My Great Grandma Marsh (my Mom's Dad's Mom) raised a family of five kids on a farm out in Prince William County, Virginia. I met her a few times when I was an itty bitty baby, but she is still remembered year to year in the delicious recipes that she passed down to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren over the years. These recipes have become part of our family celebrations...most specifically Thanksgiving and Christmas. I remember helping my Mom make this particular recipe sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, collecting nuts and dried fruits like we were gathering sustenance for a harvest. I grew up loving this very sophisticated yet simple version of the often bemoaned Fruitcake. My Mom would set me up with a little plate at the kitchen counter, cut a thin sliver of fruit cake and serve me a glass of milk or a cup of tea.
This fruitcake is more of a nutcake than it is anything else. I remember how it was rich and hearty, with a slight buttery crunch from the nuts and the tender chewiness from the dates and raisins. My Mom would dot the top with candied cherry halves and wrap it up for mostly family, who anticipate this traditional treat year to year. It makes many loaves, from what I remember. Try it for yourself. It's the best thing ever.
Dark Fruitcake (Great Grandma Marsh)
1 ½ c. dark brown sugar
1 c. melted butter
1 c. pineapple juice
3 c. flour (or more as needed to hold together)
1 tsp cloves
2 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp allspice
1 tsp baking powder
2 lbs. chopped dates
2 lbs. chopped raisins
1 15-oz can crushed pineapple
(candy the pineapple by adding one cup sugar and cook over slow fire until candied)
1 ½ lbs. Brazil nuts
1 lb. English walnuts
½ lb. pecans or almonds (or both)
Grease and line pans with brown paper bags cut to size. Grease both the pans and the brown paper. Coarsely chop all the nuts and mix by hand with the dates and raisins. Toss flour into this mixture. Blend sugar, eggs, butter, juice, spices, baking powder and candied pineapple. Pour over the floured nut and fruit mixture. Mix well and fill loaf pans.
Bake for 4 hours or longer (if needed) @ 250°.