Saturday, December 5, 2009

Important Update to Nana's White Fruit Cake

Last weekend I sat down to make Nana's White Fruit Cake. Immediately, I noticed there were a few important tips missing and learned my own lessons, so I have updated Nana's recipe below to make it better reflect her actual fruit cake and because I want you to have a successful fruit cake! I'm sure that Nana forgot to include these tips because baking her fruit cake was like breathing to her. She never had to think about it.

Follow the revised recipe and your fruit cake will be perfect!

Originally posted on Remembering Frances.

Nana was famous for her fruit cake. I know fruit cake gets a bad rap, but you haven't tried Nana's. It is light and airy and quite simply heaven in a bread pan. I knew I was grown up the first time Nana sent me my very own fruit cake, in December 1993, the first Christmas I was in Washington, D.C. But 6 years later, in December 1999, Nana trusted me with her fruit cake recipe was the year I knew I was an adult.

Nana baked her last fruit cake in January 2006. David and I spent a week in Florida and after church on Sunday, Mom, Nana and I made Nana's fruit cake. I savored the fruit cakes we made that January, each year having just a little, so that the first Christmas Nana wasn't with us anymore, she'd still be with us. I still have part of one fruitcake that I guess we'll finish this Christmas.

I'll be making Nana's White Fruit Cake this Christmas on my own, for the first time, and sharing it with my friends and loved ones. I'll stick to her recipe exactly, except that my cakes will probably also include a few tears. They'll be tears of both joy and sadness. Joy because of all the wonderful memories I have around Nana's Fruit Cake and Christmas and sadness because it's the first Christmas without Nana.

I don't know the origin of Nana's fruit cake recipe. I've always just thought of it as Nana's White Fruit Cake, so that's how I titled it.

Today, I'm happy to share Nana's recipe with you. I thought about keeping it a secret, but that isn't Nana's way. She'd want to know you enjoyed it too.

NOTE: This is Nana's typed out recipe. All of the notes and verbiage are hers. I didn't change a thing. I think using the recipe the way she thought of it and in her sweet words makes it better.

Nana's White Fruit Cake

1 lb pecans
1 lb candied cherries (red and green mix)
1 lb candied pineapple
6 egg whites
3/4 lb butter (3 sticks)
2 cups sugar
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup whiskey (I use Jim Beam Bourbon)
4 cups plain flour (sifted) - does not need sifting these days as flour is very fine and soft.
2 tsp baking powder

Day before you bake I cut my pineapple and cherries in halves. I think this makes slicing easier and prettier. Then chop pecans. Can use scissors to cut in half. DO NOT USE THE PRE-MIXED CUT FRUIT THAT YOU CAN BUY BECAUSE IT'S NOT CHERRIES, IT'S A BUNCH OF ORANGE RINDS AND OTHER STUFF. (JLG Note: I learned this lesson the hard way.)

You will need a mixing bowl, one glass bowl to beat egg whites and a big bowl to put pecans and fruit in. You will save about a cup of flour to pour over fruit and pecans so they will not go to bottom of pan when cooking, this is called dredging with flour.

1. In the largest bowl, pour 1 cup of flour over the fruit and pecans and stir. It's easiest to do this with your hands. Set aside.
2. In a glass bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Set aside.
3. In a third bowl, mix remaining 6 ingredients in order (butter, sugar, egg yolks, bourbon, flour, & baking powder) one at a time and cream each time.
4. Pour batter over the fruit and pecans and use hands to mix then pour egg whites in and fold into this using hands.

Grease pans and flour sides and bottom, but shake to get all flour out. Then I cut from a brown bag the size of bottom of pan and place in bottom to keep from sticking. This will make 2 regular-size loaf pans and 1 small loaf pan. (JLG NOTE: Parchment paper works too.)

All done, ready to pour into loaf pans and bake. Fill each pan only about 3/4 full.

Place a round cake pan with about 1/2 inch of water on the bottom shelf of the oven. This helps keep the fruitcakes moist while baking for such a long time. You may need to add more water during baking.

START IN A COLD OVEN. Bake about 2 hours or 2 1/4 hours at 240. I just look and feel to see if brown and if cake feels solid. You should use a toothpick to check doneness. (JLG Note: I cooked for 2 hours and wish I'd only baked these for 1 3/4 hours. They're a little more done than I'd like, but still look very good. That may be due to oven variations.)

Remove cakes from loaf pans immediately (no need to let cool) and pat each cake with bourbon (about 1/4 cup for all cakes, not per cake) then wrap air tight in wax paper and then aluminum foil after cakes have cooled. Can open in a couple of weeks and can pour little more liquor if needed. (JLG Note: My mom recommends patting down the fruitcakes with bourbon using your fingers, but I used a pastry brush.)

All ready for Christmas. I just leave in pantry in a plastic sack.


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