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Fruitcake: Friend or Foe?

by Ranee Mueller

Ginger-Peach Fruitcake

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A cake this rich should convert even the most ardent fruitcake hater.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
6 large eggs
2 Tablespoons vanilla brandy* (see below, may substitute vanilla extract with good results)
2-1/2 cups golden raisins
1 cup crystallized ginger, coarsely chopped
2-2/3 cups dried peaches, coarsely chopped
3-1/2 cups chopped walnuts
2 to 3 cups brandy or dark rum, as needed

Preheat oven to 225 degrees F. Cut 2 sheets of waxed paper each 9 inches wide and about 12 inches long. Fit each sheet of paper into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan, with the ends overhanging the long side of the pan. Butter the waxed paper and the short ends of the pans; set aside.

Sift 1-1/2 cups of the flour with the cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add vanilla brandy and mix thoroughly. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one. Lower the speed to slow, and gradually beat in the sifted mixture, being careful not to over mix.

Toss the raisins, ginger and peaches with the remaining 1/2 cup flour; fold into the batter along with the walnuts. Divide the batter between the prepared pans; smooth the tops. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaves emerges clean, 2-1/4 to 2-1/2 hours. Cool the cakes in the pans on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Unmold the cakes; peel away the waxed paper and turn right side up. Cool completely on the racks.

Lay 2 large sheets of aluminum foil on a work surface. Cut a piece of cheesecloth large enough to wrap each cake; place each on top of a sheet of foil. Place 1 cake on each piece of cheesecloth. Baste the top and sides of the cake with 1/3 to 1/2 cup of your choice of brandy or rum, brushing it on and letting it soak in for a few minutes. Brush again twice. Wrap the cakes in the cheesecloth then in the foil. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 months to age and ripen, brushing them with more liquor through their cheesecloth about once a week.

Makes: two 9 x 5 inch loaves.

Note: *To make vanilla brandy, soak two vanilla beans, cut up, in a small bottle of brandy and let steep for about a week.

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