Although not a proper British Fruit Cake, this Light
Fruit Cake should not be ignored. It has lots of what I consider the
best part of a fruit cake, candied fruit. I love this cake's delicate
almond flavor and you don't have to wait weeks to enjoy this tea
bread, as it can be eaten the same day it's baked. Of course, for
those who like their fruit cakes to have a boozy flavor,
you can mix the candied fruit and raisins with a little alcohol and
let it macerate for a day or two. This is one cake that is so good
that it begs to be made all year, not just during the Christmas season.
So stock up on candied fruit.
For this Light Fruit Cake I like
to use a combination of candied mixed peel and candied cherries (can use
either red or green). Candied fruit is actually preserved fruit that has been dipped
several times in a concentrated sugar syrup. This process preserves the
fruit's original color and shape, while giving it a smooth and shiny
coating, a very sweet taste, with a firm and slightly chewy texture. If
you decide to macerate the candied fruit and dark raisins in alcohol, some
good choices are Grand Marnier, rum, brandy, or even a sherry. To allow
time for the alcohol to flavor the fruit, try to do this step
at least a day or two before making the cake. And when you remember, stir
it a few times during the day. Ground almonds are also used in this
batter, and you can either buy ground almonds (called almond meal or
flour) in grocery stores, specialty food stores, on line, or you can even
make your own by processing whole blanched or natural almonds in your food
processor until finely ground.
A few things about this
recipe are worth mentioning. You could adjust the amounts of
candied fruit and raisins. By that I mean, if you would prefer more
dried fruit, reduce the amount of candied fruit. And, although I've
used raisins, you could also use other dried fruits in its place.
Also, while you can serve this cake the day it's made, it does benefit
from being stored a day or two. That way, the crust will soften and it
allows time for the flavors to mingle.
Light Fruit Cake:
If desired, in a bowl combine the candied mixed peel, cherries, and
dark raisins. Stir in the alcohol, cover, and let sit at room
temperature at least a day (up to two days). Stir occasionally.
When ready to make the
cake batter, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C), with the
oven rack in the center of the oven. Butter, or spray with a nonstick
vegetable spray, a 9 x 5 x 3 inch (23 x 13 x 8 cm) loaf pan.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the
flour, ground almonds, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, or
with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape
down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the extracts. Add the
candied and dried fruits, along with any juices, and beat until
incorporated. Beat in half the flour mixture just until incorporated.
Then beat in the milk and then the remaining flour mixture.
Scrape the batter
into the prepared pan and, if desired, decorate the top of the cake
with sliced or flaked almonds. Bake for about 60 - 70 minutes or until a
toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (If you find the
cake is browning too much, cover with a piece of aluminum foil.) Remove from oven
and let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before removing from
pan. The cake does benefit from being stored a day or two before
serving, as this softens the outer crust and allows the flavors to
mingle. You can cover and store this cake for about a week at room
temperature or it can be frozen.
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