Last week I made two fruit cakes from Lilian Tingle’s columns (you can read about it here). But I had to let them age in the fridge for a week before we could try them. So this week I recruited 12 friends to do a taste test, and now the results are in.
Before the tasting could begin I had to make almond paste. It’s very simple, equal parts powdered sugar and almond flour moistened with an egg white and flavored with a hint of almond extract, kneaded until smooth. Tingle recommends an inch thick layer of almond paste, but that is a truly inconceivable amount of almond paste. Instead, I rolled mine out to about a quarter inch thickness and used it like fondant to cover the cakes. With the help of my roommate’s adorable tiny cookie cutters we decorated the tops of the cake with the excess almond paste, and after a full week they were done!
As you might remember, I baked the round fruitcake and steamed the loaf. Tingle was a steaming advocate, so one goal of the tasting was to compare the methods. Everyone agreed on the differences between the cakes, but disagreed about what they liked better. The steamed cake was stickier and the fruit was less texturally distinct because it was more similar in texture to the cake. The baked cake was lighter, drier, and the fruit was more “jarring,” less homogeneous. When the votes were cast steamed won 9 to 4 (although two steamed voters defected to “paste” because they liked the almond paste on its own the best). And despite the fact that, in the past, at least two people in attendance had tried and disliked fruit cake, everyone said they enjoyed this version. That said, no one wanted more than a single small piece. It is very dense and overwhelmingly sweet, but well spiced and the dried fruit combination is the right balance of sweet and sour, giving it a rich flavor and satisfying texture.
Despite my best efforts and 12 guests we only ate about half of both fruitcakes, so I guess my roommate and I know what we’ll be eating for the rest of the term. Luckily it keeps well!
Special thanks to Max, Audra, Haley and Kira for providing photos, and Anna, Paulina, Colin, Witch Hazel, Jared ,Veronica, Laura and Tess for their willingness to be tasters.