Wee Annie MacKeown’s Light Fruitcake
“I’m making fruitcake this weekend” my friend, Paul, told me a few days ago.
“Fruitcake! I went to Ralph’s a few years back looking for candied fruit and no one in the store even knew what it was” I responded.
“Yeah- this one’s made with dried fruit”.
Turns out he makes it every year and sends this completely boozy cake as a gift to his brothers back on the East Coast.
And, as it happens, the recipe comes from a great old character and friend of his grandmother’s, Wee Annie MacKeown, called such because she was 4’ 8” tall. Here’s the story Paul tells.
When he was growing, he and his brothers and mother lived with his grandparents. Annie and his grandmother were friends in Scotland, before the mass migration when thousands of Scots, like so many other immigrants, came to the U.S. in the 1920’s seeking greater opportunity.
The cake fit in one of those large square cookie tins from England, he says, and is huge. The recipe calls for baking 2 cakes, in a 10” springform pan, and those cakes weigh in at 10 pounds each.
This year, Paul, split the recipe into 4 smaller cakes, baking them in 6 inch pans – enough for each brother and one to keep for himself. And he sent the recipe and a few pics of the process along to share with all of us. Sure hope I get a cake one of these years 🙂
Wee Annie Mac Keown’s Light Fruitcake
I’ve tried to keep as much as possible of Annie’s inimitable voice in here. I’ve commented here and there in parentheses.
For the Cake:
- 1 pound butter
- 2 cups sugar
- 12 eggs
- 5 cups all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ cup of brandy
- 2 cups dried cherries
- 2 cups raisins, both dark and golden
- 1 cup dried apricots, diced
- 2 cups brandy
GET THEM DRUNK
- Mix the dried fruit together (Paul uses a plastic bowl with a sealable lid- you’ll see why in the next step), then add 2 cups of brandy.
- This should sit for two weeks. I usually turn the container once a day to make sure everything gets a drink. This makes enough for two cakes or (as Annie suggests) if you are so inclined, you can serve the dried fruit over vanilla ice cream for a treat (hey, sounds good to me).
CAKE DAY…. Yes it is a day.
- Butter and dust with flour a 10” spring form pan, I usually have a sheet of parchment paper on the bottom of the pan.
- Sift the flour. Keep one cup aside. Add the baking powder to the four cups of flour.
- Drain excess moisture from the fruit, then dust the fruit with the cup of flour. This prevents the fruit from settling to the bottom of the pan. Mix this thoroughly.
- Cream the butter and sugar together (Paul does this with an old hand held mixer his mother gave him – I suggest a stand mixer…), then add the eggs one at a time.
- Mix the batter well. Add the flour one cup at a time.
- Add the brandy to the batter. It will loosen the batter.
- Now add the fruit to the batter. Your arm will get tired. This is a lot of batter.
- You better have a big bowl (I suggest pouring the batter from the mixer bowl into a large – the biggest you have- wide bowl for folding in the fruit.) These clock in just under ten pounds.
- Bake for 30 minutes in an oven preheated to 350 degrees.
- Then reduce heat to 250 degrees and bake for 5 hours.* Yep 5 hours.
- After 4 and a half check it to see if it has cooked through… knitting needle, skewer.
- After five hours I let the cake cool in the oven. It’s not going anywhere…
- Okay, so it is done. Knife the edge before you take it out. Safe rather than sorry.
- Take off the spring form edge. Let it sit out to cool for 2 hours. I said this was a day didn’t I?
- Separate the bottom of the pan from the cake…. nice to have the parchment paper here now.
- Wrap the cake in cheesecloth, then sprinkle the brandy on the cake.
- Keep in a container, wrapped in aluminum foil. Add brandy .. a liberal dousing, for another two weeks at least before you open the cake. Every few days I will give them a drink to make sure that they are moist. (Paul pulls back the foil, but leaves the cheesecloth in place, then recovers with the foil each time).