I want to make a fruitcake like the kind made by a friend's aunt, who, though from Trinidad, threw her family's recipe over years ago for one printed in the Toronto Star. The cake is moist, and the fruit is either chopped very small, or it's ground up, Caribbean-style.*
Well, I'd like to make fruitcake like that, and I'd like to use that Toronto Star recipe, but I want to know how much freedom I have in choosing the liquor and the fruits. I want to know, for example, if I can use what's in the house already (prunes, dried apricots, Madeira, wine and port) instead of what's in the recipe (dates, citron and brandy).
1. Do I need to stick with 1 kind of liquor for the fruits and the soaked cheesecloth? Or can I use 1 liquor for the fruit and another for the cheesecloth? Can I blend together more than one kind of liquor for the fruit?
2. Are there liquors that are preferable for fruitcake? I know that rum is popular, as is brandy. I've heard of people using whisky/bourbon. I know of people using ruby port. What about tawny or white port? How about fortified wines? Madeira? How about Pimm's? Gin? Vodka? Sherry? Kirsch? Campari? Slivovitz? Triple Sec? If wine, only red? Dry or sweet wine? Is ice wine too sweet to use? [It's certainly too sweet to drink. Bleh]
3. Are there particular liquors that go better with particular fruits? Could I soak candied citrus peel in gin? Would it make any difference once the cake is baked and aged?
4. If the recipe calls for dates, can I replace some or all of them with prunes? Can I use dried apricots instead? In addition? Dried cherries? Dried apples??? Are there ideal proportions of, say, dried fruit to candied fruit? Does anyone use dried or candied pineapple? Candied orange slices or lemon slices? Candied ginger? Preserved quince?
5. What about fruit that hasn't been dried? Or jams? The Toronto Star/Willis Davidson recipe uses canned, crushed pineapple and strawberry jam. Would apricot jam work? Would any flavour of jam work? Could I use a 'fruit spread' or a jelly instead of a jam? What other fruits do people throw in? Does anyone ever use bananas?
6. Must I use nuts? Can I use hazelnuts instead of almonds? Do people use walnuts or pecans? Can I chop or crush the nuts before soaking, or must I soak them whole? I guess one doesn't toast nuts before soaking them.
* The recipe she uses can be found at the link below. She Trini-fies it by upping the brandy, adding browning, and soaking the fruit a bit longer. Craig Claiborne printed a ponced-up version of the recipe in 1979, specifying not just brandy but Cognac, dahlings.