Our Family Christmas Cake

This light fruit cake recipe has been in our family for decades. Every year, a month or so before Christmas, my mother made it perfectly till the time, about 12 years ago, that she decided the kitchen was no longer her friend. So one autumn we gave her a stool beside the counter and asked her what we were doing wrong as we whipped up the first-ever successful batch. Recipes are like that…the really good ones anyway. The experts have to coach and it’s often a hands-on event to get the nuances just right. This is what we learned.

Make a few weeks before you want to start using it….so…for me that’s around mid-October.   Make sure you have some cheesecloth or even pieces of light cotton to wrap the cake(s) … just makes soaking it with brandy/whisky/rum easier.  I’ve used everything from Triple Sec to Kittling Ridge brandy.  This year they’re resting in a nice bit of Collingwood whisky.

  • 1 cup (250 mL) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) almond extract
  • 2 ¾ cups (675 mL) all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt(2 mL)
  • 1 tsp baking powder (5 mL)
  • ½ – 1 tsp grated nutmeg (5 mL)
  • ½ cup warm water (125 mL)
  • 1 ½ cups (325 mL) red or green candied cherries, chopped or whole
  • 1 lb (450 g) golden raisins (replace some with candied peel if you’d like)
  • 1 2/3 cups (400 mL) desiccated unsweetened coconut
  • 1 ½ cups (375 mL) chopped candied pineapple (about 3 – 4 rings)

Preheat the oven to 275’F.  Line a 9 x 5 “ loaf pan with parchment or well-greased brown paper.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar thoroughly.  Whip in the egg yolks, vanilla and almond extracts. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites till very stiff.

In another large bowl, combine all the dried fruit and toss with a ¼ cup of the flour. Sift the remaining flour, salt, baking powder and nutmeg together.

Now here’s the fun part…add the flour mixture to the butter eggs, alternately with the water, stirring till well combined.  Fold in the fruit and when well mixed, fold in the egg whites.   Spread evenly in the prepared pan and when you put it into the oven, cover lightly with another bit of parchment to prevent the top from browning too quickly.

Bake 2 ½ to 3 hours, turning the loaf around in the oven at about half time.  The top should be richly golden.   Test with a knitting needle or skewer for doneness.

Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes; remove and finish cooling on a cake rack.   Soak with brandy or the alcohol of your choice after the cake is fully cooled.

Refrigerate or store in a cool spot in your pantry.  It slices better when chilled.

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