2 hrs 55 mins, plus aging time (optional)
Makes:2 (9-inch) loaves
Our version of the classic (a.k.a. dark) fruitcake is packed with warm spices, nuts, sweet dried fruit, dark molasses, and brandy. And the balance of butter and molasses means the cake ages beautifully—no worries about it becoming a brick, or a shot of alcohol with some fruit in it.
What to buy: Use our recipe for Candied Grapefruit Zest and swap out the grapefruit peel for orange. A homemade candied citrus yields the best results, but if you’d rather purchase some, use a high-quality candied zest, which usually appears in the fall at gourmet or specialty stores. Don’t even think about using the scary, Day-Glo fruit found in tubs—it tastes as horrible as it looks.
There are various intensities of molasses available, from light to blackstrap. Dark (sometimes marketed as robust) tastes best in this recipe. Molasses can be found in the baking aisle at grocery stores.
Game plan: We found this cake equally delicious eaten fresh or after it had aged a bit. For the aged fruitcake, we felt the flavor was best at 6 weeks.
Heat the oven to 300°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans with butter and flour; set aside.
Combine flour, baking soda, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl and whisk to aerate and break up any lumps; set aside.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed until pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Add brown sugar, and continue beating until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, letting each mix in fully before adding the next.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Return the mixer to medium-high speed, add molasses and lemon zest, and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low and mix in 1/3 of the flour mixture. Add 1/4 cup of the brandy, another 1/3 of the flour mixture, the remaining 1/4 cup brandy, and finally the last 1/3 of the flour. Mix until flour is just incorporated and batter is smooth.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in remaining ingredients. Divide batter evenly between the prepared pans.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 1/2 hours.
Let cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before removing from the pan. Turn cakes out onto the rack and cool completely before slicing and eating, or aging.
To age, brush each cake with 1/4 cup brandy, and then completely bury each in 4 pounds of powdered sugar for up to 4 months.