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Fanny Farmer's Fruitcake

It’s that time! Oh yes, time to start baking (or at least think about starting to bake) holiday fruitcake. Yes, I’m a fan. Dried fruit, nuts, butter and sugar and spices? What’s not to love?

For years, I made the dark fruitcake from the 1964 edition of The Joy of Cooking, but last year I tried Marion Cunningham’s from the classic Fannie Farmer Cookbook, which I possess an old, tattered copy of. (Try the baked rice pudding.) This is a dark fruitcake, which I far prefer over the light/white varieties. The thing to remember about fruitcake is that it’s not all about glace cherries and candied bits of pineapple (if you look at the package of glace mix, it often contains rutabaga!) — you can add any dried fruit you like. I stay away from the day-glo cherries and go for real dried cherries, figs, apricots and such.

Dark Fruitcake

Using lighter molasses will produce a lighter fruitcake; I like using the dark stuff. Adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook by Marion Cunningham.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
Grated zest of an orange or lemon
2 large eggs
1/2 cup dark molasses
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup milk
2 cups small pieces mixed candied fruit (I used figs, dried pears, apricots and cranberries)
1/2 cup chopped candied citron
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line two 8″x 4″ loaf pans, line them with foil, then butter the foil. Cream the butter, add the brown sugar and orange or lemon zest and beat until light. Add the eggs and beat well, then beat in the molasses. Mix together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves and salt; add half and beat just until blended. Add the milk and beat until smooth, then beat in the rest of the flour just until combined. Stir in the candied fruit, citron, raisins, and pecans with a spatula.

Spoon into the pans, smooth the tops and bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until the top is springy to the touch. Let sit for about 10 minutes, then turn out of their pans onto wire racks to cool. When completely cool, wrap well and store in an airtight container.

Brandied Fruit Cake: Soak two large pieces of cheesecloth in brandy. Wrap each fruit cake in the cheesecloth, covering all sides, then wrap well in foil. Moisten the cheesecloth with additional brandy every few days for about a week. The brandy will flavor the cake and help preserve it.

Photo credit: istockphoto/LauriPatterson

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