‘Round the Table: Step aside, Haters. Fruitcake’s in town.

I believe that on a whole, the human race generally tries to find some sort of middle ground on most inflammatory topics.  In fact, Helen Keller has said, “The highest result of education is tolerance.”  We are a civilized and educated society and, while we debate hotly on many topics, for the most part, I believe we all just want to get along.

After the fruitcakes have been bathed in simple syrup or spirits, let them cool completely; wrap tightly in plastic wrap and they are ready for Christmas gifting.

There are notable exceptions to this theory. Some factions will find no middle ground. Take, for example, lumberjacks and tree huggers, Methodists and Baptists, Carolina and Clemson fans.   Finding middle ground for these groups may be impossible. But perhaps the most discordant of all groups is Fruitcake Lovers vs. Fruitcake Haters.

Fruitcake lovers tend to live in the shadows; driven underground by the love of their dark, dense treat. While fruitcake haters bask in the sunlight, devouring things like vanilla pudding and toast and ridiculing fruitcake lovers for daring to enjoy a bite or two of sweet, fruity, nutty and boozy cake.

I blame Johnny Carson for fruitcake’s bad rap, which has driven countless fruitcake lovers to enjoy their hearty cake behind closed doors, with the lights off. In December of 1985, Carson delivered his infamous joke (which is really not funny at all) on The Tonight Show, “The worst Christmas gift is fruitcake. There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other.”

In 2006, Marie Rudisill, quite annoyed with The Tonight Show’s continued fruitcake ridiculing wrote to Jay Leno. In the forward to her 2006 book, Ask the Fruitcake Lady: Everything You Would Already Know If You Had Any Sense she explained:

“He (Jay Leno) said it was the worst food on the planet, suitable only for building retaining walls. That burned me up, because I knew that he had never tasted good fruitcake. So I wrote him a letter telling him that he was uninformed, ignorant, and basically unwelcome, and that if he wanted to taste real fruitcake he should try some of mine. Of course, he fell in love with me after that. A lot of men are suckers for a strong woman who will put them in their place.”

Friends, I am a Fruitcake Lover, and this is my recipe.

The dried fruits and nuts suggested below are just that, suggestions. Feel free to substitute your favorites. You will need about 2 ½ pounds of dried fruit, total and 2-3 cups of toasted nuts.

Take care not to overfill these pans.

Favorite Fruitcake

Yield: 2 large loaves

Fruit:

  • 1 ½ cups of diced dried pineapple
  • 1 ½ cups of raisins, golden or regular
  • 1 cup diced dried apricots
  • 1 ½ cups chopped and pitted dates
  • 1 heaping cup of candied red cherries
  • 1/3 of chopped crystallized ginger
  • ¾ cup of rum, brandy, apple juice or cranberry juice

Batter:

  • 1 cup of butter, softened
  • 2 cups of dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons of dark cocoa powder (for color, optional)
  • ¼ cup dark corn syrup or molasses
  • ½ cup apple juice, cranberry juice or water
  • 2 ½  cups of chopped toasted pecans

Topping/glaze (optional):

  • Rum, brandy, simple syrup or vanilla simple syrup

While a sharp chef’s knife cuts most fruits, sticky dried fruits such as dates cut better with kitchen shears.

Prepare the fruit by combining it with either the rum, brandy, apple or cranberry juice.  Cover and let it rest overnight. Alternatively, place the ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave for 1 to 2 minutes, until the mixture is very hot but not boiling.  Allow to rest for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 300°F; grease and lightly flour 2 standard 9×5” loaf pans OR 4 to 6 medium 3×5” loaf pans. Set aside.

To make the batter, place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer (at least a 6-quart bowl) and cream until fluffy. Beat in the salt, spices and baking powder.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the bowl as necessary.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and cocoa powder; reserve ¼  cup.  Add the flour mixture and the dark corn syrup to the creamed mixture in the mixing bowl and beat until just combined.  Stir in the juice or water by hand; fold in the fruit and any leftover liquid. Toss the nuts with the reserved flour and fold in the nuts and flour.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pans until they are ¾ full.  Bake the cakes in on the middle shelf of the oven for:

75 minutes for the medium loaves

2 hours (+/- 10 to 15 minutes) for the standard loaves.

The cakes are done when a pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove the cakes from the oven and place, in the pan, on wire racks for cooling. Fruitcakes can remain in the baking pan for storage if desired.  Alternatively, carefully remove the cake from the pan after 5 to 7 minutes to cool on a wire rack.

Brush the warm cakes with the rum, brandy or one of the syrups.  If you like just a hint of rum or brandy flavor, then add 1 Tablespoon of liquor to 1 cup of vanilla or simple syrup and brush the mixture on the cake.

When the cakes are completely cool, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 6 weeks.

NOTE: If you happened to have grown up Baptist and can’t risk sending Aunt Tootsie into a swoon over an alcohol soaked cake, then using a simple syrup works just fine. But take into consideration that brushing the cake with alcohol will help it stay moist for weeks as well as act as a mild preserving agent. 

Speak Your Mind

*