Fruitcake gets a bad rap, and I completely understand why. But for as long as I can remember I have always loved it. Even when it’s bad; even when it’s gotten chunky, heavy and brick-like, I will gleefully reach for a slice or two, add a little heavy cream or drink it with a nicely spiced tea. Once the holiday season rolled around, I couldn’t wait to try and make my own. Now proper fruitcake takes a bit of time, with some recipes requiring you to store the cakes for a month. Alton Brown has an excellent recipe that I promise to attempt someday. For now, we have these delightful mini-loaves and mini-cakes (based on a Fine Cooking recipe) and they may be aged, if you like, but they may also be readily enjoyed out of the oven and freshly glazed with rum. They are light, chockful of fruits and taste a bit of caramel (thanks to the presence of muscovado sugar). I’d like to think they’re the kind of fruitcake that might give even the most staunch of fruitcake haters something to reconsider.
Loaves are great, but I think I liked the spiced rum fruitcakes in mini-cake form. The ratio of cake to boozy fruit is perfect.
For the fruit:
1 1/4 cup dark rum
1 1/2 cup dried pineapples, chopped
1 cup dark raisins
1 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried mangoes, chopped
1/2 cup glace cherries
3 tbsp orange marmalade
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tbsp five spice
1 tsp nutmeg
For the cake:
10 tbsp unsalted butter, softened (plus more for the pan/s)
1 cup plus 1 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. five spice
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar (preferably muscovado) 1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. table salt
For nut topping:
250 g mixed nuts (about 2 cups, lightly packed), lightly crushed
For the rum glaze:
4 tbsp butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark rum
1/4 cup water
Make your drunken fruit! Combine rum, dried fruit, marmalade, and spices in saucepan. Cover. Warm over medium heat for about 2 to 3 minutes or until hot. Cool. Refrigerate for 24 hours up to 3 days. Before making the cake, bring the fruit to room temperature and drain. If any liquid is left, you may reserve your glaze.
Make your rum glaze. In a saucepan, combine butter, 1/4 cup water and 1 cup sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Continue to boil for 5 minutes. Stir constantly. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup rum. Set aside.
Make the cake. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 163°C/325°F. Butter three 5×2-inch loaf pans or two 3×1–1/4-inch muffin tins. Line pan/s with parchment for easy removal of the cake.
Sprinkle nuts and 1/3 of your drained fruits on the bottom of your pans. Scrape the batter into the center of the bowl. Put 2/3 of marinated fruit on top of the batter and then sprinkle the reserved flour evenly over the fruit. Using a rubber spatula, fold the fruit into the batter until it’s evenly distributed. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan/s. Press and smooth the top to make it level. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 149°C/300°F. Bake until for 55 minutes to 1 hour or until the center of the cake has risen slightly and a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs.
Remove the cake and let it cool in its pan on a wire rack for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on the rack completely. While cooling, brush the cake with rum glaze 3 to 5 times. If you want to age your cake, wrap tightly in plastic and then in foil. Store the cake at room temperature for a minimum of 48 hours before serving.
Have some fruitcake! It goes really well with a chai latte or a strong cup of black tea. Happy holidays.