My husband is an oddity. He is the only person I've ever heard of who likes fruitcake. That means that all the tons of fruitcake that are given annually, reused as doorstops, and regifted at white elephant exchanges throughout the world, were actually intended for him. I refuse to give out our address here in case the resultant flood of fruitcakes landing on our doorstep would throw the earth off its axis, resulting in worldwide famine, such that even fruitcake might look appealing.
My husband is a great guy, though, weird food preferences aside, and when I got a new cookbook with a fruitcake recipe in it, I promised to make it for him. It called for actual dried fruit, rather than the molded paraffin "fruit" peddled in the grocery store in little plastic tubs. This looked like something I could handle.
But here's the embarrassing part - I got that cook book over ten years ago, and I didn't get around to making the fruitcake for him until last year. (Hangs head in shame.) But my husband forgave me and said it was worth the wait.
I decided that fruitcake is like split pea soup. When you make it yourself and see all the yummy things you've put in it, you're much more likely to try it, even if the end product looks a bit suspicious. I grew quite fond of my little brown babies, swaddled in their little boozy blankets, lined up on my pantry shelf. And when we finally sampled one, it was a delightful realization that fruitcake isn't inherently nasty. It all depends on what you put into it. Put in good stuff and lots of it and you'll be amazed and pleased when your fruitcake is actually eaten. But if you want to have fruitcake for Christmas, you need to start now as it needs a month to marinate.
- adapted from Have Your Cake And Eat It, Too by Susan Purdy
Fruit: (you can adapt the fruit and the amounts according to your preferences and what you have available to you. I couldn't find dried apples or peaches, but added dried blueberries and dried cherries)
1/2 cup (3 oz) cut-up dried pears, packed
1/2 cup (3 oz) cut-up dried peaches, packed
1/2 cup (3 oz) cut-up dried apricots, packed
1/2 cup (3 oz) cut-up dried pitted prunes, packed
1/2 cup (3 oz) cut-up dried pitted dates, packed
1 cup (3-1/4 oz) cut-up dried apple slices, packed
1/2 cup ( 2-1/2 oz) seedless raisins, packed
1/2 cup ( 2-1/2 oz) golden raisins, packed
1/4 cup (1-1/4) dried currants
1/4 cup (2 oz) candied pineapple, chopped (optional)
1/2 cup dark rum or brandy
Butter-flavor cooking spray
2 large egg whites
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup canola or safflower oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup apple or orange juice
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp grated orange zest or 1/2 tsp orange oil or orange zest
1 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsifted whole wheat pastry flour (or use a total of 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
Dark rum or brandy for soaking cakes (optional)
1- The day before baking the cakes, or as early as possible on the baking day, assemble all the fruit in a large bowl. Stir in the dark rum or brandy; cover with plastic wrap, and set aside.
2-Preheat the oven to 350 deg. F, with 2 racks dividing the oven into thirds. Lightly grease 4 loaf pans with shortening. Cut parchment paper to fit inside and press the papers against the pan bottom and sides. Lightly coat the paper with cooking spray.
3- In a large bowl, combine the egg whites, brown sugar, oil, honey, juice, applesauce, vanilla, and grated zest or flavoring. Whisk, or beat on low with an electric mixer, to blend well. Set a large strainer over the bowl and add the dry ingredients, flour through cloves. Stir and sift the dry ingredients onto the wet. Add the wheat germ and pecans. Mix just until blended; do not overblend.
4- Stir the boozy fruit into the batter and blend well. Divide the batter among the prepared pans, filling them about 3/4 full. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cakes are risen and golden brown on top, and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
5- Cool the cakes in the pans on wire racks for about 10 minutes. Then tip them gently from the pans, peel off the paper, and set them right side up on wire racks to cool completely.
6- When the cakes are completely cool, if you like, wrap them in rum- or brandy-soaked cloths, place in heavy-duty zip-lock bags and set in a cool dark place to age for about 1 month. Renew the spirits when they dry out. (Don't substitute fruit juice for spirits; only alchohol will preserve the cakes.)
7- Glazing the cakes: (I didn't get pictures of this. By the time I'd finished basting the babies in booze, I totally forgot they were supposed to be glazed! Too much rum fumes, I think.) Set the cakes on racks over wax paper. Drizzle some of the glaze on top of each cake, letting it run down the sides. Place a few pecan halves in the glaze before it dries. Let sit until the glaze is dried and set, about 30 minutes. When the glaze is hard, you can wrap the cakes in plastic wrap and freeze them, or give them as gifts, or slice and serve.
1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
1-1/2 to 2 Tbsp rum or brandy
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1- Whisk together the sugar, 1-1/2 Tbsp rum or brandy, and the extract. Add a few more drops of liquid if needed to make the glaze soft enough to drip from a spoon.