Ancient Rome. Now, as with any edible, there are good ones and bad ones. Who hasn't had a soggy pie crust, and yet do you blame pie? I think not! So here, to change your opinion about this unappreciated dessert, is a recipe dating back, not quite as far as Ancient Rome, but to1980. It is a white fruitcake as opposed to the dark molasses-based cakes that tend, in my opinion, to not be quite as good. It's a recipe that Mr. O-P makes annually, slices of which have become a traditional addition to the holiday cookie tray. No one who enters our garland-bedecked doors has left here a fruitcake virgin, and everyone has gone home with a piece or two to enjoy later because, brace yourself, they liked it!
(As appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 1980)
1-1/2 cups butter, softened
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla
7 large eggs, separated
3 cups plus 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, divided
2 cups (1 pound) candied cherries
2 cups (1 pound) candied pineapple, cut in chunks
1-1/2 cups golden raisins
1-1/2 cups dark raisins
1/2 cup (4 oz.) candied lemon peel
3 cups pecan halves or pieces
1/4 cup plus, dark rum or brandy
10" tube pan
Package of cheesecloth
Preheat oven to 250° F.
Line the bottom, side, and tube of a 10" tube pan with parchment paper. When pan is lined, spray all parchment with PAM, or a similar product. Set aside.
In the work bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks alternately with 3 cups flour.
In a very large mixing bowl, mix all fruits and nuts, and toss with remaining 1/2 cup flour, making sure that all pieces are coated.
Stir the butter/sugar batter into the bowl of mixed fruits and nuts.
As the batter will be quite stiff, thoroughly mixing the fruits and nuts with the dough cannot be done by an electric mixer; so it must be mixed by hand, although it will be difficult and will take a while.
The process is complete only when all of the pieces of fruit and nuts are well mixed into the batter.
With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Fold the egg whites into the batter/fruit mixture a little at a time until thoroughly mixed.
Spoon batter into tube pan lined with parchment paper. Lightly press down on the batter with a spoon or spatula to eliminate any air pockets.
Bake for 2-1/2 to 3 hours until a tester or long tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove pan from oven and place on a rack. Pour 1/4 cup of rum slowly over cake. Let cake cool.
When cool, remove the cake from the pan, peel off the paper, and wrap the cake in a few layers of rum- or brandy-soaked cheesecloth. Store in an air-right container in a cool place to age one or two months, adding additional rum or brandy as needed to keep cloth moist.*
Note: Batter can be baked in paper-lined muffin tins, but reduce baking time to 1-1/2 hours. It can also be baked in two paper-lined load pans for about 2 to 2-1/2 hours.
*Although the cake does indeed improve with age, it can be eaten at any time.
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