Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Almond Macaroons: A Hint of Rosewater Makes These Taste Truly Historic



Blanched Almond Macaroons


Unblanched Almond Macaroons

This recipe comes from a collection of recipes found in a manuscript journal located in the H. Furlong Baldwin Library at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore. The manuscript is attributed to Ann Maria Morris and the date of 1824 is written on the inside cover. The recipe below is one of many from the manuscript that will be included in a book I am writing. The book will contain biographical information about Mrs. Morris, an annotated transcript of the entire manuscript as it was written, and a section of modern recipe adaptations.


Macaroons (or, macarons in French) are small, round almond biscuits that are crunchy on the outside but soft, moist, and sweet on the inside. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the earliest printed record of macaroons is from 1611 in R. Cotgrave's Dict. of French & Eng. Tongues. This work defines macarons as "little fritter-like Bunnes, or thick Losenges, compounded of Sugar, Almonds, Rosewater, and Muske." However, the biscuits may go back even further than 1611 to Renaissance Italy. Indeed, the name "macaroon" may derive from the Italian word for paste "macarone". Other sources place the earliest macaroon recipe to a monastery in Cormery, France dating back as far as 791 AD.

Whether the macaroon (macaron) is of French origin may be debatable, anyone who has been to France can see how popular they are there to this day. Macaroons in every color of the rainbow and sandwiched around luscious and decadent flavored fillings adorn French pastry shops. Here is a photo of the beautiful majesty of these baked jewels from the shop window at La Grande Épicerie in the deli department of Le Bon Marché, Paris:


As beautiful as these culinary gems may be, most of the macaroon recipes in 19th century American cookery books do not list directions to color the biscuits or sandwich them with tasty fillings. Instead, the biscuits seem to have mostly been made in their natural color in a round or oval form and served along with wine or liqueurs. 

Here are some examples of American recipes from  19th century cookery books (note the suggestion to use coconut in the first recipe, a more traditionally 20th century way to make a macaroon):


Miss Beecher's Domestic Receipt Book by Catherine Beecher (New York: 1850 ed.)
Domestic Cookery by Elizabeth Lea (Baltimore, 1869)
La Cuisine Creole by Lafcadio Hearn (New Orleans, 1885)

Another form of a macaroon is called a Ratafia Biscuit. These are very similar except they usually (though not always) contain a portion of bitter almonds, which can be fatal if eaten in large quantities. Italian Amaretti are also similar to Ratafia Biscuits as they too can be flavored with bitter almonds and/or ground apricot kernels.

Making Almond Macaroons 19th Century American Style:

Just as in Morris's recipe below, many 18th and 19th century cookbooks contain recipes for almond macaroons with the instruction to add rosewater "to prevent oiling." When grinding the almonds in a mortar, the addition of the rosewater would presumably prevent the almonds from forming an oily paste or butter. For the recipe adaptation, below, I have added rosewater for the flavor, but it is not necessary because I am using pre-ground almonds.

Note: You can use coarser, whole nut almond meal which will be speckled with dark spots, or you can use peeled, blanched ground almonds for a lighter, smoother more refined look. I like the taste and texture of the coarser meal, but the more refined blanched almond meal was probably more fashionable in the 19th century. Either way tastes good so it's your choice!

Macaroons
(from the manuscript of Ann Maria Morris, c. 1824)

To one pound of sweet blanched almonds, put 1 lb. sugar, a little rose-water to prevent it oiling, beat the whites of 4 eggs to a froth. Then beat them well together; drop them on a paper greased. Grate sugar over, and bake them white.


Macaroons: Modern Recipe Adaptation
Yield: About 16 1-Ounce Cookies or 32 Half-Ounce Cookies

Whites of 2 Large Eggs
1/2 Teaspoon Rosewater
1/2 Pound Ground Almonds, Blanched or Un-blanched (You can make your own or buy pre-ground meal)
1 Cup Granulated Sugar, Plus Extra for Tops of Cookies


Directions:
1.  Heat oven to 325º F.

2.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

3.  Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until light and frothy. Add the rosewater to the egg whites and beat again just to mix it into the whites.


Frothy Egg Whites

4.  In a separate mixing bowl, stir together the ground almonds and sugar. 

5.  Add the almond mixture to the frothy egg whites and beat with the electric mixer until all of the ingredients are evenly mixed.

6.  Drop the batter by 1 ounce spoons onto the parchment lined cookie sheets and then shape the cookies into circles or ovals with your hands. Make sure your measuring spoon and your hands are wet or the cookie batter will stick and be very difficult to manipulate.

7. Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with granulated sugar.

8.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cookies are just barely starting to turn golden on the edges and crack slightly on top.

9. Remove from the oven and slide the parchment paper with the cookies off the baking sheet. Do not attempt to remove the cookies from the parchment paper until they are completely cool and firm. 


Storage: Eat fresh macaroons within 1 day; Refrigerate for up to 1 week; freeze for up to 6 months. 

References

  • Oxford English Dictionary
  • Alan Davidson, The Penguin Companion to Food, 2002.
  • Larousse Gastronomique, The World's Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia. New York: 2001


Friday, December 4, 2015

Christmas Fruitcake: It's Time for Americans to Get Over Their Fear and Loathing!



Christmas Fruitcake

“There’s only one fruitcake in the 
world and it gets passed from 
one person to the next.”

While I am sure there are many American bakers who turn out delicious fruitcakes at Christmas, lots of Americans, unfortunately, have an aversion to fruitcake. This negative view of the dreaded fruitcake is not helped by the drab  commercially prepared cakes available in American supermarkets and wholesale clubs. These cakes tend to be dry, hard, and tasteless and have a poor texture. The fruits  in these cakes tend not to be doused in tasty brandy or other spirits, and they are filled with artificially colored glazed cherries and citron.

While visiting England over the 2014 Christmas festive season, I noticed beautiful Christmas fruitcakes available in almost every food shop and department store. Of course, I had to try one! English fruitcakes are nothing like most popular commercial American ones. They are rich, moist,  and laden with alcohol-drenched dried fruits; and, they are  covered in decadent almond paste (marzipan) and thick icing. Moreover, British fruitcakes tend to be beautifully decorated and packaged. Interestingly, I since have learned that it is quite common for British wedding cakes to be made in this same fashion!

After seeing so many fruitcakes being purchased by eager British holiday shoppers (and, presumably brides and grooms), I started wondering why Americans do not eagerly anticipate fruitcake during the festive season (or at any other time of the year either).

While looking in historic American cookbooks from the 19th century, I found lots of evidence that rich, delicious, and beautiful fruitcakes were indeed popular here in the States. Here is one example I found:

Jennie June’s American Cookery Book, 1870    


So, why did American fruitcake degenerate into a cake that's as heavy as a brick and as tasteless as sandpaper? There is no definitive answer to this question. However, there are two possible explanations: 1) the era of Prohibition may have curtailed the  use of spirits to flavor and cure the cakes to make them moist and delicious, and 2) commercial bakers during the days of Prohibition offered ready-made alcohol-free fruitcakes for sale and set a pattern for the next generations. I would love feedback from readers offering other possible reasons for the devolution of the American fruitcake.

A New Approach to Fruitcake
In an attempt to create a fruitcake Americans might actually want to eat, I am  taking elements from  two historic American fruitcake recipes to make a new recipe that I hope my readers will try and love. The first recipe is Martha Washington's Great Cake and the second is Black Cake. You can click on each link for more information about these cakes. The recipe below is essentially the Martha Washington  Great Cake with two major changes: 1) the addition of brandy-soaked fruit; and, 2) half of the granulated sugar has been replaced with dark brown muscovado sugar (true brown sugar). Note: most store-brand brown sugar is white sugar that has been coated with molasses; real muscovado sugar has never been refined to white sugar--its molasses occurs  naturally throughout each crystal of sugar and so has a richer flavor.


The muscovado sugar is the dark one on top. Compare its intensity to the commercially mass produced
dark and light brown sugars on the bottom. (Photo Source: Wikipedia)

To make this fruitcake, you will need to plan ahead and start your cake 2-3 weeks before you want to serve it. There are lots of steps but they are all quite easy, so all you need is good organizational skills and a calendar with notifications to remind you to tend your cake!



Now, Let's Make This Fruitcake . . .

Step 1: Begin One Day Before Baking Day
  • 1¼ pounds (20 ounces) dried fruit, such as currants, golden raisins, candied citrus peel (I do not like glazed cherries in bright green and red colors).
  • 3 Tablespoons Brandy

Directions:

  1. Place the fruit in an airtight container and pour the brandy over it. Stir thoroughly and cover. 
  2. Set aside in a cool, dry place for at least 12 hours, but longer if possible.
Step 2: Baking Day

  • 4 Cups All-Purpose Flour 
  • 2½ Teaspoons Ground Mace 
  • 2½ Teaspoons Ground Nutmeg 
  • 10 Large Eggs
  • 1 Pound Salted Butter (Softened)
  • 1 Cup Granulated Sugar 
  • 1 Cup Dark Brown Muscovado Sugar 
  • ¼ Cup White Sweet Wine 
  • 1/4 Cup French Brandy (or Madeira, or Sherry)

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line a 10" round cake pan with removable bottom. Place the cake pan on a parchment-lined baking tin.

2.  In a medium bowl, measure out all but 1/2 cup of the flour. 

3.  Add the spices to the 3 1/2 cups of flour and whisk until well incorporated and fluffy.

4. Add the remaining 1/2 cup flour to the brandy-soaked fruit and stir to completely coat all of the fruit. (This is important--the fruit will all sink to the bottom if you do not do this!)

5. Separate egg whites from yolks & set yolks aside in a small bowl. In another bowl, beat the egg whites to the foamy or  “soft peak” stage. 

6. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugars together using an electric mixer.

7. Slowly add the beaten egg whites, one spoonful at a time, to the creamed butter and sugar. Beat just until blended. 

8. Add the egg yolks and beat to incorporate.

9.  Measure out the wine & brandy and add them to the wet ingredients.

10.  Add the flour and spice mixture to the wet ingredients.  Beat until well mixed, but do not overbeat.  

11.  Then, add the flour-coated fruit to the batter.      

12.  Put batter into pan & place in oven. Bake for about 75 minutes if using one springform pan or 50-60 minutes if using two 9" cake rounds.  Make sure a toothpick inserted is clean before removing from oven.  Since oven temperatures can vary, you must monitor cooking time carefully. 

13.  When done, remove cake from oven & cool for about 10 minutes. Then move onto Step 3 . . .

Step 3: Feed the Cake

  • 1 Baked Cake
  • Plastic Wrap
  • One Wooden Skewer
  • 2 Tablespoons Brandy Needed Each and Every Time You Feed the Cake
  • Pastry Brush
  • Cake Box or Storage Container
Directions:
1. Take cake out of cake pan and place bottom-side up on several large sheets of plastic wrap.

2. Poke holes in the cake using the wooded skewer.

3. Take the brandy and pour some over the cake. Use the pastry brush to spread the brandy. Keep pouring and brushing the brandy over the entire top of the cake.

4. Completely wrap the cake with the plastic wrap and place in the cake storage box. Store in a cool, dry room for about 1 week.

5. After the first week, follow direction #3 above again to feed the cake another 2 tablespoons of brandy. Then, follow direction #4 to store it again.

6. Wait another week and feed the cake one more time.

Step 4: Assemble the Cake

  • 8 ounces Almond Paste or Marzipan (marzipan is sweeter than plain almond paste)
  • Confectioner's Sugar (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 Tablespoons Apple Jelly
  • Icing (see step 3 for options)
  • Cake Decorations


1. About 1-2 days before you plan to serve the cake (which should be after feeding the cake with spirits for three consecutive weeks), you are ready to finish it.

2. Roll out the almond paste or marzipan on a board dusted with confectioner's sugar to about 1/4 inch thickness. Cut it in strips to fit around the sides and top of the cake. Adhere the almond paste with melted apple jelly as a glue. This takes a fairly long time but is worth it as it adds a distinctive flavor.

3. Cover the cake with either homemade gum paste fondant icing, icing made from a store-bought gum paste fondant kit,  or royal icing.

4. Decorate with candy, marzipan figures, plastic toy figurines, etc. [Scroll to the top to see the finished and decorated cake.]




Monday, November 30, 2015

A Quiet Family Dinner: The 2015 Dining Room Display at the c.19th Riversdale House Museum




Today I created the 2015 Christmas Dining Room display for the c. 1801 Riversdale House Museum in Riverdale Park, Maryland. You can click here to read all about this wonderful historic treasure in Prince George's County.

Normally, I use the festive Christmas season to create an elaborate Christmastide ball supper with an array of buffet items appropriate to the very early decades of the 19th century. This year, in keeping with the museum staff's decision to recreate Christmas traditions from multiple time periods, ranging from the middle of the 19th century to the 1930s, I decided to use an 1889 description of a Christmas dinner given by Juliet Corson in her publication entitled, Miss Corson's Practical American Cookery (New York).

Here is Corson's description of a classic old-fashioned Christmas (or even Thanksgiving):


For the current Riversdale House Museum dining room display, I used Corson's description of the Christmas meal as the inspiration for my display. Here is a schematic of how I interpreted it given the faux food objects available at the museum:



Here are some images of this year's design which clearly reflects a simple family gathering of just two traditional courses, not the pomp and circumstance of a lavish ball supper:

Dining Room Table:


 Sideboard with Desserts Awaiting Service:

Visit Riversdale House Museum on
 Wednesday, December 30, 2015 at 6 pm for Riversdale by Candlelight.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Spicing Up Chestnuts: "Devilled" Chestnuts and Spiced Glazed Chestnuts


As a child growing up in an Italian American household, roasted chestnuts were always a big part of the Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts. I have always loved them and am now exploring other ways in which they can be enjoyed.

Back before the turn of the twentieth century, American Chestnut trees made up one quarter of all of the hardwood trees covering an area of the Northeastern United States estimated at being as large as 200 million acres. Beginning around 1904, a fungus known as Cryphonectria parasitica (formerly Endothia parasitica), reached the United States from an imported Asian chestnut tree and subsequently brought about a chestnut blight that decimated the American chestnut tree population. Growth and distribution of American Chestnuts has still not bounced back since the blight of the early 20th century. Americans looking to add chestnuts to their holiday menus are most likely buying European chestnuts that come from Southern Italy, Portugal , or France (FYI-these chestnuts are actually of West Asian origins).

Historic recipes for chestnuts certainly do reach far back in time. American Indians used them in stews. The ancient Romans used chestnut flour in recipes and cooked them with lentils; the French use chestnuts to make Marrons Glaces (candied chestnuts) and a chestnut puree as a crepe filling; the Italians use them in cakes among many other recipes; and the Austrians use them to make the famous Nesselrode Pudding, a frozen moulded chestnut ice cream. This is just a small slice of the many other ways to enjoy chestnuts.

Here are two spiced and fun ways to present chestnuts at your holiday table, or anytime!



Spiced Glazed Chestnuts

Hand-Book of Practical Cookery by Pierre Blot. New York: 1884

While I love the idea of making candied chestnuts, the Marrons Glaces I had in France seem a bit too sweet for me. I decided to make a recipe that resembles the idea of candied chestnuts without the overpowering sweetness. I've also added a bit of spices to make it more flavorful for the festive holiday season.

Modern Recipe Adaptation

  • 8 Ounces Peeled and Cooked Chestnuts (click here to see how to do this or you can buy chestnuts already cooked and peeled for you)
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg

Directions:
  1. Place the sugar, water, vanilla, and spices in a medium sauce pan and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil.
  2. Add the chestnuts to the sauce pan and bring back to the boil. Boil for just about 2-3 minutes and then remove from the heat.
  3. Let the chestnuts cool in the spiced syrup, about 1 hour.
  4. For extra sweet chestnuts, store the nuts in the syrup in a jar in the refrigerator. If you want less sweet chestnuts, drain the syrup and store the chestnuts in a sealed plastic container in the refrigerator.

Devilled Chestnuts


The Boston Cooking School Cook Book by Fannie Merritt Farmer. Boston, 1896.


Modern Recipe Adaptation
  • 1 Pound Peeled and Cooked Chestnuts (click here to see how to do this or you can buy chestnuts already cooked and peeled for you)
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Paprika (smoked or hot)
  • 1/4 - 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cayenne Pepper
  • Salt to Taste

Directions:
  1. Heat the oven to 400º F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a bowl, mix together the oil and spices using a whisk
  4. Add the chestnuts to the spiced oil and mix until all of the chestnuts are coated evenly.
  5. Lay the chestnuts on the parchment-lined baking sheet.
  6. Place in the heated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes, or until cool enough to touch. Sprinkle with salt to taste.
  8. Serve warm or at room temperature.
  9. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

References

Monday, October 26, 2015

Bunn Cake: A 19th century Sweet Bread Recipe to Make All the Year Long

Burn Cake Two Ways: Dressed Up for Thanksgiving and Christmas

This recipe comes from a collection of recipes found in a manuscript journal located in the H. Furlong Baldwin Library at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore. The manuscript is attributed to Ann Maria Morris and the date of 1824 is written on the inside cover. The recipe below is one of many from the manuscript that will be included in a book I am writing. The book will contain biographical information about Mrs. Morris, an annotated transcript of the entire manuscript as it was written, and a section of modern recipe adaptations.


Bunn Cake

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, in England the word bun or bunn can refer to a variety of individually-sized sweet, round cakes, usually fruit laden, that can be held easily in the palm of one’s hand. The earliest examples (in the years 1371 and 1460, for example) are less specific about the type of loaf or cake constituted by the term, bun. On the other hand, in 1845 Eliza Leslie was very specific about the English custom of eating Cross-Buns at breakfast on the morning of Good Friday, but she also wrote “they are very good cakes at any time, but are best when fresh.” (p.217) Other contemporary recipes for buns are: Carter’s, The Frugal Housewife (1803); 1803; Emerson’s, The New England Cookery (1808), which is a pirated edition of Carter’s recipe; Randolph’s, The Virginia Housewife (1824); Howland’s, The New England Economical Housekeeper (1845); Allen’s, The Housekeeper’s Assistant (1845); and Lea’s, Domestic Cookery (1869).

This recipe can be used to make a very good version of an easter hot cross bun; however, I chose to dress the buns up for Thanksgiving and Christmas. They are laden with fruit and topped with royal icing and decorative festive sugar. Enjoy during the holidays or, as Eliza Leslie suggests, at any time of the year!


Bunn Cake

1 ½ lb. flour, ½ lb. butter, a wine glass of yeast, wet it with milk, 4 eggs ½ a glass of wine, ½ glass Brandy, little cinnamon & nutmeg, a handful of currants stirred together. When risen, stir in ½ lb. of sugar let it stand an hour. bake it in tins one spoonful sufficient.


Modern Recipe Adaptation

Yield: 48 1-ounce bunns

½ Cup Warm Water
2 ¼-Ounce Packets of Dry Active Yeast
4 ¾ Cups All Purpose Flour
2 Teaspoons Ceylon Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1 Cup of Zante Currants or Other Dried Fruit (I like fresh candied lemon and orange peel for Christmas)
½ Pound Butter, Salted and Softened
½ Cup Whole Milk
4 Large Eggs
½ Cup White Sweet Wine
½ Cup Brandy
1 Cup Granulated Sugar

1.    Whisk together the warm water and the yeast and set aside to activate for at least 5-10 minutes.

2. While the yeast is activating, mix together the flour, spices, and dried fruit.

3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the milk, eggs, wine, and brandy. Mix together until well-blended. Add the yeast and mix again.

4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet.

5. Place the bunn dough in a warm place and let sit for at least 1 hour. After one hour, add the sugar. Let the dough sit again for another 30 minutes.

6. While the dough is sitting, heat the oven to 375º. Grease mini-muffin pans by with butter or spray oil, or use muffin liners.

7. After the dough has rested for 30 minutes, spoon 1 ounce portions, 2 tablespoons, into the muffin pans.

8. Bake for 20 minutes or until cooked through and slightly golden in color.

9. Remove from pan and allow to cool completely if planning on icing them. These can be iced with simple royal icing, or you can use flavored icing such as lemon, orange or almond. Top with festive sugars/sprinkles for holiday service.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Black Cake: A Caribbean Treat Found in 19th Century America

Black Cake

This recipe comes from a collection of recipes found in a manuscript journal located in the H. Furlong Baldwin Library at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore. The manuscript is attributed to Ann Maria Morris and the date of 1824 is written on the inside cover. The recipe below is one of many from the manuscript that will be included in a book I am writing. The book will contain biographical information about Mrs. Morris, an annotated transcript of the entire manuscript as it was written, and a section of modern recipe adaptations.

Original Receipt (Recipe):
3 lbs. flour, 3 lbs sugar, 3 lbs butter, 3 dozen eggs, 2 lbs currants, 4 lbs Raisins, 1 lb. citron, a pint of Brandy, 1/2 oz. cinnamon, 1/4 oz. cloves, 1/4 oz. mace & 3 nutmegs.


Black Cakes are versions of British plum puddings or fruitcakes that emerged in the Caribbean, particularly in Trinidad, and they are served at Christmas, weddings, and other special occasions. Caribbean-made  Black Cakes have traditionally gotten their dark color not just from the dark-colored spices such as cinnamon, mace, and cloves  used in the recipe, or from the dark fruits such as raisins in it, but from the burnt sugar syrup traditionally used in the recipe. Burnt sugar is exactly what it sounds like - you take sugar and cook it in a frying pan until it gets very dark and syrupy.

While Black Cakes made with burnt sugar syrup may be popular in the Caribbean Islands even to this day, recipes for these cakes can also be found going back as far as the 19th century (and quite possibly earlier) in American cookbooks and manuscript recipe collections. These recipes can be found in  Eliza Leslie’s, Seventy-Five Receipts (1828), Lettice Bryan’s, The Kentucky Housewife (1839), Eliza Leslie’s, Directions for Cookery (1840), Elizabeth Lea’s, Domestic Cookery (1869), and in several others that appear in the latter half of the nineteenth-century. 

While traditional island Black Cakes get their dark color from the burnt sugar syrup, 19th century American recipes do not usually use that type of sugar. Instead, plain old white sugar,  brown sugar, and/or molasses were used. These versions of Black Cakes are therefore similar (they do use heavy amounts of dark sweet spices and fruit) but are fundamentally different because they do not use the burnt sugar syrup. Therefore, they could not be equal in flavor to the island varieties. Mrs. Morris's recipe for Black Cake just states "sugar" but does not specify which type. It must be assumed that she meant to use either white sugar or brown sugar. Therefore, these cakes are not quite black, but have more of a dark beige color to them!

All versions of these cakes burst with the flavor of various darkly hued sweet spices such as mace, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. Dried and/or sugared fruits such as orange and lemon peel, currants, raisins, etc. are crucial to the recipe; a recipe by Lettice Bryan in The Kentucky Housewife (1839) even contains whortleberries! 

Additionally, while most island versions of these cakes require that the fruits be soaked in spirits such as brandy, port, or rum for days before the cake is to be made, the 19th century American recipes do not seem to include this direction.  Instead, these recipes usually give instructions to dredge un-soaked fruit in flour just prior to adding it to the cake batter. Likewise, Mrs. Morris's recipe does include brandy but like her contemporaries she does not specify pre-soaking the fruit; also, the amount of brandy, one pint for 7 pounds of fruit, does not seem to be enough for the pre-soaking method, so this version of Black Cake is clearly not as potent as the more traditional island versions.

Anyway you make it, Black Cake is a rich, spice-laden, and flavorful cake you can enjoy anytime, preferably with a cup of tea and a good book!

Modern Recipe Adaptation:
Makes 1 10" Round Cake


1 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
4 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon (Ceylon)
1 1/2 Teaspoons Grated Nutmeg
3/4 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
3/4 Teaspoon Ground Mace
1 Pound Mixed Dried or Candied Fruits (Currants, Raisins, Citron, Pear, Apple, Apricots, etc); Make sure all of the fruit is coarsely chopped.
1/2 Pound Butter, Softened
1 Cup White or Brown Sugar
6 Large Eggs
1/4 Cup Brandy


  1. Heat the oven to 375º F.
  2. Grease a 10" round springform pan and set in on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and spices, and then stir in the fruit. Set aside.
  4. In a separate large bowl, mix together the butter and sugar (you can use an electric mixer for this). Add the eggs two at a time, beating after each addition. Then, add the brandy and beat until well-blended, about 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and mix until the flour is all absorbed and the fruit is well distributed throughout the batter. The batter will be thick.
  6. Spoon the batter into the prepared baking pan.
  7. Bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  8. Let cool for 10 minutes and then remove the cake from the pan.
  9. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream, ice cream, royal icing, a sweetened cream cheese (honey pecan or pumpkin work well), or try Georgian Wine Cream for an historically inspired topping.