Fruitcakes: More than just fancy doorstops
Cathie Campbell/For The Madera Tribune
Now is the time to bake some fruitcakes, as they usually need some time to develop flavor and mellow out.
Uh-oh, the fruitcakes are coming again!
Lots of people say they can’t stand them, but I am not one of the fruitcake haters. I like many kinds, but lean toward the dark fruitcakes, with lots of dates and candied pineapple. I am not a huge fan of the fruitcake blend of colored citrus peels, but I use them now and then.
About 10 years ago, I decided to gather a bunch of the fruitcake recipes I’d saved but never baked, and make them all to see which one would be the best.
Without exaggerating, I must have ended up with 30 or 40 pounds of the stuff. One fruitcake had to have weighed at least five pounds! It was very good. I conducted a taste test of all of them so figured I’d include the winner here as well as some other recipes.
If you are a fan of holiday fruitcakes, I hope you find at least one recipe here you’d like to try.
Dark fruitcake (five-pounder)
I bake this in a greased-paper-lined angel food cake pan, but it would work in any shaped pan or pans.
1 pound pitted dates (I like to use whole ones that I cut myself, but you can buy chopped ones if you prefer.) 1/2 pound candied cherries 1/2 pound candied sliced pineapple (I usually double this amount) 1 pound coarsely chopped pecans (I use less than half a pound) 1 cup sugar 1 cup flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 4 eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla
Line an angel food tube pan with heavy brown paper. Spray with vegetable cooking spray. (I cut pieces of brown paper shopping bags and grease both sides with vegetable shortening.) Cut dates into small pieces (if not using chopped ones) and mix with chopped pecans.
Sift dry ingredients together, mix with fruit and nuts. Beat eggs and vanilla; pour over fruit mixture. Mix well; pack into pan. Bake for 2 hours at 250 degrees. Note: Sometimes I have had to bake it for 3 hours, but I think it depends on how much fruit I try to pack in. Top of fruitcake may be decorated by removing cake from oven after 1 hour and garnishing with candied pineapple, halved cherries and pecans. Return to oven to complete baking time.
Cool completely before removing from pan, preferably overnight. Recipe makes about 5 pounds of fruitcake, one large one or four 6-by-6-by-2-inch loaf pans.
I am not nearly as organized as I’d like to be. I looked for this recipe for three days before it finally turned up in a folder.
1 1/2 cups butter 2 cups sugar 6 eggs, separated 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar 1 cup milk (see note) 1 teaspoon brandy extract 1 teaspoon vanilla 3 1/2 cups flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 cups golden raisins 1 cup chopped dried apricots (or 1/2 cup dried apricots and 1/2 cup candied pineapple) 1/2 cup chopped candied orange peel 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (I like to use macadamia nuts)
Note: Instead of 1 cup milk and 1 teaspoon brandy, you can use 3/4 cup milk and 1/4 cup brandy.
In a large mixing bowl, beat butter until light and creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until smooth. Beat egg yolks together lightly and add to mixture.
Combine milk, brandy (or extract) and vanilla. In another bowl, mix flour and salt together. Alternately add milk and flour mixtures to butter mix. Fold in fruits and nuts. Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff but not dry. Fold whites into batter gently but thoroughly.
Pour mixture into two buttered and floured 6-cup molds (or equivalent-sized baking pans). Bake at 275 for 2 1/2 hours or until they test done. Cool; unmold.
Raisin fruitcake treasure
This is another recipe I have had (and made) for decades. I don’t even remember where it came from.
1 1/2 cups dark raisins 1 1/2 cups golden raisins 1 cup mixed candied fruits and peels 1 cup whole candied cherries 1 cup candied pineapple chunks 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 1/2 teaspoon ginger 1/2 teaspoon allspice 1/2 cup brandy or fruit juice 1 cup pecan or walnut halves 1/2 cup butter, softened 1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar 2 eggs 2 cups flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon salt
In a large bowl, combine fruits, spices and brandy (or juice); mix well. Cover and let stand several hours or overnight. Add nuts. Grease and line with heavy, greased brown paper, a 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pan (or two smaller ones).
In another large bowl, beat butter, brown sugar and eggs until light. Sift flour, soda and salt; stir into creamed mixture. Blend in fruit and nut mixture until well distributed.
Turn batter into prepared pan. Bake at 325 about 2 hours, or until toothpick tests clean. Let stand in pan one-half hour before removing. Cool thoroughly before storing or decorating. Note: I like to wrap cooled fruitcakes with cheesecloth soaked in rum or brandy and then wrap all in foil. Then they get stored in a cool, dark place for 2 weeks to a month. With a pastry brush, add more rum or brandy to the cheesecloth about once a week, if desired.
1 cup sugar 1/2 cup shortening 1 egg 1 3/4 cups sifted flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon soda 1/4 cup buttermilk 3/4 cup chopped pecans 1/2 cup candied cherries 1 cup chopped dates 1 cup mixed candied fruits
Preheat oven to 400. Beat shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, beat until well blended. Save a little of the flour (about 3 tablespoon) to toss with the fruit. Mix the remaining flour with the salt and baking soda.
Add the dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk. Toss fruits with the saved flour. Fold in the floured fruits and chopped pecans. Drop by spoonfuls onto greased baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between cookies.
Bake in preheated oven for 8 to 13 minutes, depending on size of cookies. Cool and serve, or wrap for the freezer.