Full disclosure: the price on this cake may cause sticker shock. Where most fruit cakes are cheap, somewhat industrial and terrible, this is another species altogether. It's by far the best of its kind I've ever tried.
This is Robert's classic cake. He explains, "The recipe is British, Victorian era. It's based on my grandmother Floria's cakes, but instead of the store-bought glaceed fruits she used, I make my own candied fruit." But though the original recipe is more than a century old, each year Robert tweaks it a little: he'll add a new, just-discovered rare citrus, or he'll adjust the way he's chopping the nuts or candying the fruit to make it a little more delicious, a little more beautiful, a little more show-stopping. That also means that, from one year to the next, the flavor of the cake will change just a smidge.
For this year's cakes, Robert started by choosing citrus like blood oranges, bergamots, Rangpur limes, rare Japanese shekwasha, and more, many that he picked himself. He mixed them with more fruits, like cherries he glaceed in his own Blood Orange Syrup, and small, golden Hunza raisins, plus nuts hand-cut down to just the right size to distribute them evenly and help the cake stay intact when sliced. He soaked each cake in cognac and aged them for a few months. Then garnished each with a slice of candied lemon and a cedar sprig, and gently wrapped them one by one in cheese cloth.
A slice cut thin while the cake is cool—he recommends serving it chilled—looks like a stained glass window and tastes fresh, clean and lively. Each fruit cake is about six inches long, comes in a muslin bag with a drawstring, and serves 8 to 10.
Kept cool and well wrapped in the fridge, a fruitcake will keep for years. (The old tradition of saving your wedding cake for an anniversary? It started with a fruitcake.) As they age, vintage fruitcakes develop deeper, more complex flavors, rather like a good bottle of wine.
"Extraordinary." "One of a kind."
"For the (now forgotten) investment, we have one of the best sweet thangs I have ever put into my mouth. It’s the bourbon-soaked fruit. It’s the nuts hand-cut to the perfect size. It’s the angel gauze sweater she’s wrapped in. It’s the skinny red string and the fruity star (haven’t closely examined) tied on top. Wow. Please reprise each year from now on."
Mary, Geneva, IL
"Both my Mom and I love fruitcake, and now I know that we had been eating junk all these years! I can only say that these fruitcakes are like treasures in my mouth, and each bite is different from the next, making me want more! And the care put into each piece of fruit can be savored with every bite. So exquisite and extraordinary!!"
Cindy, Pearl City, HI