Marie Racine of Huntley, Ill., was looking for a recipe she had lost for making fruitcake that contained dried apricots and Brazil nuts.
I did not receive any reader responses to her query, so I decided to do a little research. The recipe world is loaded with recipes for fruitcakes, from simple, almost quick bread versions, to the more elaborate that can require up to a month of aging and soaking. With Christmas rapidly approaching, I decided to experiment with a recipe for a Christmas fruitcake that I came across on a food blog called Shewolffe.com. The blogger is from Scotland so the recipe required some conversions and a few minor ingredient substitutions, but for the most part I left the recipe alone.
The finished cake weighed close to 3 pounds but did not taste heavy. It looked lovely whole and even better when sliced. As with most fruitcakes, the flavor seemed to intensify and improve over a couple of days, so if you have time, make it a few days before you want to serve it. If not, don't worry. Even the day it was made, everyone in my house, including those who claim to be anti-fruitcake, liked this one.
Carol Zukus of Essex is looking for an "old time" recipe for apple cake that she says takes seven days to make.
Veronica Robinson of Baltimore is looking for a good recipe for banana pudding.
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5 ounces dried apricots, roughly chopped
3 1/2 ounces apricot or regular brandy
5 ounces soft dried figs, roughly chopped
9 ounces raisins
3 ounces candied red cherries, quartered
2 ounces each of almonds, cashews and Brazil nuts, roughly chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 ounces ground almonds
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light muscovado sugar (raw or light brown sugar may be substituted)
Soak the apricots in the brandy, while you prepare other ingredients. Butter and line with wax or parchment paper a deep 8-inch-round cake pan. Mix together the figs, raisins, cherries, nuts and lemon zest.
Combine flour, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and ground almonds in a separate bowl.
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and the sugar in a large bowl for about two minutes, until creamy. Add the eggs to the butter-sugar mixture, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Gentle fold half the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Then fold the other half, followed by the fruits and nuts, followed by the apricots and brandy. The batter will be very thick.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan, smooth the top and make a small dip in the center. Bake for 30 minutes at 325 degrees then reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake for another 75 to 90 minutes. If it starts to brown too quickly, place a piece of foil over the top of the cake for the last 30 minutes. The cake is done when a skewer stuck all the way in, in the middle of the cake, comes out clean.
Leave the cake to cool in the pan, then remove the paper before serving. When wrapped well in plastic and foil, the cake will keep for a long time.