Fruitcakes have become the punchline of many a holiday joke, but this recipe will give the notorious seasonal gift a whole new reputation. Filled with loads of real dried fruit and nuts along with brandy, warm spices and citrus, this cake tastes like the holidays. The recipe makes two loaves so you can gift one.
Combine the raisins, currants, apricots, figs, prunes, dates, walnuts, pecans, orange zest, lemon zest, candied ginger, pumpkin pie spice and cloves in a large bowl and toss to combine. Add 1 cup of the brandy, orange liqueur and molasses and stir to coat. Cover and set aside to macerate overnight. (Alternatively, cover the bowl and microwave 2 minutes, or until very hot. Leave covered and let sit until almost all the liquid has been absorbed into the fruit and nuts, about 2 hours.)
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Spray two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray and line each with 2 pieces of parchment, one lengthwise and one crosswise, leaving a 2-inch overhang on each side. Spray the parchment with cooking spray.
Sprinkle 1/2 cup flour over the soaked fruit mixture and toss to coat. Whisk together the remaining 1 1/2 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
Cream the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure each is fully incorporated before adding the next and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the speed to medium-low and beat in the flour mixture until the batter is blended and smooth. Pour the batter over the fruit mixture and fold with a rubber spatula until all the fruit is coated in batter.
Divide the mixture evenly between the two prepared pans, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake until the cakes begin to pull away from the sides of the pans, the tops spring back slightly when pressed and a cake tester comes out clean, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer to a wire rack and brush with the remaining 2 tablespoons brandy. Let the cakes cool in the pans for about 15 minutes. Carefully remove each cake from its pan using the parchment overhang and place on the rack to cool completely.
To store, wrap each loaf tightly in plastic and then foil. The wrapped fruitcakes can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to 3 months.
When measuring flour, we spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off the excess. (Scooping directly from the bag compacts the flour, resulting in dry baked goods.)