To be honest, I have never cared for fruitcake. The ones of my childhood were dark, heavy, full of unidentifiable green bits and always seemed to be stale. As a fan of my mother’s freshly-baked goodies, fruitcakes just didn’t cut it.
But Auntie Bridgett loved them, so about ten years ago, I decided to give one a try. Making it a team effort and dedicating an afternoon, we tackled the formidable recipe in The Joy of Cooking. It includes pounds of currents, raisins, citron, and nuts.
Chopping, soaking, and dredging fruit, separating eggs and whipping egg whites, not to mention finding enough bowls to hold all these measured ingredients, literally took hours. But anything is fun if you do it with someone you love.
That first year, not knowing one whiskey from another, we added a very expensive whiskey, Glenfidditch, to the fruitcake. We got properly chastised by Grandpa Nelson for using our best whiskey, which he had bought for our dear whiskey -loving friend Rick. The result was an unintentionally expensive, but mighty tasty, cake.
Over the past ten years, we have made fruitcakes most years. We mix and bake them right around Thanksgiving and give them the first dose of whiskey. We now know to use cheaper whiskey (last years Black Velvet didn’t measure up, but this years’ Evan Williams seems promising) .
We wrap the cakes (the recipe makes two) in a few layers of plastic wrap and place them in a Christmas themed-tin, and find a safe spot out in the garage. They are brought in once a week for another dose of whiskey.
We have veered away from Irma Rombauer’s recipe. No currents or citron at all, none of the weird colored dried fruit, making up the difference with more nuts and sultana raisins, and adding orange juice as well as whiskey.
This year, trying for a lighter cake, I even added a teaspoon of baking soda as a raising agent, knowing that even eight whipped egg whites don’t have the power to lift all that cake. We’ll see how that works out.
This past Sunday was its last dousing of whiskey, and it will sit in the cupboard, smelling fabulous, to be tasted Christmas eve.