Bessie Lee's Favorite Fruitcake

I got this recipe from Bessie Lee, who was one of my very favorite home economics teachers. She headed the home economics education department at the U.S. Indian School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and taught for years—a fascinating lady with a quick wit and lots and lots of great homemaking ideas…and recipes. This was her traditional Christmas fruitcake of which she made vast amounts for presents.

Yield: 16 to 17 pounds

5 ½ pounds chopped, mixed candied fruit
1 pound chopped, pitted dates
2 pounds pecan halves
1 pound black walnuts (optional: another pound of pecans may be used)
1 pound flour
1 pound butter
1 pound sugar
1 dozen eggs
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup sherry wine or pickled peach juice
½ pint plum jelly or any light-colored jelly
Apricot brandy, as desired.

1. Place all the fruit, dates, and nuts in a large bowl. Add all the flour and mix well.

2. Cream the butter and sugar until very fluffy using medium-high speed of the electric mixer. (Make sure you use a very large mixing bowl.)

3. Separate the eggs. Beat the yolks until fluffy and lemon colored and add to the creamed mixture. Beat the whites until soft peaks form and set aside.

4. Add the spices, wine, and jelly to the butter and sugar mixture and mix until very well blended.

5. Fold in the beaten egg whites. Add the fruit-nut mixture and stir until well mixed.

6. Butter the cake pans and line the bottoms with waxed paper. Any size pans may be used. Fill about 2/3 full.

7. Place foil over the top of the cake pans and steam cakes for 1 hour for the 1-pound size (a small loaf pan or coffee can, for example). If large pans are used, allow about ½ hour for each additional pound (for example, you would steam a 3-pound cake for 2 hours.)*

8. After steaming, remove foil and bake in a 300F oven until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. (One-pound cakes require about 1 hour of baking time.)

9. When done, cool 10 minutes on a wire rack, then remove from baking pans. Sprinkle or brush with apricot brandy—the amount you use will depend on your personal taste. Wrap or seal in airtight wrap until Christmas.

*To steam the cakes, use a large roaster or canner and place about ½ to ¾ inch water in bottom of pan. Place a metal trivet such as a wire cooling rack in the bottom and arrange cakes on it. Making sure the bottoms of the cakes are not touching the water. Place the lid on the pan. Use medium heat on the surface unit or place in the oven at about 350F making sure you adjust the temperature to maintain about a medium boil. Add water as needed.

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