Signature Dish of Leila

Jane Benet's Fruitcake

By Jane Benet from "The San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook"

Leila's note: Every year my sister-in-law Debbie makes this fruitcake for the Christmas holidays. In 1998 we had such a cold long rainy spring that she threatened to break out the Christmas decorations for Memorial Day weekend. she brought a pound of this fruitcake to the May 30th BBQ picnic. The cake had been soaking in brandy for seven months. It was fabulously rich and tasty, and the crowd devoured it. Moral: start your fruitcake early.

1 pound (3 cups) blanched almonds
1/2 pound (2 cups) pecans
1/4 pound (1 cup) walnuts
1 pound (2 cups) shredded citron
1/2 pound (1 cup) lemon peel
1/2 pound (1 cup) orange peel
1/2 pound (1 cup) candied pineapple
1 pound (2 cups) candied cherries
2 pounds (6 to 7 cups) seedless raisins
1 pound (2 cups) dried figs
1 pound (2 cups) pitted dates
1 pound (3 to 3 1/2 cups) dried currants
1 glass (about 1/2 cup) brandy plus more for pouring on top
1 glass (8 to 10 ounces) jam (blackberry preferred)
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups (4 sticks) butter at room temperature
1 pound brown sugar
1 cup molasses
12 eggs, beaten until foamy
1 pound (3 1/2 to 4 cups) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
whole blanched almonds and candied cherries for garnish

Preheat the oven to 275° or 300°. Chop the nuts and fruits (grind the dates and figs--they're very sticky) and combine them in a bowl. Add the brandy, jam and spices; mix well. Cream the butter, add the sugar, molasses and beaten eggs; mix thoroughly. Add the flour and salt and mix to a batter consistency.

Pour over the fruit mixture and stir to combine. A little more flour may be needed, or a little more brandy. What dough there is should be fairly stiff, not runny.

Grease pans well, then line with heavy waxed or parchment paper. Fill the pans three fourths full and bake until a straw comes out clean (probably from 2 to 3 hours, depending on sizes). Have a pan of hot water in the bottom of the oven for moisture during baking.

When done, turn out the cakes onto racks to cool. Pour a little brandy slowly over the top of each one. In 15 minutes, invert onto waxed paper, remove the baking paper and pour more brandy slowly over each cake. This must be done gradually, but a warm cake absorbs the liquid much better than a cold one. When completely cool, wrap the cakes well and store in airtight containers for at least 1 month before slicing.

Yields about 17 pounds of fruitcake

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