Friday, December 3, 2010
Chocolate Cherry-Berry Fruitcake & a Holiday Give-Away
I first fell in love with fruitcake with my mother's recipe. She started the day after Thanksgiving and I remember chopping all the fruit and nuts, then, adding it to the large wooden bowl filled with the batter (or as she called it, "the glue") to hold everything together. I think that's how I developed great arm muscles--stirring everything together with a big wooden spoon!
The earliest recipe for fruited cakes dates back to Ancient Rome where they baked in pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, and raisins into the cake. However, what we know as fruitcake comes from 18th century Europe where the cakes were made from the harvest of fruits and nuts for good luck the following year. It's probably where soaking the cakes in brandy or rum started because they saved these cakes to be eaten before the harvest the next year!
In Canada, fruitcake is known as Christmas Cake and rarely shows up any other time of year. Interestingly, in the Bahamas, the fruit is soaked ahead of time, for two weeks, in rum before making up the batter of the cake. Then, there's versions of fruitcakes from Germany, called Stollen, which my mother made each year, and from Italy, Panatone, which I've added to my holiday baking. I hope you try this recipe and fall in love with this holiday tradition that has come to be a big part of my memory of the season of baking with my mother.
Chocolate Cherry-Berry Fruitcake
2 cups dried cherries, chopped if very large ( I used a variety)
1/2 cup brandy or rum, or 1/3 cup water (I used rum that I had flavored with vanilla 2 weeks ago)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp vanilla extract (1 also added the seeds of 1 vanilla bean)
1/4 tsp. almond extract, optional
2 T Cake Enhancer, optional
3 large eggs
2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3/4 cup milk, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups candied red cherries
1 1/3 cups Raspberry Jammy Bits or Blueberry Jammy Bits, or a combination
2 cups chocolate chips (I used bittersweet chips)
2 1/2 cups rough chopped pecans or walnuts, optional (I used pecans)
3/4 cup simple syrup, brandy, or rum
1. Combine the dried cherries with the brandy, rum or water. Cover and microwave for 1 to 2 minutes, stir, then set aside to cool.
2. Measure out the candied cherries, Jammy bits, chopped pecans, and chocolate chips and set aside.
3. Preheat oven to 325F-degrees and grease the pans of your choice. Two- 8 1/2" x 4 1/4" loaf pans, Five- 7" wooden bakers, Six &" paper bake & give pans, or 12-cup bundt style pan, or two-6-cup bundt-style pans. I used my muffin bundt pans and have to tell you that wasn't the best of choices. The detail in the pans gave me such grief in releasing the cakes! I lost one of the cakes from sticking, so next time I think I'll do a plain muffin pan or loaf pans as my mother did.
5. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the flour alternately with the milk.
6. Combine the dried cherries and their liquid, candied cherries, Jammy Bits, chocolate chips, and nuts, Stir into the cake batter (the glue!)
7. Spoon the batter into the lightly greased pans, filling them about three-quarters full.
Bake 50 to 100 minutes; the smaller the pan, the shorter the baking time. These cakes actually took 36 minutes. When done, the cakes will be a light golden brown all over, and a cake tester inserted into the center will come out clean.
8. Remove the cakes from the oven. If you're removing them from the pans, wait about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack. If you've baked them in paper pans, they can stay in the pans.
9. If you using simple syrup: heat equal amounts of sugar and water over medium heat. I placed the vanilla bean pod into my syrup to infuse more flavor.
Now, for my Holiday Give-Away...