December 27th is National Fruitcake Day! I know Eaters, I know! Calm down.
Perhaps your childhood holidays, like mine, were marred by those confusing, forbidding bricks of “cake,” and you also tried to pry out the dyed, waxen, candied globs (which were not very tasty after all that excavating) and also, like me, you swore off the stuff forever and so you are thinking: Mary Cake, are you nutty? I am nutty! Nutty for fruitcake.
The kind I make is actually not very nutty, which I prefer. This is the second year I have made Nigella Lawson’s recipe from How to be a Domestic Goddess (How? Tell me! Tell me!) and sent it to faraway loved ones. If you read this blog regularly, (and may a multitude of seraphim hover above your house singing sweetly if you do) it may appear that I spend all my waking hours reading Nigella’s cookbooks, watching her shows and mooning over her. Not so! We have no telly right now, making hours (I wish) of viewing impossible. But when the holidays roll around, I find no one takes the Sparklejollytwinklejingley ethos to heart like Nigella. The woman loves Christmas, and knows how to put on a glitzy spread. I realize that my culinary idol is undergoing some unflattering press scrutiny right now, but that doesn’t change the exquisite flavor of this marzipan-chocked, orange-flower-kissed Christmas miracle. After all, our most vaunted heroes are just fallible humans like you and me – but with gobs of cash and better skin.
This is such a simple recipe! I use dried apples or mangoes in place of the pears because they seem to be easier to find. I would like to try it with dried pears, I just don’t know where to buy them. The same goes for natural glace cherries, (unless you are willing to send a great many shillings across the pond) so I use dried cherries instead. And as I mentioned in a previous posting, my cost-conscious rum choice is guaranteed to keep your buckles swashed.
Take note: be sure to cube and freeze the marzipan and rum-souse the fruits the evening prior to baking. This makes the whole operation less spontaneous and more mindful, which I rather like. It reminds me to take time to ease into the holiday spirit. While the ingredients freeze and soak, I do the same (by chopping down a Christmas tree and taking a hot bath). Then the ingredients sleep, and I sleep, and so on.
I love the contents of this cake, I just disagree with some of Nigella’s methods of preparation. I think the butter and sugar should be creamed and then the eggs added, before flour or other ingredients, as in a traditional cake recipe. Otherwise, if I mix all the ingredients at once, as she suggests, I find myself battling a glutinous, floury mass.
Nigella’s Marzipan Fruit Cake, more or less
1/2 cup or so of golden raisins
5 ounces dried pears, apples or mangoes, chopped
scant 1/2 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup white rum
7-9 ounces marzipan
scant 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon orange-flower water
1/4 cup ground almonds
zest of 1 lemon
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
8 inch springform pan, buttered and lined with parchment
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Beat the butter and sugar for a minute or so, then add the eggs and orange-flower water. Once this looks uniformly mixed, add the remainder of the ingredients with the exception of the (now frozen) marzipan and (now drunken) fruits. Once your batter is mixed (don’t overdue it, just mix it until it looks…mixed) add the marzipan and fruits. Spread in the pan, place in the oven and write all those late Christmas letters while it bakes.
Nigella says to bake it for 2-2 1/2 hours but I don’t see how this is possible. I realized, too late, that my springform is a 9 inch and so this would necessitate shortening the baking time. Even so, at the 1 1/2 hour mark mine was not only baked, but dry. This was the third one I made this year and it was for my siblings, so I wasn’t as concerned. But I do hope the one I sent to my BFF was moist. And get this: the one I sent to my uncle in Canada almost three weeks ago never got there. I think a bear ate it. Now there is something a bear would like don’t you think?
In theory, after letting this cool, you can rewrap it and store it for a week but I think this is silly. If you like a really rummy fruit cake you can poke holes in it, pour rum on it and let it loiter in your kitchen. I don’t do that unless I am mailing it because I know the Grizzlies in B.C. really like to tie one on at Christmas. I say wrap it up tight and commence eating it the next day. No cake is meant to sit idle.
Whether you find yourself at home, by a manger, or out under the stars this Christmas season, please have a piece of fruitcake in your pocket (well-wrapped; they are notorious collectors of pocket-lint). And try to be merry, or at least not unmerry. As those industrious little stripey-tighted folks exhort us: “To thine own elf be true.” Only listen, and marvel at their jolly wisdom.
P.S. Here’s a funny piece about fruitcake with a fantastic recipe inspired by Nigella’s.