My long time friend, The Reverend Dr. Eileen M. Conway, often posts her culinary adventures on Facebook. One day she mentioned “Woodward’s Dark Fruitcake”, and that piqued my interest.
I had an instant flood of memories of my Mom, who was a dedicated Woodward’s customer and employee. She also made a dark fruitcake every Christmas, which I have been trying to replicate for years. Although good fruitcake was had, it wasn’t Mom’s.
When Eileen posted about the dark fruitcake, I asked for, and received, a beautifully hand-written copy of the recipe in the mail. The whole exchange was so old school and delightful and nostalgic, for a moment I thought I would hand copy ALL my recipes, electronic or otherwise. I have recipes scribbled on scraps of paper attached to our fridge, in cookbooks, in notebooks, on Pinterest, this blog, in my purse, pockets, and in several cookbooks I started typing and then abandoned. The idea became overwhelming. It was ditched as quickly as it was thought.
If you are over a certain age you will remember Woodward’s department stores, and especially Woodward’s Food Floor. Woodward’s also supported the home cook with helpful tips and recipes. This is one of them.
With Eileen’s permission, I am happy to share her recipe, exactly as she wrote it out to me.
Woodward’s Dark Fruitcake
Makes 2 cakes = 6 lbs
Oven 275F – 3 to 3 1/2 hours
3 1/2 cups mixed, diced candied fruits and peels (1 1/2 lbs). If you wish to include glacécherries, slice in half.
Fruit, including raisins, may be soaked overnight in 1 cup booze before you begin baking. Stir now and then. Drain.
1 1/4 cups dark seedless raisins
1 1/4 cups light seedless raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp powdered cloves
1 cup shortening (room temperature)
2 cups brown sugar
4 large eggs (= 1 cup total)
3/4 cup grape juice
Mix fruit, peel, raisins, and nuts. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and spices. Sprinkle 1/4 cup over fruit mixture; mix well. Thoroughly cream shortening and sugar, add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture alternatively with grape juice, beat smooth after each addition. Pour over fruits and nuts; mix well. Line two 9 x 5 loaf pans with greased brown paper, extending 1/2 inch above rim. Pour batter into pans, filling 3/4 full – do not flatten. Bake in preheated 275F oven for 3 to 3 1/2 hours or until cakes test done. Have a pan of water on lower oven shelf during baking.
The cakes turned out perfect. Although still not quite my Mom’s version, it is the closest I have come. I also ate a sample as soon as it was cool enough to slice. Generally I will keep fruit cake wrapped and stored until Christmas time.
My own comments:
The brown paper/shortening liner is what I grew up with. For those more used to modern parchment paper, all you need to do is open clean brown bags, and trim to fit in your loaf pans. Before settling them in, grease the pans, place in the paper, and grease again. Works a treat.
As for booze in the assorted peel, cherries and raisins…. not an option. You MUST put some in. I soaked mine overnight in one cup of brandy. When I drained the fruit, I captured the boozy juicy mix thinking it would be a treat. It came out so thick and syrupy in ended up down the drain and into the North Saskatchewan river. There may be a few happy fish or ducks down there in the river valley.
I added a few additional tablespoons of brandy to the still warm, fresh from the oven cakes. I remember with my Mom’s recipe, she would carefully add more booze to her cakes in the weeks preceding Christmas. I’m sure I could do the same with this recipe, but as it is, I’ve wrapped them carefully and have them stored to spring upon unsuspecting guests.
I take personal delight in watching people’s faces as you present fruitcake. Experience has shown people either love it or hate it. To each their own. What you don’t eat, I will.