Grandma’s Dark Holiday Fruitcake

If you don’t like fruitcake, you probably haven’t tried this one. It’s full of dates, raisins, and walnuts, with a small amount of other dried fruit. (No fake-colored fruit here.) This is the fruitcake my grandmother and then my mother made every Christmas. This recipe has been passed down and protected. My mother and I enjoy giving it away, but only to those friends we know will treasure it. The nutmeg-related spice, mace, is key here. (Mace is ground from the webbing that covers the outside of the nutmeg kernel.) Plan ahead to make this cake as it needs to cure for three to four weeks. My mother always made it a few days before Thanksgiving, and then she unveiled it on Christmas Eve.
Makes two 5-by-9-inch loaf cakes
For the fruit-and-nut overnight soak:
3 cups (454 g) raisins
3 cups (454 g) pitted dates, chopped into ½-inch pieces
3 cups (454 g) of other dried fruits, chopped into ½-inch pieces (any variety, such as Bing cherries, figs, pineapple, papaya, apricots, or currants)
2 cups (227 g) walnuts, chopped into ½-inch pieces
¼ cup (85 g) molasses
¼ cup (57 mL) red wine or port
For the fruitcake:
2 cups (260 g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground mace
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1¼ cups (273 g) light or dark brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks; 227 g) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing
4 eggs, room temperature
½ cup (114 mL) red wine or port for post-bake soak, plus ¼ cup (57 mL) more for a second soak if desired

  1. To make the fruit-and-nut overnight soak, combine all the ingredients for the soak in a very large bowl and toss well. Cover with plastic wrap or a lid, and let the fruit mixture sit for 24 hours at room temperature, stirring twice.
  2. To make the fruitcake, preheat the oven to 275 degrees F (135 degrees C). Grease the loaf pans. Create two slings of parchment that extend over each long side of the pan and leave the ends uncovered. This allows you to remove the cake easily.
  3. Sift the flour, cinnamon, cloves, mace, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the sugar and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping once. Add the eggs one at a time until combined, scraping the bowl after each addition. Add the dry ingredients all at once and mix on low speed until the flour is just combined. Scrape the bowl one more time and mix for another 10 to 15 seconds.
  4. Add the cake batter to the fruit mixture and stir together until combined. I use my hands to mix it because it is stiff.
  5. Divide the cake batter among the pans, leveling the batter. Bake for 2 to 2 hours and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool until slightly warm. Remove the cakes from the pans, and place each on cheesecloth folded two-ply. Poke holes in the top of the cakes with a skewer or thermometer probe, and pour the ½ cup (114 mL) wine or port over the two cakes. Wrap the cake in the cheesecloth and then tightly in foil, and place it in a cool, dry place for 3 to 4 weeks. (Optional: Resoak the cake with another ¼ cup (57 mL) port or wine after 1 week and rewrap.)
  6. Once the cake has cured, keep it at room temperature for a few weeks or freeze it. I always keep it frozen because it’s easy to cut. Just wait for it to come to room temperature before serving. This fruitcake will keep for several months in the freezer

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