It’s not just a fruit cake, it’s The Fruitcake

Or, The Great Fruit Cake Adventure of 2017

It started out so well.

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It ended so miserably.

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It rose too high on the sides (or sunk in the middle) causing burnt edges.  It mostly tasted okay so I think it’s just a cooking problem.

My father has been making this cake almost every year of my life. I’ve been wanting to make it on my own for several years and just never quite got around to doing it. This year was going to be the year. The year I made The Christmas Cake. The Christmas Cake recipe handed down to us by my Grandma Bunny. It was going to be wonderful. It was a train wreck. I’m a little devastated.

And for all of you out there that are thinking, “it’s just fruit cake, for Pete’s sake. no one like fruit cake”, you must understand. This is important. This is tradition. My grandmother, father, and mother made this cake for years. This is one of the few traditions in my life. I’m genetically pre-disposed to make this cake. While it’s true that fruit cake seems to be a universal cosmic joke, I like it. I’m practically the only person I know that likes it. I should be able to do this and by all the holy, I shall!

I followed the recipe my dad sent me, I thought, so faithfully. I left out some of the raisins because my stand mixer bowl wasn’t big enough for the recipe.  Later when I was reading over the recipe, I discovered that I left out other things as well, like the citron and vanilla. So, instead of just a little of the fruit bits that were supposed to be in there, I left out more than I thought.

I emailed my dad a picture even though it was late at night, half expecting him to call, because he does stuff like that. Alas, not this time. I was on my own. I did some research. I web crawled. I googled. I made notes. I talked to Mom the next day and she wasn’t sure what went wrong, she hadn’t made them in years.  My dad had taken over that tradition, so I asked her to have him call me when he got home from wherever he was. My dad called later and he gave me some suggestions. He was pretty “funny”. I told him what had happened and he said “I don’t know, that doesn’t happen to me”.  Gee, thanks Dad. I tossed all four cakes and started afresh. 

I’ve purchased more ingredients and will be giving this another go. I’ve made notes about a few high altitude baking tips. I’ll make half a batch at a time and only cook one at a time. Those suckers take three hours to bake so we’ll see how this goes. 

Second attempt – I greased the side of the pan instead of lining it with wax paper.  I reduced the oven temp and increased the cooking time and added an extra egg. I decided against cooking one pan at a time because I just didn’t want to invest 6 hours of cooking time (3 hours for each cake).  

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Nope. It ended up taking 4 hours to get these cakes to almost cooked in the middle, it was still gooey but the edges were still too cooked and dry. They still rose too much and then sunk in the middle.

Batch Three – I web crawled some more. I used my google-fu. I made more notes on high altitude baking. I used a Christmas spatula instead of the Halloween one I was using before. As before, the batter tasted amazing. Finally, some success! It hardly rose and barely sank in the middle. 

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They have been doused with rum, wrapped, and stored away to be enjoyed in a couple of months.  I’ve made careful notes on what I done.

I skipped the extra egg.  I decreased sugar, baking soda, and oven temp and increased baking time.  Also, and I think this is the thing that did the most good, I mixed everything together by hand.  I went ahead and used the beater for the butter/sugar/egg mix but folded everything else together gently. Mixing in one egg at a time seemed to make a difference in the batter. I can just see the cooking goddesses out there rolling their eyes. The theory of hand mixing is that using the stand mixer for the final batch adds too much air which causes the cake to rise too much.  You then get a collapse in the middle leaving burnt edges and gooey centers.  Next year, I may fiddle with things and only do the hand mixing just to see how much of a difference the variations in ingredients make.

I called my dad and told him my news. He congratulated me and sounded pleased while probably shaking his head and thinking I’m a goofball.