Fruitcakes sporting day-glo cherries and dyed pineapple chunks are anathema to most, and understandably so. But I love a good fruitcake, drenched in bourbon or rum. In place of the glacé cherries and pineapple I use sundried fruits such as figs, dates, and cherries soaked overnight in spirits. This holiday fruitcake can be eaten immediately; it is delicious. Or, you can make a fruitcake at Thanksgiving, then drown it in liquor and put it inside a plastic bag in a cool, dark place, turning it about once a week so that the entire cake is evenly soaked in booze by the time Christmas arrives.

Scots with a rich heritage of baking and tea fare settled in the Lowcountry, bringing with them recipes for their near-black Dundee cake. Traditional ingredients are flour, butter, sugar, currants, raisins, sultanas, candied citrus peel, almonds, and eggs. The citron that is called for in older fruitcake recipes was not the Mediterranean citrus rind used today but the pickled peel of a melon known by the same name. Any dark fruitcake recipe will give you proportions; use whatever dried fruits and nuts you desire and replace the candied citron with the Watermelon Rind Preserves. This recipe is typical.

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Ingredients

  • pounds (about 3 cups) mixed dried or candied fruits, including some candied citrus peel, diced
  • ¾ cup bourbon or dark rum
  • 1 cup shelled nuts (pecans, walnuts, black walnuts and/or almonds in any combination) or pecan halves
  • ¼ pound (about 1 cup) unbleached (all-purpose) flour
  • ¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened, plus butter for greasing the pans
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • pinch of salt

Method

Soak the fruits in the liquor overnight.

The next day, grease a standard loaf pan with butter, line it with parchment paper, then grease it again.

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large mixing bowl, toss the fruit and nuts in about ¼ cup of the flour. Cream together the butter and the sugar with an electric mixer. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, until the mixture is fluffy. Sift the salt and remaining flour over the fruit and nuts, tossing all together. Fold the mixture into the butter and eggs, then turn the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 1½ hours or until a straw inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. The top should be browned and the edges should be just pulling away from the sides.

Set the cake in its pan on a rack and allow to cool for 20 minutes. Turn the cake out on a plate, and, if desired, sprinkle liberally with the liquor of your choice. Fruitcakes keep very well. Store for a month or more in a plastic bag in a cool, dark place, or wrapped in liquor- soaked cheesecloth in an airtight container, before serving. Keeps for several months.

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