As children growing up in Nutley, New Jersey, Martha and her siblings used to help their neighbors Mr. and Mrs. Maus make holiday fruitcakes. The Mauses owned a bakery and created delicious, buttery cakes filled with nuts and candied fruits and had three cardinal rules for baking a sublime fruitcake:
1. Use the best-quality nuts and candied fruit available.
2. Hand-cut the fruit to assure the proper texture.
3. Use just enough batter to hold the fruits and nuts together.
Martha uses several kinds of candied fruits, such as cherries, kumquats, citron, figs, orange peel, lemon peel, and apricots. She also includes dried fruits like raisins, currants, and sour cherries. Freshly roasted nuts add rich texture and balanced flavors to a fruitcake; choose favorite varieties such as walnuts, pecans, and hazelnuts. Bake the fruitcakes in pans lined with buttered paper collars, which allow the cakes to rise above the level of the pans and make an elegant presentation reminiscent of panettone, an Italian fruitcake served at Christmastime.
Fruitcakes bake at low temperatures for several hours. Allow them to cool, then moisten them with sugared brandy. Continue steeping the cakes with sugared brandy for up to two months before serving. Packed in sealed tins, these spirited cakes have been kept for more than 25 years. You might consider serving yours sooner.
Mrs. Maus's Fruitcake How-To
Makes five 6-inch cakes
1 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for pan
2 cups sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
12 large eggs
4 pounds candied and dried fruits, such as citron, lemon peel, orange peel, sour cherries, and apricots, chopped
1/2 cup molasses
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons allspice
2 pounds nuts, such as walnuts and pecans
2/3 cup brandy
Glaceed fruits, such as figs, oranges, pears, apricots, peaches, and pineapples, for garnish
Candied cherries and kumquats, for garnish
1 cup apricot jam
1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Butter five 6-by-2-inch round cake pans. Butter five 18-by-3-inch strips of heavy brown paper, and fit into each pan to form a collar.
2. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Mix in 2 cups fruit and molasses, blending well. Remove batter to a large clean bowl, and sift in flour and allspice, one cup at a time, mixing well between additions. Reserve 1 cup assorted fruit to use later, for decorating. Add remaining fruit and nuts stirring with a spoon. Divide batter evenly among pans; bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 3 to 3 1/2 hours. While still warm, brush with 1/3 cup brandy mixed with 1 tablespoon sugar. Let cool on a wire rack.
3. Gently remove cakes from pans leaving paper collar intact. Decorate cakes with glaceed and dried fruits. Heat apricot jam and remaining brandy in a small saucepan over medium heat. Strain and brush over fruits to hold in place.
Austrian glaceed fruit
Russ & Daughters
179 East Houston Street
New York, NY 10002
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