Tuesday, January 4, 2011


I started making this recipe after buying on a whim a piece of cooking equipment from a company called Nordic Ware. Made out of heavy-duty cast aluminum, it's a baking pan comprised of two 5-cup bundt pans, each of which has a fun decorative design. But even more fun than the pan is what goes in it. Not your mother's fruitcakes, these little gems are tender, flavorful, and make excellent gifts.

4 oz dried apricots
3 oz dried currants
3 oz assorted dried fruit (such as pineapple, apple, or mango)
zest of an orange, grated
¾ c dark rum
5 oz unbleached flour
½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg (or slightly less ground nutmeg)
large pinch of ground cloves
10 Tbs unsalted butter
1 c brown sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp kosher salt
3½ oz crystallized ginger
¼ c dark rum

1. Chop the dried fruit as necessary into small (¼- to ½-inch) pieces. Place in a saucepan with the grated orange zest and rum. Cover and cook over medium heat until the rum has been absorbed, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days. Before proceeding, remove from the refrigerator and warm to room temperature.

2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Using vegetable shortening or a canola-oil spray, grease two 5-cup bundt pans and flour them, knocking out any excess.

3. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, allspice, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and cloves.

4. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar at medium-high speed until the butter is fluffy and no lumps of sugar remain, pausing to scrape down the bowl as necessary, about 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one and a time, scraping down the bowl and beating for 30-60 seconds following each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract and salt.

5. Add 2 tablespoons of the flour mixture and beat to incorporate. Reserving 2 additional tablespoons, add the remaining flour and beat on low speed long enough to moisten the flour (so that it doesn't fly up in your face). Returning the mixer to medium-high speed, beat for 1 minute.

6. Chop the crystallized ginger into small pieces. Combine with the macerated fruit. Remove the paddle attachment and place the fruit on top of the batter. Sprinkle with the reserved flour. Using a spatula, fold the fruit into the batter so that the fruit is evenly distributed. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans, pressing down as you go to eliminate air pockets.

7. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and continue baking until a knife inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean (or with just a few moist crumbs), about another 1½ hours.

8. Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes. Invert the pan and tap gently to remove the cakes. Place each cake on a large piece of plastic wrap and baste with 2 tablespoons dark rum. Cover tightly with the plastic wrap and cover the plastic wrap tightly with aluminum foil. Store at room temperature for at least 2 days before serving with freshly whipped cream.

• For obvious reasons, freshly grated nutmeg produces a much better result than the ground variety your grandmother used to keep in that small tin on her spice shelf. (You're not still trying to use that tin up, are you?) Instead, buy your nutmeg whole and grate it as you need it. Microplame rasps make quick work of the task,

• Adding a little flour to the batter before adding the bulk of the flour helps to emulsify and aerate the batter.

• If you plan to store the cakes for longer than a week, you need to continue basting them. Do so once a week, using an additional 1-2 tablespoons of rum and changing the wrappings each time.

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