Apparently it’s not just me who thinks the much maligned fruitcake deserves a comeback. It’s wise to make a recipe that people don’t think they’ll like. Keep the expectations low. Then the audience is pleasantly surprised at just how good the classic dessert is–and has always been, except when fruitcake hatahs have sabotaged the cake by infesting it with non-fruit abominations and abandoning it for months to dry and harden, alone and unloved.
Why do we serve fruitcake at Christmas? Because Christmas is about peace on earth, goodwill to men. The lofty ideals that we hold in our hearts must not be neglected, but must be kept moist and fresh by nourishing them with sugary syrup and liquor. Like fruitcake.
My gift to you this Christmas, dear internet, is my version of Emeril’s fruitcake recipe, adapted to the capacities of mere mortals.
for the simple syrup
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
Zest of 2 lemons (about 3 tablespoons)
Juice of 2 lemons (about 1/4 cup)
for the cake
1 pound total of dried cranberries, dried pineapple, and dried apricots
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
8 large eggs
1 cup Grand Marnier or other orange-flavored liqueur (substitute orange juice if baking for Mormons)
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups slivered blanched almonds
1 cup pecan pieces
Make the simple syrup by combining the sugar and water in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the lemon zest and juice and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil for 2 minutes and remove from the heat.
Combine the dried fruits together in a large mixing bowl. Pour the simple syrup over them, toss to coat, and let steep for 5 minutes. Strain and reserve the syrup.
Cream the butter, sugar, and almond extract together. Beat until mixture is fluffy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing in between each addition on low speed and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add 1/2 cup of the Grand Marnier and mix to incorporate.
Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium-size mixing bowl and blend well. Add this mixture 1/2 cup at a time to the butter mixture, each time mixing until smooth, about 2 minutes. The batter will be thick.
Add the warm fruit and all the nuts a little at a time, mixing well.
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Put a pan of water on the lower rack so cake will not dry out.
Lightly grease twelve miniature loaf pans. Spoon about 1 cup of the batter into each pan. Bake until golden and the tops spring back when touched, about 50 minutes (rearranging them after 30 minutes if necessary to brown evenly).
Spread butter on the hot cakes. Cool for 10 minutes in the pans. Remove cakes from the pans and cool completely on wire racks.
Cover cakes in foil and let them dry out overnight.
Combine the reserved simple syrup with the remaining 1/2 cup Grand Marnier. Make tiny holes with a toothpick randomly on the top of each cake. Pour 2 tablespoons of the syrup over the top of each cake once every 2 to 3 days until all of the syrup is used. Keep cakes in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Makes 12 (1-pound) cakes.