Monday, December 7, 2009

White Fruitcake

We began our cookbook week with one of the most famous fruitcake recipes so, it is only fitting we close with one, Eudora Welty's White Fruitcake. The first real printing of Welty's recipe was not so much a cookbook as a piece of ephemera, as we say in the book biz. In 1980, a limited edition Christmas card was send out from Albondocani Press and Ampersand Books and Welty.

The origins of the recipe come from The Jackson Cookbook, a collection of local recipes featuring an introduction by Welty. The cookbook contained a white fruitcake recipe by Mrs. Mosal, submitted by her daughter. Welty said,
"I make Mrs. Mosal's White Fruitcake every Christmas, having got it from my mother, who got it from Mrs. Mosal, and I often think to make a friend's fine recipe is to celebrate her once more."
Welty was never really much of cook owing to her mother's somewhat lacking recipes. She never included directions and when Welty questioned her method, her mother replied,
"any cook worth her salt would know, given a list of ingredients, what to do with them."
The recipe is included in several books including Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott.

You will find that what Mrs. Welty lacked in directions, Miss Eudora greatly makes up for in this recipe.

White Fruitcake

1 1/2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
6 eggs, separated
4 cups flour, sifted before measuring
flour for fruit and nuts
2 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
1 pound pecan meats (halves, preferably)
1 pound crystallized cherries, half green, half red
1 pound crystallized pineapple, clear
some citron or lemon peel if desired
1 cup bourbon
1 tsp. vanilla
nutmeg if desired

Make the cake several weeks ahead of Christmas of you can.
The recipe makes three-medium-sized cakes or one large and one small. Prepare the pans -- the sort with a chimney or tube -- by greasing them well with Crisco and then lining them carefully with three layers of waxed paper, all greased as well.
Prepare the fruit and nuts ahead. Cut the pineapple in thin slivers and the cherries in half. Break up the pecan meats, reserving a handful or so shapely halves to decorate the tops of the cakes. Put in separate bowls, dusting the fruit and nuts lightly in sifting of flour, to keep the from clustering together in the batter.
In a very large wide mixing bowl ( a salad bowl or even a dishpan will serve) cream the butter very light, then beat in the sugar until all is smooth and creamy. Sift in the flour, with the baking powder and salt added, a little at a time, alternating with the unbeaten egg yolks added one at a time. When all this is creamy, add the floured fruits and nuts, gradually, scattering the lightly into the batter, stirring all the while, and add the bourbon in alteration little by little. Lastly, whip the eggwhites into peaks and fold in.
St the oven ow, about 250. Pour the batter into the cake-pans, remembering that they will rise. Decorate the tops with nuts. Bake for three hours or more, until they spring back to the touch and a straw inserted at the center comes out clean and dry. (if the top browns too soon, lay a sheet of foil lightly over.) When done, the cake should be a warm golden color.
When they've cooled enough yo handle, run a spatula around the sides of each cake, cover the pan with a big plate , turn the pan over and slip the cake out. Cover the cake with another plate and turn rightside up. When cool, the cake can be wrapped in cloth or foil and stored in a tightly fitted tin box.
From time to time before Christmas you may improve it with a little more bourbon, dribbled over the top to be absorbed ans so ripen the cake before cutting. This cake will keep for a good white, in or out of the refrigerator.