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Cinnamon Holiday Cake With Bourbon and Pecans

Time1 hour 15 minutes, plus 5 hours unattended and 2 days for soaking fruit
YieldsServes 16
Slices of fruitcake scattered on a cutting board and a slice on a plate beside the board.
(Dylan + Jeni / For the Times; prop styling by Kate Parisian)
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Make this cake, slice it up and give it away as a party favor, a treat for guests to enjoy in their own time. When baking a cake like this, I prefer to use a large Bundt pan, which gives cakes with such a heavy batter as this more structure — it also helps to use the cleaves in the design when dividing the cake into servings. This much batter fits into a 10-inch-diameter, 15-cup-volume pan; do not use anything smaller or the batter will not fit. You can use butter and flour to grease and flour the pan for this cake, but with so much at stake, I prefer to use nonstick baking spray, which more evenly coats the intricate corners of Bundt pans and ensures the cake comes out in one piece. This cake also bakes at a relatively lower temperature than you may be expecting. Baking it at 275 degrees for hours allows it to bake through thoroughly without burning or turning too dark on the outside. And when picking fruit, particularly the apples, look for the kind of “dried fruit” that has the soft texture of prunes and dates; avoid using the harder, more leathery kind often labeled as apple “chips.”

For the soaked fruit:
For the cake:
1

Two days before baking, soak the fruit: Combine the dried fruit and raisins in a bowl or large container. Pour in the bourbon and cover the bowl with plastic wrap or close the container. Let stand at room temperature for 48 hours to allow the fruit to rehydrate in the booze.

2

On the day of baking: Set a sieve or colander over a bowl and drain the fruit in it, catching all the liquid in the bowl. Let this setup stand off to the side while you make the rest of the cake.

3

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the pecans out on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake until fragrant and lightly toasted, about 10 minutes. Transfer the sheet to a rack and let the nuts cool completely. Transfer the nuts to a bowl and reserve the parchment-lined baking sheet.

4

Reduce the oven temperature to 275 degrees (yes, TWO-seventy-five). Spray a 10-inch-diameter, 15-cup-volume Bundt pan (see note above) with nonstick baking spray, or grease thoroughly with butter followed by an even dusting of flour, tapping out any excess. Place the prepared Bundt pan on the reserved baking sheet.

5

Add 57 grams (½ cup) flour to the bowl of cooled pecans and toss to coat the pecans in the flour. Place the remaining 510 grams (4 ½ cups) flour in a large bowl and add the cinnamon, baking powder and salt; whisk to combine.

6

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or in a large bowl and using a hand mixer, combine the brown sugar, 208 grams (1 cup) granulated sugar and the butter. Beat on medium-high speed until lightened and fluffy, at least 4 minutes. Add all the egg yolks and beat until incorporated. Reduce the mixer to the lowest speed and alternately add the dry ingredients and the reserved dried fruit liquid until the flour is just absorbed and the batter is smooth. Scrape the batter into the largest bowl you own; you want a lot of room for adding all the other ingredients and being able to stir comfortably.

7

Wash and dry the mixing bowl, making sure there are no specks of butter remaining, then return to the stand mixer fitted with a whisk (or use a hand mixer with clean beaters). Add the egg whites to the bowl and beat on medium-low speed until frothy, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and, while beating, slowly pour in the remaining 104 grams (½ cup) granulated sugar. Continue beating until the meringue forms stiff, shiny peaks, 1½ to 2 minutes more.

8

Add about one-third of the meringue to the batter and stir it vigorously to combine and lighten the batter. Add the remaining meringue to the batter and use a large silicone spatula to fold the meringue into the batter until only a few streaks of meringue are visible. Add the flour-coated pecans and the drained fruit and continue folding until they’re evenly incorporated into the batter and no more specks of flour can be seen on the pecans.

9

Use a large measuring cup or ladle to scoop the batter into the prepared Bundt pan (do not try to pour it from the bowl or you will make a mess). It will look as if the batter will not all fit in the pan, but don’t worry; it will come up about 1/2-inch below the lip of the pan. Lightly tap the cake pan on the counter to settle the batter, then return to the baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted halfway between the edge and the center tunnel comes out clean, 3½ to 4 hours. The cake will rise over the pan by half an inch or so.

10

Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 1 hour. Lay another wire rack upside down over the cake, then, holding the pan and rack together, invert the pan and rack. Lift the Bundt pan off the cake and let the cake cool completely. Transfer the cake to a plate or board and wrap tightly with plastic wrap until ready to serve.

11

This cake gets better the longer it sits and will keep, if wrapped tightly, for up to 2 weeks (or longer, truly). You can also cut the cake into slices and individually wrap the slices tightly in plastic wrap to give away as gifts.