Fruitcakes get an awful lot of bad press, especially the mass produced varieties, but a rich homemade version can be incredibly delicious.
The South, with its great love for baking cakes, has handed down many fruitcakes through the years. In Mary Randolph's "The Virginia Housewife" (1824), there is a recipe for "A Rich Fruit Cake" with a pound cake batter and 9 pounds of assorted raisins, currants, almonds, and citron.
"Mrs. Hill's New Cookbook" (1872) gives recipes for five, including a "Cheap Fruitcake," "Confederate Fruit Cake," and "Black Cake."
Generally, fruitcake is a mixture of fruits and nuts folded into just enough batter to hold the cake together. When wrapped in cloth and foil, saturated with alcoholic liquors regularly, and kept in tightly closed tins or wrappings, a fruitcake may be kept for months or even years.
If there are certain fruits you don't like, you can always include more of another fruit or some of your own favorites. Dried fruits cooked in juice can take the place of candied fruits, and many seeds can replace nuts. To convert a favorite "dark" fruitcake recipe to a "light" fruitcake, leave out the dark spices, use light colored fruits (golden raisins, dried apricots, etc.), and replace dark corn syrup or molasses with light corn syrup.
- To prevent over-browning, line the bottom and sides of the pan with foil. If you leave extra foil overlapping the sides, it will be easier to remove the cake.
- When baking, set the fruitcake pan in a baking pan (13x9-inch) half-filled with water to prevent burning around the edges.
- Let fruitcake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.
For long-term storage, bury the linen and foil wrapped fruitcake in a tin filled with powdered sugar.