Monday, December 19, 2011

Thinking of Giving Fruitcake Another Try?

What happened to fruitcake?  Once upon a time it was a staple of the holiday season.  You gave one and someone gave you one back.  Then it made a home on your counter until after New Year's, staring at you with beady little red and green maraschino eyes.  At our house it eventually became a bad joke.  Oh no, not another fruitcake.  You may as well have said "head cheese."  They have the same visual appeal but the fruitcake weighed about five pounds more.  These were our fruitcake jokes.  Not to mention that, despite its name, it was reminiscent of neither fruit nor cake.  Until one day everyone caught on to the jokes and, at least in my memory, people stopped giving fruitcakes.  And we didn't miss them.  At least some of us didn't.

Recently the word "fruitcake" was brought back into my vernacular.  When fretting over my lengthy Christmas gift list, I called my mother-in-law, Andrea, to brainstorm gift ideas.  "You could get Grandpa Andy a fruitcake.  He actually likes it."  I replied with an eager "Great!" having heard the word bake before the word fruitcake.  Truth is, I really didn't know what went in a fruitcake.

Actually, this little cake as a very interesting history.  It dates back to Roman times when it's ingredients were primarily pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and mashed up barley. Throughout its long history the recipe has changed.  The crusaders added preserved fruit, spices and honey in the Middle Ages.  In the 16th century sugar was added.  In the Victorian Era, they added alcohol which I am sure helps its long shelf life. It may have also helped it being outlawed in eighteenth century England for being "sinfully rich."  Most interesting to me is that throughout its history this cake has been gifted to soldiers.  The Romans took it with them as sustenance during battles and it has been known to be given to soldiers in decades as recent as the 1960s.  If you are interested, you should read more about here and also here. 

So as you can see I did a little fruitcake research.  I found a great recipe on Chow by Aida MollenKamp called White "Groom's" Fruitcake.  I loved the choice of dried fruit (pineapple and cherries) and the use of Cointreau as the liquor ingredient. It feels special and festive without having to be neon colored.  If you ever happen to read this, Aida, thank you, you will make Grandpa Andy happy this Christmas.  I would also love to know where this recipe got its name. 

White "Groom's" Fruitcake
adapted from Aida Mollenkamp

Makes 1 loaf

1 cup pecans
1/2 cup walnuts
3/4 cup dried tart cherries (left whole
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup dried pineapple rings coarsely chopped
1/2 cup of Cointreau

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 a teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 a teaspoon ginger
2 sticks of butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
Bourbon for aging

For the fruit:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss.  Cover tightly and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours.

For the Cake:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees and make sure your rack is in the center of your oven.  Grease a 9 X 12 loaf pan with butter, set aside.  Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger in a large bowl and set aside.  Using an electric stand mixer beat butteron medium highabout 3 minutes.  Add sugar and beat another 3 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time.  make sure each egg is thoroughly mixed in before you add the next.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl when necessary.  Transfer the batter to a large mixing bowla dn add the bowl of dry ingredients you set aside.  Mix in fruit that has been macerating little by little until it is fully incorperated.  Pour into your greeased loaf pan.  Bake for about 1 hour until golden.  When you stick a in a toothick it should come out clean.  Let cool for 30 minutes.  Brush with bourbon every 10 days for up to 3 months.


  1. I already love fruitcake, cannot understand the derision involved therein.
    Fruitcake is great, c'mon people.
    I'm going to bake your recipe here. You say "combine all the ingredients...", do you mean the bourbon too and then after baking add more brushed on bourbon every 10 days?
    Wish you a big happy Christmas.

  2. Combine all ingredients: meaning fruit, nuts, Cointreau (but I am sure you can use bourbon too.) Then at the end brush with bourbon every 10 days. A big happy Christmas back and thanks for stopping by.

  3. wow Steph such a great read and such a great recipe!! have had coitreau in a dessert and it was excellent.


  4. I love fruitcake. We had it a lot when I was a kid, we ate just like bread, with butter on it.

  5. seems I have either been too harsh on fruitcake or we had a terrible recipe.