“The worst gift is a fruitcake. There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other.”- Johnny Carson
When one begins to list the traditional foods of the Christmas season, fruitcake is invariably high on the list. Unfortunately, it is often said with with a derisive tone and accompanied by an eye roll. Despite this widespread contempt, I continued to sneak fruitcake under the tree year after year, albeit most often as part of Yankee swaps or secret Santa exchanges. Because really, everyone should get a fruitcake for Christmas at least once. I just didn’t want the blame. I’ll admit, while my intentions were good, some of those fruitcakes were pretty lousy.
These days, it’s a different story. I’m making them myself. The “thank you”s are no longer hissed through gritted teeth and folks have started inviting me back into their gift exchanges. So what’s the problem with store bought fruitcake and how did I fix it? Hint: It wasn’t the cake.
Take a look at the next fruitcake that comes your way. Just what are those “fruits”? Cherries I recognize, partly because they are bright red like a maraschino. That yellow is probably pineapple. Then there’s a fluorescent green something I prefer not to think about. I’m sure all of these things started out as fruit, but somewhere in the process they became something else. Something that will be swapped from Yankee to Yankee until the last gift has been opened.
I’m always going to vote for baking at home, but when it comes to fruitcake it is positively transformational. Using natural ingredients, some we grew ourselves, some DIY dried and fresh eggs from the coop, what was once regarded as an overly-sweet holiday doorstop becomes a gift that is not just tolerated, but downright coveted.
These days, I even sign the card.
1 ½ cup golden raisins
½ cup dates, chopped
2 cup mixed dried fruits (apricots, blueberries, figs, cherries, cranberries, apples, etc), chopped
Zest of 1 orange
1 ½ teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
½ cup dark rum
½ cup apple juice
1 ½ sticks butter
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ cup molasses
2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup toasted pecans, broken
¼ rum or apple juice
Combine raisins, dates, dried fruits, orange zest and ginger in rum and apple juice and macerate overnight.
Combine flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder in a bowl and set aside.
Bring macerated fruit, butter, cinnamon, cloves and molasses to a boil in a large pot and reduce to simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove fruit from heat and let cool 20 minutes.
Combine dry mix and fruit mix in a mixing bowl and stir to combine completely.
Stir in eggs until completely integrated.
Stir in pecans.
Spoon batter into a greased and floured 10” loaf pan.
Bake 60 minutes at 325 degrees or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Remove from oven to cool and baste with rum or apple juice.
Wrap tightly in plastic wrap until ready to serve. May be served as soon as it is cooled, but flavors will improve after a few days.