Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bourbon Pecan Cake and Christmas

Molly under the Christmas tree.

It's not white outside yet, but it's most definitely Christmas time anyhow.  The tree is up, I've got the presents wrapped (I'm ahead of myself on that this year - yay, me!), and I'm baking up a storm.  One more family get-together to go this weekend, then a quiet easing into Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  I'm ready for the slow-down after the build-up.

I'd like to share a recipe my parents have made occasionally over the years, a family favorite:  Bourbon Pecan Cake.  Technically I guess you could call this a fruit cake, but it's not like any "fruit cake" you've ever tried.  It's WONDERFUL.  I haven't made it since before our move and then some, so maybe 5 years, and Mom and Dad haven't made it in longer than that, so I'll be sharing this with everyone who wants it in my family this year.  Here's the recipe, the original as my Mom makes it, and my modifications for more fruit and nuts:

Bourbon Pecan Cake
(original recipe from Mary Thompson; modifications by Laurel Rudd )

2 c. whole red candied cherries (I use 3 cups of cherries - I like lots of fruit in my fruit cake)
2 c. golden seedless raisins
2 c. bourbon whiskey (any smooth brand – don't use cheap, harsh stuff)
       (add ¼ cup more bourbon if you use extra cherries)
2 c. butter, room temp. soft
2 c. sugar
2 c. packed dark brown sugar
8 eggs, separated – yolks into a smaller bowl, whites into a mixing bowl
5 cups sifted flour
4 c. pecan halves (I use 5 cups of pecan halves)
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground nutmeg

Combine the cherries, raisins, and bourbon in a glass bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight, stirring a couple times. Before baking, bring the fruit to room temperature. Drain the fruit and reserve the bourbon.

In a separate bowl, combine ½ cup of flour with the pecans and mix to coat. In another bowl, sift the rest of the flour with the baking powder, nutmeg, and salt.

In a mixing bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugars gradually, until well-blended, then add the egg yolks one at a time.

Add two cups of the flour mixture to the eggs/butter mixture; mix thoroughly. Add the reserved bourbon and the rest of the flour mixture alternately, ending with flour. Beat well after each addition.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Transfer the batter into a LARGE (32 cup) bowl. Fold the egg whites into the batter, gently, then stir in the floured pecans and the fruit.

Grease and flour foil loaf pans. If you use large ones, 5-6 will do. If you use medium ones, you can get 7-8 loaves, or 11-12 mini loaf pans. Bake the cakes at 275F for 2-3 hours (2 hours or so for the minis, 2 ½ or so for medium, 3 or so for the large ones). The cakes will be golden brown when done, and a tester inserted in the middle will come out clean.

Turn the cakes out of the pans while still slightly warm. Wrap the cooled cakes in bourbon-soaked cheesecloth and wrap them in plastic wrap and foil (or place them in plastic bags) for strong bourbon flavor, or you can just refrigerate the cakes in plastic wrap and foil for less strong flavor.  You can also cool and store the cakes in their pans for easy gifting.  Either way, the cakes should “mellow” in the fridge for a couple weeks before being used.  They slice best when chilled.

This recipe is truly one of the “tastes of Christmas” from my childhood memories. Mom and Dad used to make a weekend afternoon project of this wonderful treat. Mom would cut brown paper and line the bread pans with it, greasing the pans first, then greasing the paper again before putting the batter in, to make a very neat looking loaf when done and cooled and the paper was removed. I remember helping with the paper cutting process – and the eating, of course.  The house smelled AMAZING as it baked. 

I cooled the cakes, put about a tablespoon of bourbon 
down the middle of the top of each one, 
then wrapped and refrigerated them in their little foil pans 
for easy gift-giving.

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