The Great Fruitcake Debate

Reader Contribution by Sue Van Slooten
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Yes, I am going to wade into the Great Fruitcake Debate. People seem to love it or hate it, and not much in between. A lot of the hate it group, though, have not tried it, it’s the “idea” of the fruitcake that turns them o?. In their eyes, it’s a brick, made of dense, sticky fruit, no ?avour, and overly sweet. Even the prospect of rum or brandy doesn’t entice.

The other side of the argument is the opposite of course, where people see fruity yumminess, with spices, sometimes nuts, and yes, the aforementioned rum or brandy. You cannot have a more divisive subject. Being a baker, I suspect you all know which side I will fall on: In support of fruitcakes. Ok, now that I am outed as a fruitcake lover, I do agree that some of the “items” passing as fruitcake in the commercial world are not only disappointing, but, well, yuck. 

This is where home baking comes to the rescue. Once again, if made by you, you get to choose what goes in your cake, the ?avour will be authentic, no need for density or gumminess. 

But ?rst, I must add an historical note for fruitcakes’ enduring legacy: It has been around for centuries (and no doubt some of you think the originals are still here, carefully (or not) preserved, for God knows what) If one entertains the idea that fruitcake was one of the original granola bars if you will, and they can teach us much about longevity, just look at the 106 year old one found in Antarctica [1]. It’s probably edible, no one is really saying.The cakes went on the trip because they were high in fat and sugar, good for when you are trekking across the Southern Continent and need a 4000 per day calorie intake.The report did not mention much about whether they were brandy soaked or not. I think more detail is needed here.

Another note on aged fruitcakes: About a month ago, I discovered one that was made last year, hidden away and forgotten about.It tasted ?ne! Then I mentioned all this at work, and wow, watch the fruitcake lovers come out of the woodwork, all wanting a piece.They were not disappointed, and comments ranged from, “oh yes, right ratio of batter to fruit,” “oh yum,” and even a non-lover joined in, just to see what it was all about. She liked it, or at least, did not dislike it.

Onward to the Great Fruitcake Divide, with a recipe from a gorgeous new book “Beautiful Bundts” by Julie Anne Hession [2], where she has included a recipe for:

Spiced Citrus Fruitcake Bundt

Preheat oven to 325. Have one 10-cup Bundt pan, sprayed*,

Ingredients

4 1/2 cups mixed dried fruit **
1 cup dark rum or brandy (approx.)
grated zest of 1 large lemon 
grated zest and juice of 1 large orange
2 1/2 cups all-purpose ?our
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. cloves
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
3 large eggs, at room temperature
3 tbsp dark (cooking) molasses
Confectioner’s (icing) sugar, sifted

Instructions

1. In a medium saucepan, stir together dried fruit and 1/2 cup rum. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest, orange zest and juice. Let stand for 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together ?our, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and cloves.

3. In the stand mixer bowl, beat brown sugar and butter on medium speed for 4 minutes or until light and ?u?y. Beat in eggs, one a a time. Beat in molasses.The ?our mixture should be mixed into the batter on low speed until incorporated before the fruit mixture. Add fruit mixture, including any unabsorbed liquid. On low speed, beat until fruit is evenly blended.Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth the top.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 65 to 80 minutes or until a tester inserted in the centre of cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then carefully invert cake onto a wire rack.

5. Using a pastry brush, brush top and sides of warm cake with 1/4 cup rum, letting it soak in before add up to 1/4 cup more. Let cool completely. Dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving.

Ideally, the cake should be made about 3 weeks in advance. Just be sure to wrap well in plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature for an hour before serving

Notes:

* Go to www.PAM.ca. PAM for Baking is a cooking spray with ?our already in it made by Conagra Foods.

** Here the author suggests any combination of fruits, as long as it equals 4 1/2 cups.This is where individual tastes come into the mix: Pick the ones you like.

References:

1.The National Post. Last accessed December 11, 2017.

2. Hession, Julie Anne.“Beautiful Bundts: 100 Recipes for Delicious Cakes and More.” Toronto: Robert Rose Inc., 2017. See also www.robertrose.ca


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