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The BEST Fruitcake

My friend Betty Crawfort got the precursor of this recipe from a Maryland neighbor as a war bride during World War II. She sent it along to her college-going son decades later, where I first begged the recipe. Some adaptations (that lumpy green citron had to go!) and it has become the one that, even 20 years later, people keep asking for. This makes 5 pounds. Fruitcake has much better texture and taste if it is made in large rings or loaves, rather than small loaves or cupcakes. A large tube pan or a 5 pound loaf pan hold one recipe. A batter depth of at least 3 inches is the important point.

Fruit cake and liquor? Traditionally, you use whiskey, brandy, or rum; my Kentucky friends swore by "Old Fitzgerald". You need about 3 cups. You can use fruit juice, such as white grape juice, but the cake should be stored in the refrigerator if you do not use liquor. Use the best you can afford and use the same for the entire ripening.

Start at least a month before you plan to eat it, so it can ripen, and a day before you plan to bake. The texture is rich and light because you NEVER press the batter down into the pan, and you ALWAYS line and grease the pans and put a large flat pan of boiling water on the floor of the oven ar the bottom rack for the entire baking period, refilling as needed.

Dice small and mix well:
4 oz glaceed lemon peel
4 oz glaceed orange peel
4 oz glaceed or soft dried apricots (replaces citron)
4 oz walnuts
4 oz pecans
8 oz cherries
8 oz glaceed pineapple
8 oz dates
8 oz raisins (I used mixed currants and golden raisins) plumped in
1/4 C liquor or grape juice
8 oz crystallized ginger

Pour a cup of the liquor over all the diced fruit and leave it covered overnight, or up to a month in the refrigerator.
The day of baking, turn on the oven to 250 degrees, place a large pan of water on the oven floor. Grease a large tube pan, then line with waxed paper, then grease the paper.

Drain, saving the liquor not soaked up. Dredge the fruit so it won't float, which means mix in a very large bowl with:
1/4 C flour

Cream together:
1 C (1/2 pound) butter
1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 C honey, may use part molasses

Beat in, one at a time:
5 large eggs

Mix/ sift together:
1 1/2 C flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon clove

Add the flour mix to the butter mix alternately with:
6 T orange juice, grape juice, or liquor (use what you saved first)

Pour the batter over the fruit, mix gently but thoroughly. Pour into the tube pan, avoiding air pockets, but do not pack or flatten the mix.

Decorate the top with:
Pecan halves
Cherry halves

Bake 3-4 hours at 250 degrees. Because they bake so long, any uneven heating of your oven is exaggerated, so you should rotate the pans after an hour or so. Test with a skewer- the center will be moist but not doughy. Let cool about a half hour before turning out of the pan, then peel all the waxed paper before the cakes are completely cool.

Douse with:
1/2 to 1 C liquor

Store in an airtight container, or use a jumbo zippered plastic bag, pressing out the air. Place a shot glass in the middle, refill with a little liquor every couple of weeks till you eat it. Or sprinkle with liquor monthly until served.