"Thirty-four years ago, I inherited the family fruitcake. Fruitcake is the only food durable enough to become a family heirloom. It had been in my grandmother's possession since 1880, and she passed it to a niece in 1933. Surprisingly, the niece, who had always seemed to detest me, left it to me in her will....I would have renounced my inheritance except for the sentiment of the thing, for the family fruitcake was the symbol of our family's roots. When my grandmother inherited it, it was already 86 years old, having been baked by her great-grandfather in 1794 as a Christmas gift for President George Washington. Washington, with his high-flown view of ethical standards for Government workers, sent it back with thanks, explaining that he thought it unseemly for Presidents to accept gifts weighing more than 80 pounds, even though they were only eight inches in diameter...There is no doubt...about the fruitcake's great age. Sawing into it six Christmasses ago, I came across a fragment of a 1794 newspaper with an account of the lynching of a real-estate speculator in New York City." ---"Fruitcake is Forever," Russell Baker, New York Times, December 25, 1983, Section 6 (p. 10)
This one will not keep that long but it is a tested recipe. Substitute rum or brandy for sherry if you wish.
Remember to make 3 days time to marinate the fruit in the sherry. This is essential to plump up and flavour the fruit. If you cut the soaking time there will be surplus liquid which will alter the texture of the cake. You should make this at least 3 weeks ahead of Christmas for eaten too early it will be too crumbly.
makes 1 x 23 cm or 9 inch cake
6 oz raisins
12 oz glace cherries rinsed and dried thoroughly
1 lb 2 oz currants
12 oz sultanas
1/4 pint sherry ( medium)
finely grated zest of 2 oranges
9 oz softened butter
9 oz light muscovado sugar ( light brown)
1 tablespoon black treacle ( molasses)
3 oz blanched almonds, chopped
3 oz self raising flour
6 oz of plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons mixed ground spice
First prepare the fruit ; chop the raisins with a damp knife and quarter the cherries. Put all the fruit into a container, pour over the sherry and stir in the orange zest. Cover with a lid and leave to soak for 3 days stirring daily.
Grease and line a 23 cm / 9 inch deep round cake tin with greased greaseproof paper. preheat the oven to 140 degrees C, 275F/ gas 1
measure butter, sugar, eggs, treacle and almonds into a large bowl and beat well. Add the flours and spice and mix thoroughly until blended. Stir in the soaked fruit. Spoon into the prepared cake tin and level the surface. Cover the top of the cake loosely with a double layer of greaseproof paper ( this will prevent it from burning brown).
Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for 5 to 5 1/2 hours or until the cake feels firm to the touch and is rich golden brown. A skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean. Leave in the cake tin to cool.
When cool, pierce the cake at intervals with a fine skewer and feed with a little sherry. Wrap the completely cold cake in a double layer of greaseproof paper and again in foil and store in a cool place for up to 3 months, feeding it at intervals with more sherry. Don’t remove the lining paper when storing as this helps to keep the cake moist).
To decorate, brush sieved, warmed apricot jam over the top of the cake. Arrange glace cherries, glace fruits and nuts over the jam and brush again with jam.
When dry, wrap in cellophane paper with a bow, or give in a cake tin with a label and ingredients as a gift for Christmas.