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Fruitcake – Reviving and Revamping a Holiday Tradition

  • Posted on January 12, 2019 at 3:46 pm

Brandy Laced Fruitcake


As a cake decorator and dessert lover I have accumulated countless recipes over the years. While many are classics like yellow, chocolate, lemon or red velvet, some, like olive oil cake and cranberry cherry are more adventurous. I especially love to make seasonal cakes – flavors so particular that, for the traditional-minded, can take you back in time. When summer comes, a lemon blueberry can be quite refreshing, while apple pecan spice cake screams fall and, during the cold days of winter, nothing tops chocolate fudge cake with an amaretto mocha cream and salted caramel.

Maybe because I am married to an Englishman, nothing says Christmas more than the traditional English fruitcake and the aromas that drift from the oven as the combination of dried fruits and nuts are baked.

Pinecones and Oranges

With December quickly approaching, I can’t wait to make my Applesauce fruitcake! Part of my love for this holiday classic probably stems from my heritage. In Argentina you can find the “torta galesa”, the special delicacy that Welsh settlers brought to the southern province of Chubut and that inspired the gorgeous tea houses dotted around the small village of Gaiman. This cake is now considered an Argentine culinary treasure.

Fondant Mushrooms and Acorns

Unfortunately, many people associate traditional English fruitcake as being dry and tasteless, perhaps because the store-bought version often completely cuts corners with the time it takes to bake and infuse the finished product. Many homemade fruitcakes call for a simple sponge with an insufficient amount of added dried fruit. In fact, a true fruitcake recipe should have an overabundance of your preferred fruits and nuts, with a far lower ratio of regular cake ingredients that are simply required to bind it all together. To age it, a lacing sauce of good quality brandy and fruit juices must be regularly drizzled over the cake for anywhere up to three months – the longer and more frequently the better! The result is a very moist cake that is a delight to the senses.


I hope you enjoy this recipe from my family and have a wonderful holiday season!


Brandy Laced Fruitcake


16oz Pitted Dates
8oz Dried Apricots
8oz Raisins
4oz Maraschino Cherries, halved
12oz Pecans
12oz Walnuts
12oz All purpose Flour
2 Tsp Baking Soda
1 Tsp Baking Powder
½ Tsp Ground Cloves
½ Tsp Ground Nutmeg
1 Tsp Cinnamon
½ Tsp Salt
4oz Unsalted Butter, room temperature
4oz Light Brown Sugar
4oz Granulated Sugar
1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
2 Eggs
4 Fl oz White Grape Juice (you can use dark if you like the cake darker)
16oz Applesauce
4 Fl oz White Rum or Brandy

Lacing Sauce
2 Fl oz Maraschino Cherries Juice
4 Fl oz Grape Juice
4 Fl oz Pineapple Juice
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
8 Fl oz Light Rum or Brandy
Mix all ingredients together. The sauce will be ready to use.
The sauce can be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for up to two months.


Preheat the oven to 275⁰C (135⁰F)Mixing Fruits

Cut up the fruit and coarsely chop the nuts. Mix fruit and nuts together in a very large bowl.

Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices, and salt together in a separate bowl. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugars together for 2 minutes. Add the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time to the creamed mixture.

Add the dry ingredients and grape juice until blended. Mix in the fruit and nut mixture and the applesauce. Stir in the rum or brandy.

Lightly spray heavy brown paper with oil or vegetable spray and line the bottom and sides of the cake pan with it. Extend the paper along the sides of the pan so it is 2 to 3 inches higher than the height of the pan.In Pan

Pour the batter into the pan and work it evenly into the corners. Raise the pan and let it drop to the counter top several times to burst any air bubbles. Level the top of the batter with an offset spatula.

Bake for 2 ½ to 3 hours or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the pan, but leave it in the brown paper wrapping until ready to ice.

While still warm, puncture holes in the fruitcake with a skewer and pour 2oz of the lacing sauce over the fruit cake. Double-wrap the cake carefully with plastic wrap and store in a cool, dry place.

Don’t refrigerate the fruitcake as it needs to age. After one week, unwrap the cake and soak it with another 2oz of the lacing sauce. Double-wrap again. Repeat this process every week until Brushing Brandyall of the lacing sauce is used. This can take 6 to 8 weeks. After the last lacing, let the cake rest for another week or two, then the cake can be finished.

When ready to ice, remove the cake from the paper wrapping. The cake can be covered in buttercream and fondant, or marzipan and I recommend just a light coat of royal icing (some people prefer several for a thicker finish).

The Season for Strawberry Shortcake

  • Posted on July 15, 2014 at 2:11 pm

  Strawberry Shortcake Painting

Living out in the country is a great way to get inspired by nature and what it has to offer, especially if you love cooking and baking as much as I do. Fresh ingredients are easy and fun to find. A glorious place to take the kids to go strawberry picking  on a beautiful midweek summers day is Alstede Farms near Chester NJ, which  has huge fields abundant with strawberries and blueberries in June / July. Later in the year other fruits such as peaches, raspberries, and blackberries are also available. Many people asked me about strawberry shortcake for their specialty cake; however, because a specialty cake is covered in fondant, one has to make some modifications to the original recipe. But every good strawberry shortcake starts with fresh strawberries – this is where a local produce is so wonderful. My three daughters and I decided to come to the farm for this reason.

As soon as we got out of the car, my youngest daughter Lucille ran directly to the farm animals that are kept for petting, while I gathered up the strawberry baskets.

photo (20)photo (22)

Strawberry PickingStrawberry Picking in Chester NJFresh Strawberries

What the kids loved about strawberry picking was the fact that the strawberries were hidden and they had to search for them within the plant, unlike picking fruit from trees, which is almost too easy! I also found that we had a much better selection of fruit on a weekday. If you visit on a weekend it can get very crowded and the amount of perfect strawberries available for picking decreases.

So once we had taken the tractor ride back to the farm, we went home to Long Valley, where I set to work on the fresh strawberry shortcake recipe I wanted to test.


Strawberries in a basketThe Barn at 11 East Mill Road

Strawberry Shortcake Recipe:

Yield: 8 servings


1 1/2 cups cake flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 cup + 1 tbsp sugar

4 oz cream cheese (room temp.)

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter (room temp.)

3/4 cup milk

2 large eggs

1/4 tsp vanilla extract



2 lbs. strawberries (hulled, divided)

1/4 cup water

3 tbsp sugar (divided)

2 tsp fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 cups chilled whipped cream

1 1/2 tbsp powdered sugar + additional for sprinkling

3/4 tsp vanilla extract



For cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9-inch cake pan with nonstick spray. Sprinkle bottom and sides with sugar, tap out excess sugar. Sift flour and baking powder in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat 1 cup sugar, cream cheese, and butter in a large bowl to blend. Beat milk, eggs, and vanilla in another medium bowl to blend. Beat milk mixture into cream cheese mixture. Add dry ingredients; beat only until smooth, do not over beat. transfer butter to prepared pan. Sprinkle remaining 1 tbsp sugar over top of butter.

Bake cake until golden brown on top and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool in pan on rack. Cover and let stand at room temperature.

Sliced fresh strawberriesFor sauce:

Coarsely chop half of strawberries (about three cups). Place them in a medium saucepan.Add 1/4 cup of water, 2 tbsp of sugar, and lemon. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until strawberries are very tender, about 4 minutes. Pour strawberry mixture into food processor and puree until smooth. Strain sauce through fine mesh strainer into medium bowl. Cover and chill until cold, about 2 hrs. Keep chilled.

Quarter remaining strawberries. Toss with remaining 1 tbsp sugar in another medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature until sugar dissolves and juices form, tossing occasionally, about 30 minutes. Add strawberry sauce. Cover and chill. Whip chilled whipping cream, 1 1/2 tbsp of powdered sugar and vanilla in a large bowl until peaks form. Cut cake into 8 wedges. Split each wedge horizontally in half. Place bottom of each wedge on plate. Spoon strawberry mixture over, then top with dollop of whipped cream. Place top of cake over cream. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.

photo (23)


Hope you try  the recipe and enjoy it!