Dad's Dark Fruitcake

From Sharon Hunt

This cake can be eaten as soon as it cools but develops a richer taste as it ages. Wrap the cooled cake well in plastic wrap and then foil wrap and freeze (for up to a year), or store the well-wrapped cake in a container—a plastic or crockery tub works well—in a cool place such as a cellar. Add a couple of cut-up apples to the tub to help maintain moistness. For the best-tasting cake, make it a few months before the holidays.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp ground allspice

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups cold water

2 cups dark raisins

1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar

1 cup pitted dates, coarsely chopped

1 cup unsalted butter, cubed

1 cup applesauce (preferably homemade)

2 large eggs, beaten

1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1 cup candied mixed fruit

1 cup candied mixed peel

Grease a 10-inch round, deep baking pot, Dutch oven or heavy stockpot. Line the bottom and sides with parchment paper; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and salt; set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the water, raisins, brown sugar and dates. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the butter, stirring until melted. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and allow to cool slightly (mixture should be warm to the touch). Stir in the applesauce. Add the eggs and stir until combined well. Using a wooden spoon (or clean hands), stir in the flour mixture, walnuts (if using), mixed fruit and mixed peel until combined well.

Pour the mixture into the baking pot. Bake in a 275º F oven until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean, about 2 ½ hours. To achieve a moist cake, do not overbake. Cool on a rack before removing the cake from the pot. Store the cake as instructed above.