Eric Mansavage's "Old-Fashioned" Fruitcake

"Old Fashioned" Fruitcake with Blood Orange Custard

For fruitcake:

  • ¼ cup dried cherries
  • ¼ cup dried currants
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup brandy
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 whole farm eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon allspice, freshly ground
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, freshly ground
  • 1½ ounces heavy cream
  • ½ cup walnuts, toasted (black walnuts if possible)
  • 1 ounce Angostura bitters (to soak the cake after it is baked and cooling)

Plump all dried fruit in the brandy overnight until rehydrated. Combine butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until creamed; mixture should have a fluffy texture and be lighter in color. Add the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated and smooth.

Sift all dry ingredients and spices together and slowly incorporate with the butter mixture, finishing by adding in the heavy cream. Finally, fold the rehydrated fruit mixture and nuts in the batter.

Pour batter into a buttered loaf pan; then bake at 325ºF for 40–45 minutes, or until a cake tested comes out dry. Cool the fruitcake and soak the top of the cake with the bitters. Cut a piece of cheesecloth to wrap the cake and soak it with the remaining bitters; wrap the cake and store the cake for two weeks. The cake will become more flavorful over time, so if desired, soak the cake again after seven days with a light application of the bitters again.

For blood orange custard:

  • 2 whole farm eggs
  • 2 farm egg yolks
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon dehydrated beet powder (if possible, for deeper red color)
  • 1 cup blood orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon blood orange zest

Combine the eggs, yolks, milk, and cream in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and gently whisk in the sugar, salt, and beet powder. Heat over a light flame while constantly whisking until the mixture is thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon. Pass the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer; then add the juice and zest of the blood oranges. Chill; then process in an ice cream machine. Freeze, and enjoy on top of the warmed fruitcake.

For blood orange candy:

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 8 oranges, peeled for zest (using a citrus peeler, with as little pith as possible)

Combine and heat half of the sugar and water in a pot; then add the peeled orange zest. Gently simmer for 5 minutes; then strain. Repeat the blanching again in fresh simple syrup, this time straining the zest completely and then separating the zest out onto a plate lined with sugar. Coat the zest in sugar and dry on top of a warm stove for 2 hours until the zest is firmed up and "candied.”

Plating instructions for one serving:

Warm a slice of the fruitcake; then place a scoop of the frozen custard on top, garnished with the freshly made orange candy. Enjoy the flavors of a classic Old-Fashioned in the form of a dessert—the true holiday night capper!

Eric Mansavage

Farmhouse Chicago