Fruitcake Hater’s Fruitcake
It is unfortunate that the fruitcake has gotten such a bad rap. Always the last lonely item left on the Christmas party cookie tray, the perfect white elephant gift, fodder for endless holiday jokes. Fruitcake has an image problem. Yet, in reality one should consider a gift fruitcake a great honor, a sign of being held in high regard because .... they are expensive! Even if you make them yourself they are costly. What does a plate of cookies with red a green sprinkles cost?.. not much. The fruitcake really deserves better. Done well, with high quality ingredients they are a wonderful holiday treat.. an acquired taste perhaps, but still terrific.
Read a little history and background on this holiday heavyweight.
The following recipe is one that I’ve used for a number of years that seems to appeal to even the most ardent fruitcake hater. My kids love it and friends and family actually look forward to the cakes every year. My version uses real dried fruit instead of the candied variety. The type of fruit one adds is really up to the baker. See the list of fruits I use below but what one adds is limited only by what you can find in your local store. The mix I use provides a variety of tastes, textures and color, important elements for an appealing fruitcake. The mélange of spices, brandy and molasses fills the whole house with a delightfully aroma while baking. Since this recipe uses no eggs it is also suitable for liberal sampling during the baking process!
Why Small Cakes?
My fruitcakes are small, enough to serve a bit size piece to 6-8 people. I make them small because fruitcake is such an acquired taste that I prefer to give as a small taste treat and not overwhelm someone with a large loaf. A good friend of mine makes an excellent traditional cake in large bread loaf size. They weight a couple pounds each and are fabulous but suitable for only the true fruitcake lover. However, since the fruitcake can last a long time one could slice off a few pieces, wrap up and put away for another time. I’m not disciplined enough to do this and inevitably consume them in short order. I suggest small but one could use this recipe to make several large loaves. The baking time would change dramatically to at least 2-3 hours (a good thing for developing taste).
8 mini spring form pans 4-1/2-inches in diameter, 1-1/2 inches deep.
mixing bowls of various sizes - measuring cups and spoons
juicing device (I use the simple glass kind)
pastry brush- spatula- wooden spoon
Mixer: I use a Kitchen Aid Mixer Pro . You will not be able to mix this recipe with a small mixer. A smaller Kitchen Aid or the like may not be able to handle the final steps. Fortunately there is not a lot of mixing required, more like stirring at the final stages. Early mixing of the wet and dry ingredients can be done with almost any mixer. Adding of fruit and nuts could be done by hand (a strong one!) so don’t sweat it if you don’t have a big mixer.
Makes 8 small cakes
300 degrees 65-70 minutes
2 sticks butter 1C
3 C unbleached white flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp mace
3/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 C brown sugar packed
3/4 C molasses
3/4 C brandy
grated zest and juice orange
grated zest and juice lemon
Crisco or oil for coating bottom of pans
cornmeal for coating bottom of pans
6-7 C coarsely chopped
Apricots - prunes - cranberries - cherries - dates - golden raisins - apples - (other -figs - pineapple)
Coarsely chop the dried fruit. I like to use a Chinese clever since it easily cuts through the sticky fruit. It is desirable to have large fruit chucks so when the cake is sliced the knife cuts through the fruit. It is also a good idea to carefully chop the prunes and dates to make sure no pits or pit pieces are hidden inside.. you don’t want any surprises.
Zest Orange and Lemon
I try to use organic fruit when possible, either way wash and thoroughly rinse to remove any residue.
Add the brandy to the juice/zest mixture. I have been known to add a bit of Triple Sec or other liqueur that might be hanging around too. The type of alcohol is a matter of personal preference. A friend of mine uses whiskey.
Cream the butter and brown sugar and be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is mixed in well.
Add the molasses and whip until evenly distributed. Next add the juice/zest/brandy mixture. This will cause the creamed butter to separate.. don’t worry, mix for a minute or two.