Monday, December 8, 2014

Alpha Bakers - English Dried Fruit Cake

It has been a strange week. For the second week in a row, rain and sleet have alternated with suspiciously warm temperatures, and the emotional temperature of my city (and the whole country) has fluctuated just as much, with people out in the streets protesting the grand jury decisions in both Ferguson and Staten Island. My apartment was robbed (a comparatively minor incident, but one which left me feeling the usual degree of violated and confused), and a new baby was born in my family, seven weeks premature but already breathing on her own and beautiful. We are not fine, we are not safe, we are not cozy, and we are not alone. Upheavals and betrayals, community and joy. Heavy winds. Dear loves.

And fruitcake. This particular fruitcake is less of the classic alcohol-soaked candied fruit extravaganza, and more of a boozy apple cake with dried fruit in. With dark brown sugar, grated apples in the batter, and a rum soak after leaving the oven, it's a dark, sweet, strongly textured cake, sturdy enough to carry around all day.
I made the recipe two times, halving it both times. The first time I made it as an 8-inch cake round, and the second time as a dozen muffins. The first attempt, which was the one I carried around all day in my purse, was excellent, but slightly on the drier side (I skipped soaking the fruit because it was very soft), and would have benefited from additional syrup or rum. I was more careful the second time, soaking the dried fruit (prunes and cranberries) for the recommended time and keeping a tight eye on the baking. The resulting muffins were a perfect texture. Both times, I used cashew pieces in place of the recommended pecans, and added a handful of candied orange and lemon peel (the nice, not-harsh organic kind from the food coop). I know for some people this would negate the whole premise of a new kind of fruitcake, but I had them on hand and figured, why not? The candied fruit (in the muffin version) was actually a hit with several co-workers.
The first round was also a sleeper hit. I gave a wedge to my neighbor Pam the Cheesemonger, whom I'd helped out with a little brunch earlier in the day. Her take: "This fruit cake is so good! I don't normally get excited about this kind of thing, but this is, well, exciting." She should know, she had just showed up on my doorstep with a container of truffled mascarpone, a bottle of Cotes du Rhone, and some dried trompettes that she had foraged earlier in the year in Maine. What on earth do I do with dried trompettes?
All in all, simple and delicious. Probably not adding this one to the regular rotation but it's a handy cake to have in the repertoire.


17 comments:

Kimberlie Robert said...

What a great idea for breakfast. Even with the rum. When I added rum to my cake, I poured some in our glasses with lime, cinnamon, and clove. I'm not an alpha baker yet, just on the alternate list, but I made the fruitcake and posted it to my blog at www.thefinercookie.com. BTW, I was robbed many years ago--an incident that destabilized me for a long time. Take heart, you will regain your sense of space again. Give yourself some time. Anyway, I look forward to the journey ahead.

Raymond said...

I love that you did these as muffins

Glori Berkel said...

The muffins look yummy!

Lois Britton said...

So sorry to hear about the robbery; they've robbed you of more than the things they took.

On a lighter note, I like the idea of muffins!

Jenn said...

I'm amazed you made this twice. Both versions look scrumptious. So sorry to hear that you got rob! :((

Michele at The Artful Oven said...

Muffins and cashews--what great ideas! I'm so terribly sorry about the robbery and can't believe you managed to bake in spite of it. Our home was robbed and it left us shaken for a long time. Wishing you peace and happy baking.

phylliscaroline said...

Perhaps 'purse sturdiness' should be an official cake description.

So sorry to hear of the break in, but hooray for the baby!

Marie Wolf said...

We all followed the recipe so exactly with the Kouign Amanns that I wondered what happened to all the HCB rule-flouting! And here you are, with your muffins and cashews! It's good to see creativity kick in.

Monica Caretto said...

Muffins.. what a good idea, little morsels to take and hand out to all! I'm putting that note in the book for the next time (plus a great idea for individual christmas gift! for co-workers)

Sorry about the other crap.. but congratulations on the new addition and her recovery.

faithy said...

Such great idea as muffins! Did cashew nuts work?? Next time i should use cashew nuts too!

Mendy said...

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Enjoyed your writing.

Muffins are always a good idea. :)

Vicki said...

Mmmmmm.....cashews!!! Brilliant!

Patricia Reitz said...

Oh my, so sorry to hear your apartment was robbed. That's terrible! Love your fruit/nut combination though. Love the muffins too - good idea! Hope you'll stop by and visit my post.

Patricia @ ButterYum
http://www.butteryum.org/roses-alpha-bakers/2014/11/6/tbb-english-dried-fruit-cake

Jill said...

Love your creativity. Cashews and muffins were a great idea!

Rosa Maggie said...

Hello Jill , what a great idea about the muffin tins small portions and your blog looks nice too.

Katya said...

Rule-flouting? Moi?
The cashews were just expedient--they were what I had, and honestly I think I would have preferred walnuts or pecans. But the muffin version was a very good idea, although harder to paint with rum. More spilled rum to lick up.

Rose Levy Beranbaum said...

love that you tried it also as muffins!