Old Fashioned Fruit Cake


I love Christmas. I mean, I loooooove Christmas. To me it truly is the most wonderful time of the year. I’m sure you have your own list, but I love the carols, the cookies, the music on the radio. I love getting together with family and catching up. One of my favorite traditions is heading to the Gunflint Lodge in Minnesota for a weekend of relaxation. This year, my dad brought a delicious fruit cake up with us for the weekend. It was so beautiful I had to snap a few pictures before we cut into the cake.

Fruit cake is one of those desserts that has garnered a bad reputation over the years. People either love it dearly, or detest it passionately. For many years, I’d considered myself in the latter category. All this changed when I had a taste of my dad’s fruit cake…it was absolutely delicious! This recipe originally comes from the Pilgrim Baptist Church Cookbook, but has several of my dad’s adaptations. I asked him to type up the original recipe along with his hints and tips so that I could share it with you on my blog. Without further ado… take it away dad!

I love old church cookbooks and this recipe from Pilgrim Baptist Church circa 1960’s is a good example. Every December my aunt would dutifully pull out her dog-eared copy and faithfully prepare several fruit cakes. Actually, it was only my aunt and I that truly loved eating fruit cake as the rest of the family merely had a slice to make auntie happy. But I urge you to forget past fruit cake experiences and give this one a try. Now while the recipe is simple it took several years of watching my aunt before I actually understood how to make this fruit cake.


Old Fashioned Fruit Cake Recipe
Ms. Velma Waters, Pilgrim Baptist Church Cookbook

1 pound butter
1 pound brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
6 eggs
1/2 cup wine
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup currants
2 cups candied fruits
2 cups raisins
2 cups nuts
1 tablespoon allspice
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
7 cups flour

Directions from Cookbook
Mix butter, sugar and cream. Add eggs and liquid in order, flour, currants, fruits, raisins and nuts. Mix in all the spices. Spices are to be added to the flour and added before the nuts and raisins, etc. Bake at 250 degrees for approximately 4 hours.

Dad’s Preparation Tips
Butter must be at room temperature, meaning you can push a finger into the butter block without resistance. Use dark brown sugar for a richer taste. Extra-large eggs are best. A good Zinfandel wine works best for the fruit cake. Tiny chopped up candied fruit can be used BUT using the larger chunks of fruit works much better and if you “really” like candied fruit you can add another 1/2 cup. Remember this is a butter cake (yum) with fruit and spices added. Use PECANS!! No other choice here.

Dad’s Assembly Tips
Thoroughly mix spices, baking powder, baking soda and sifted flour together. In a medium bowl combine 2 cups of the flour mixture and candied fruit and mix until candied fruit is fully covered with flour and is no longer sticky (fingers work really good for this). The object here is to prevent the candied fruit from clumping together in the batter. Add in currants, raisins and nuts.

Cream butter on medium speed till light and fluffy, add sugars in several additions, creaming between each addition. Cream until light and fluffy, add eggs one at a time until incorporated, and then add liquids. Now combine everything. Stir, DO NOT BEAT, together until everything is thoroughly mixed. This is a good workout for building arm strength.

Dad’s Baking Tips
Here’s where things get complicated! There is enough batter to make one 9×5 inch pan and one angel food pan. If you want smaller loafs you must reduce cooking time or you’ll get cement brick fruit cakes. However, too little cooking time and you’ll get cakes that fall apart, which is sad after so much effort. So for success just hang in there with me and have a loaf pan size and an angle food size cake.

Line the two pans with parchment paper cut to fit smoothly without any gaps. Remove parchment and grease pans. Replace parchment and liberally butter parchment paper and then flour, shaking off excess flour. Place a baking stone on the bottom oven shelf and place a 9×13 pan half filled with water on top of the baking stone. Preheat the oven for a half hour. Fill pans 3/4 full and decorate top of batter with candied fruit and pecans until you think it looks pretty. Bake on middle shelf of oven. Set timer for 4 hours but check water in pan after 3 hours. Bake the loaf pan approximately 4 hours and the angel food pan approximately 4 3/4 hours. 

When done, cool on rack for 20 to 30 minutes then invert and remove parchment paper. Cool completely on rack. For storage, wrap loafs in brandy (any spirit will work but I like brandy) soaked linen cloth, then in foil. Store in cool place.



The Best Rolled Sugar Cookies


This post is dedicated to everything sugar cookie related. Since the Christmas holiday is right around the corner, I know many of you will be heading into the kitchen to make some sugar cookies. I had a blast making mine this year! The recipe that I’m sharing today isn’t a new one on Sweet Precision, but I wanted to post it again because it’s my go to recipe every year.

Today, I’m going to share my top three tips for baking sugar cookies. This comes after many baking failures and mishaps in the kitchen making sugar cookies. I always say that mistakes are how we learn in the kitchen. Hopefully I can save you a few baking disasters this holiday season!

1. Chill your dough at least 3 hours in the refrigerator before using (overnight is even better). Every recipe tells you to do this because IT WORKS. The alternative is dough that is too soft and won’t hold its shape.

2. Often recipes call for you to bake cookies until the outer crust is “golden brown”. Sugar cookies are an exception to this rule. You want to catch the cookies BEFORE the edges develop that golden hue. This way you can ensure your cookies will be soft and not crunchy.

3. Repeat after me… I will NEVER EVER place my cookies on a warm cookie sheet. If you’ve done this, you know that the cookies begin to spread even before you get them in the oven. This results in cookies that are not uniform in shape and size.


Rolled Sugar Cookie Recipe
Adapted from All Recipes

1 1/2 cups butter, softened
3 cups white sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar, for rolling out dough

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth and light in color. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Next add vanilla and lemon extract. Slowly stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. After dough has come together, shape into two or three balls, cover with plastic wrap and chill. Chill at least three hours in the fridge but preferably overnight. If you are pressed for time, you can use the freezer to speed up the process.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Sprinkle your work surface with powdered sugar. Remove one pack of chilled dough at a time and roll out to approximately 1/4-inch thick. Your dough can be slightly thicker or thinner based on how long you will bake your cookies. As you are rolling, frequently check to make sure that it’s not sticking to the table. Use cookie cutter to cut into your desired shape and place on a greased cookie sheet or parchment paper. Bake for 6-8 minutes. Allow cookies to cool completely before removing.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Did you know that the color of your baking sheet will affect your baking time? In my kitchen, my favorite cookie sheet is a shiny aluminum pan that was passed down from my parents. Aluminum pans result in evenly browned cookies. This year I just invested in two new aluminum cookie sheets from Amazon that are amazing.


Molasses Sugar Cookies


I really do enjoy baking Christmas cookies. Each holiday season, I love to peruse cookbooks and Pinterest to find inspiration for new cookie ideas. When I was growing up, my mom and I used to bake several batches of cookies each Christmas. One of my favorites were called ting-a-lings, which are basically chow mein noodles mixed with melted chocolate and dried in little clumps—trust me, they’re delicious! There’s always a reason to bake cookies around the holiday season—work Christmas parties, cookie swaps, the list could be endless!

I’m a fan of cookies that come together quickly and only use one bowl. These molasses sugar cookies fit the bill just perfectly. They are a wonderfully chewy spice cookie that have hints of ginger and clove. Molasses performs the same nifty trick that brown sugar will in baked goods, adding a firm chewiness to these cookies. The cookies are nearly crisp at the edges and though they are exceptionally chewy, they aren’t soft.

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Molasses Sugar Cookies
Makes approximately 72 cookies

1 1/2 cups shortening
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup molasses
2 eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt

Melt the shortening in a large pan on the stove, and cool. Add sugar, eggs, and molasses, beat well. In a separate bowl, sift dry ingredients together and add to the pan. Mix well and chill 3 hours or overnight.

Form into walnut-size balls. Roll in granulated sugar. Place on greased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.
Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 8-10 minutes.

Store in an airtight container to keep from getting overly crisp. If they do lose their softness, an easy way to restore it is to place one slice of fresh bread in the container with the cookies for a couple of hours or overnight and they will be soft again!

Heather’s Helpful Hints
I’m quite firm about using real butter for all my baking recipes, but molasses cookies are the one exception. Using shortening will give this cookie its chewiness so I’d recommend NOT to substitute with butter.

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