Every Christmas my husband’s grandfather invited his family to partake of his treasured fruitcake. And every year they declined his generous offer. At first PawPaw was met with polite refusals, such as “No, thank you” or “Maybe later.” But after 10 years of the same cake the cordial declinations turned ugly. “No, thank you” and “Maybe later” transformed into a disgusted “That’s just nasty!”
PawPaw’s fruitcake graced his Christmas table for many, many, many, many, many years. My husband was in second grade when PawPaw purchased his infamous fruitcake. Each Christmas he would eat a slice, offer some to the family then wrap it up for next year. With each unwrapping a new mosaic of colors bloomed. Eventually the bright green and red jewels embedded in the cake gave way to thick chunks of black matter that didn’t faze PawPaw one bit. A concerned family member would caution, “PawPaw, I don’t think that cake is right.” His response, “Aw, bull-s#@!”
He would then pop a piece of cake in his mouth and put it away for its annual 364-day hibernation. My husband had his driver’s license when PawPaw consumed the last piece of that questionable fruitcake. The following Christmas he bought another one that was still around after my husband and I completed graduate school.
Even though PawPaw is no longer with us his memory will live on forever in that pertrifided fruitcake that everyone refused to eat. In honor of him I came up with this moist and boozy cake. However, it only has a seven day shelf-life, and it’s meant to be enjoyed for only one Christmas.
Not PawPaw’s Fruitcake
Makes 8-10 servings
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup chopped dried pineapple
1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
1 cup apricot brandy or quality bourbon
1-3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
Heat the raisins, cranberries, cherries, pineapple, apricots and brandy in a medium saucepan to a gentle simmer. Remove from the heat and cool completely. Drain the fruit and reserve the syrup.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch by 2-inch round cake pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with a parchment round. Cut a 3-inch high parchment collar to fit around the pan. Spray inside the paper.
Sift 1-3/4 cups flour, baking powder and salt in to large bowl.
Beat the butter and sugars in an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes. Mix in the vanilla and zests. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour alternately with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat until just combined. Finish mixing the batter with a large rubber spatula. Toss the pecans with 1 tablespoon flour and fold into the batter with the fruit.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes.
Transfer the cake to a wire rack and poke several hole in the top with a toothpick. Brush the top of the cake with half of the reserved syrup. Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and brush the top and sides of the cake with the remaining syrup. Cool the cake completely before serving.