MY MOTHER used to bake this cake during Lent. We were not so religious as to follow the rules of the Church, which prohibited eating any food derived from animals during the forty days before Christmas and before Easter (and on many other occasions). We were simply continuing a family tradition which dictated that various foods or sweets should be made at a particular time of year.
The flavor of this cake is rich, and its texture is dense, much like an English fruitcake. It should be made a day in advance, and it keeps for at least a week—getting better each day—if stored in an airtight container at cool room temperature.
Toss together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and cloves in a large bowl. Stir in the orange zest. In a medium bowl, whisk the oils and sugar until well combined.
Make a well in the flour mixture and stir in the oil mixture, brandy and orange juice until smooth. Stir in the dried fruits and nuts until evenly distributed.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
Run a thin knife or spatula along the long sides of the pan and carefully lift out the cake with the aluminum foil. Peel off the foil and place the cake on a plate. If you like, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. Slice and serve.
© 2000 All rights reserved. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.