Fruit cake conjures up many feelings and thoughts for each of us. I think for most of us, what comes to mind is a hard, dry, cake, filled with terribly dry candied fruit. This cake typically comes packaged in a tin. That is the traditional fruit cake here in the United States.
Fruit cake has become a joke in modern times. The Christmas fruit cake, in a tin, passed around from year to year but never eaten.
When I was young, I remember eating my grandma’s fruit cake. My mother tells me that my brother and I were the only one of the grand children who liked it. I remember it being moist and wrapped in cheese cloth. I don’t think I knew it was soaked in rum or sherry and whiskey. But I knew I liked it. I loved it when I would find a whole red or green cherry in my piece. When I found one, I would dig it out and immediately eat it.
As an adult, my parents would send me and my family a tin of fruit cake each year at Christmas. My children would eat some and so would we but never the whole thing. It just was not as good as I remembered fruit cake to be. Finally what was left at the end of the season, had to be thrown away.
A few years ago, I found a recipe on line to make fruit cake myself. What I looked for was a Canadian fruit cake recipe because my grandmother was from Canada and I knew that would be the closest to hers. I made it for about 3 years. It was good, but I was still curious about my grandmother’s cake. How was it different?
My parents couldn’t remember if she soaked it in rum or brandy. So I followed the recipe as written. But it was just not the same. It was better than the tin but still it did not seem to have as much fruit and flavor.
This year, I decided to ask my cousins and aunt if they had the recipe my grandmother used. Luckily, my father’s youngest sister had the recipe. She mailed it to me along with her memories of how my grandmother made it. I was thrilled and after shopping, immediately began baking.
I was so surprised at how different my grandmother’s recipe was from any I saw on line. Her recipe used a dozen eggs, a lb of butter and 7 lb of fruit. Knowing my depression era grandmother, she watched it like a hawk for the 2 and a half to 3 hours it took to bake these cakes. She couldn’t afford to let any burn. She gave these away every year.
The recipe called for soaking it in sherry and whiskey. But my aunt said she remembered my grandmother soaking it in rum. My aunt believed the sherry and whiskey was the Canadian recipe but that she possibly used the rum because that was what she had on hand. My aunt said whenever they would go to Mexico, they would come back with rum. And that was what she used to soak them.
Here are a few tips I learned from making my first batch. You need a very large bowl to fit all of the ingredients. Make sure you keep water in the bottom of the pans under the bread pans. And lastly, if you use the tip rack, cover with foil for the first hour and a half to keep the tops from burning.
Here is the recipe of Myrtle Harriet Swain Davis:
- 1 lb shortening (I used butter)
- 1 lb brown sugar
- 12 egg yolks well beaten
- 4 1/2 to 5 cups all purpose flour
- 2 t. baking powder
- 4 t. cinnamon
- 2 t. allspice
- 1 t. nutmeg
- 2 lb white raisins
- 2 large containers or radiant fruit mix
- 1 small container of candied citron
- 2 small containers of candied lemon rind
- 2 small containers of candied orange rind
- 2 small containers or pineapple
- candied green cherries
- 1 c sherry
- 1/2 cup whisky
- 12 egg whites beaten stiffly
- 1 T. hot water
- 1/4 t. baking soda
- 3/4 lb chopped walnuts
- Pecans and candied cherries for decoration on top of cakes
Soak fruit overnight for the whisky and sherry, then mix 2 c of flour with the fruit to coat.
Cream shortening or butter, beat in sugar little by little. Add egg yolks. Add 2 1/2 to 3 c of flour mixed and shifted with the spices and baking powder. And the fruit and nuts. Fold in egg whites. Just before putting in the pans, add the baking soda dissolved in the water. Fill pans. Bake with a pan of water for 2 1/2 to 3/12 hours at 300 degrees.
Note: I used a 5 lb of dried fruit mix I bought on Amazon plus 2 lb of white raisins. Also, you may use rum in this recipe, apparently that is what my grandmother did in later years.
Wrap the cakes in cheesecloth, soak them in rum and place in a crock container. I do not have a crock so I am putting them in an ice chest until ready to serve.
I hope you all enjoy this as much as I am going to this holiday season.