Food & Entertaining - Garden to Table

Jeweled gingerbread fruitcake

Candy your own fruit and use your own preserves in this traditional holiday treat

To make the fruitcake
Whisk together the flour, almond flour, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a medium bowl. Set aside. Toss together the raisins, cranberries, apricots, dates, prunes, candied orange, and lemon peels, and whiskey in a large bowl.

Put the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed until smooth. Add the brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Drop in the eggs, one at time, and beat for about 2 minutes, stopping at least once to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Mix in the jam and the lemon and orange zests. Reduce the mixing speed to medium low and gradually add the flour mixture, beating just until incorporated. Add the dried fruit mixture, about one-quarter at a time, mixing just until the fruit is evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Wrap the pan with a parchment collar that rises about 3 inches above the pan and secure with kitchen twine. Set the filled pan on a baking sheet and bake for about 2 hours, or until the cake is dark chestnut brown in color, the top is slightly cracked, and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean (a few sticky crumbs are okay, too).

Set the cake on a wire rack to cool for about 30 minutes in the pan before turning out to cool completely. Brush with whiskey (about 1/4 cup will do for now) and wrap the fruitcake in plastic wrap. Store the cake for at least 3 weeks in an airtight container, dousing it with about 1/4 cup of whiskey at least once a week. You can serve the cake at this point or proceed with the method for covering the cake with fondant.

To finish the fruitcake

Set the cake on a parchment-lined baking sheet. (If you find that the top of the cake is very bumpy, invert the cake so the smooth side faces up. A slightly lumpy top has never really bothered me, though.) Push the apricot jam through a strainer into a small bowl to remove the apricot bits and discard them. Brush the jam all over the cake. Lightly dust a work surface with confectioners’ sugar, roll the marzipan to about 1/16 inch thick (very thin), and cut out a 14-inch-diameter circle. Carefully roll the marzipan over the rolling pin and unroll it on top of the fruitcake, smoothing it over the top and sides to remove any air bubbles or bumps. Trim any excess marzipan from the bottom of the cake to make a clean edge.

Clean the work surface and lightly dust it with cornstarch. Roll the fondant to 1/4 inch thick and cut out a 14-inch-diameter circle. Carefully pick up the fondant circle from underneath with both hands as though carrying a tray (you can’t roll the fondant, as it will stick to itself). Place the fondant over the marzipan-covered fruitcake, again smoothing the top and sides. Trim any excess fondant from the bottom of the cake to make a clean edge. If desired, cut decorative shapes out of the remaining fondant, dampen with water, and apply onto the covered cake. Finish by pressing silver dragées, if desired, into the fondant.

Serve the cake immediately cut into thin wedges or squares with Crème Anglaise, if desired. To store the cake, wrap it in plastic wrap and set it in the refrigerator or in a cool, dry area for up to 3 weeks.

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