I started baking fruitcakes about five weeks ago. A first, for me. When I was little the Christmas cake held little appeal for me, despite the effort and time that went into it, on my mother's part (I did like the marzipan, though) - too much fruit and too little cake, perhaps? And since then I have grown out of any sweet tooth I may have had, and rarely eat cakes and cookies and candies at all. But I wanted to give some home made gifts this year, and 'tis the season. So.
One cake will be reserved for ourselves, and the rest will be gifts, to be delivered around the neighborhood: our landlord, our building's managing agent, local friends.
Sahadi's had beautiful glacé citrons, which I have never seen, before; their flavour is quite unlike candied orange and lemon zest. The other fruits were big, fat, moist dates, raisins, currants, startlingly red cherries (is there ever a natural-colour option?), the aforementioned orange and lemon zest, plus pecans and almonds. For spice - mahlab and cinnamon, which work well together.
There is not much flour, compared to fruit, a flour to fruit ratio of about 1:8
There are loaves, large and small, and there are little round cakes. They are all dense and heavy. They are sprinkled with brandy every week, and live wrapped in linen (antique handkerchiefs with handrolled edges- I knew I was keeping them for a reason! - they came from a long-shuttered junk shop on 5th Avenue in Brooklyn), then wrapped in clingfilm and finally put into airtight containers. The smell when you pop the lid is wonderful - fruity and spicy and very good.
I could not resist trying one of the small ones last night. You just need a thin slice or two - they are very filling, and what you crave after a long walk, with tea. Or Grand Marnier. Maybe I can save one or two for my Frigid Forage on New Year's Day.
Someone said that fruitcake pairs very well with Wensleydale cheese. Has anyone tried that?
One cake has already been delivered to its new home, in Park Slope - a gift brought along for a Christmas party. Somewhere in there is a dollar coin, washed and dipped in brandy.
That royal icing is rock hard, over a layer of thin marzipan, which was coaxed to stay put with a brushing of rosehip jelly. And clearly I am no master mason; more of a spackler.
(The gorgeous ribbon is a gift from my friend Mustafa, who brings silky wheels of it from Istanbul to wherever he is going, for ribbon-lovers.)