When I first started thinking about my grandma’s recipe tin and rethinking the classics there is one recipe card that immediately comes to mind: Fruit Cake. To me this is the ultimate classic when I think of her generation and what they knew how to bake with their eyes closed. Having never made fruit cake I thought this would be a good place to start this series since the ingredients seems simple enough, but the recipe card was missing all of the instructions. This makes me laugh overtime I look at one of these cards that has zero instructions on how to make this cake.
I had originally planned to call my mom and have her walk me through this because I had no idea where to start. However, the day I chose to start this she was busy living her best life in the Florida sun. I can’t blame her for not being tied to her phone! So I took to the internet to find my much needed steps to start this magical currant creation. I came across what I thought was the best method which I will include below. This basically consists of cooking a stove top syrup with all of your select add-ins (raisins, blueberries, you name it!) and then adding in your dry ingredients.
I was feeling very ambitious this day; it might have been a combination of coffee and completely not knowing what I was doing or where to start. This is what usually happens when I don’t have any direction in my bakes – I will just find two options and choose them both. So I decided to be all creative and attempt to stay true to the original and do a coffee flavored fruit cake as well as a spring variety. One worked and one failed to actually taste like the flavors I incorporated, so we will talk about the spring-lemon variety I named Sweet Spring. The fail was in my attempt to create a smoky mocha flavor, which mostly tasted nothing like smoky or mocha so we are just going to pretend I didn’t do that ok? Ok.
Where to start with all of these ingredients? First we need to warm up our dried fruits to give them some life so they can mellow out with their stove top syrup. The microwave is our friend here so go ahead and pop your currants, dried fruits, liquids (aka boozy juice) and lemon zest to a microwave safe bowl. The key here is to make sure your dried fruits are just covered in liquid so add a few extra shots of brandy I won’t tell anyone. Of course if you don’t want to use Brandy you can just use 1 cup of fruit juice. After those sweets are all warmed up, add that to the sugars on the stove top. Here is where I substituted brown sugar for molasses as in the original ingredients. Not only does my pantry not have molasses, but I don’t find I need to buy it for just a one time use. Once this is all melted together take it off the heat and let it cool for a few minutes. I put mine in the refrigerator because I didn’t prepare this the day before, which is an option. Then whisk in the eggs and dry ingredients. Here is where I was actually shocked this worked and looked like a real life batter. Up until this point I was very skeptical this would work because I was combing a technique with this recipe that I have never tried before. Nonetheless it worked!
At this point I realized that I only have one loaf pan, which calls for baking about an hour in the oven. I am the prefect combination of impatient and thrifty so that wasn’t going to happen (“perfect” being the self-chosen descriptive word). Frantically digging around the cupboards searching for a second loaf pan that we don’t have, I remembered we have large muffin tins I had gotten for Christmas two years ago. Without a second thought I started scooping my batter into the muffin tins and they worked out great and baked in half the time.
*My face after I realized the batter actually worked!
Since I had no idea what these were supposed to look like I did use the toothpick method to decide when they were done. After letting them rest and cool down I took a bite. Now, these were exactly what I expected and was surprised that my lemon inspiration actually came through. The more I read about fruit cake I found that you are supposed to “spritz” the cake every few days with brandy to add to the flavor and keep it from going dry. Like I said before I am not very patient so spritzing this fruit cake for two weeks wasn’t going to happen. So instead I opted to whip up a quick lemon glaze and that did the trick to bring some life to the party. For glazes and butter creams I tend to not measure and just go by taste.
What I learned about fruit cake is they take time and patience not only in the preparation, but in the post-bake. I do think this was a fun bake to try because I discovered new methods and techniques. It also made me explore flavors outside of the traditional add-ins of chocolate or vanilla that we so love. I got to experiment adding in nutmeg, all spice, and dried blueberries. These are ingredients I wouldn’t usually go for, but am glad I did. The most special part of this entire recipe was at the end I was looking around the kitchen and saw the recipe card at the end of the countertop sprinkled in flour and brown sugar. I felt like I added my “signature” to the recipe card as all the women before me had. Bringing back this recipe makes me feel so connected to my grandma and feels like we shared in this adventure together.
Read more about the inspiration for this post: Rethinking the classics
Sweet Spring Fruit Cake
- 1/2 cup orange-pineapple juice
- 1/2 cup Brandy
- Zest of 2 lemons
- 2 cups golden raisins
- 1 cup blueberries, cranberries, and prunes
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup brown sugar (or molasses)
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. allspice
- 1/2 tsp cloves
- 4 eggs
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 4 cups flour
*3 cups total dried fruits and nuts as desired.
Heat liquid, dried fruit and lemon zest in the microwave for 3-5 minutes until the fruit is softened. In the meantime melt the butter and sugar in a pan on the stove top and add in the spices and, fruit and liquid. Bring this to a boil and let simmer for 10-15 minutes until thickened.
Once completed put your syrup into a large bowl and sift in the dry ingredients. Mix until combined and scoop into muffin tins (30 mns) or loaf pan (1 hour) at 350 degrees.
Cheers & chocolate!