Updated: Feb 8
In a Tonight Show monologue, Johnny Carson claimed, “The worst gift is fruitcake. There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other.”
After being considered a luxurious treat for hundreds of years, fruitcake became a dread gift and a pop-culture joke. What happened? Well, fruitcake began to be mass produced and the candied neon processed fruit became a key ingredient. That's the point where it began to get a bad rap--for good reason. Most fruitcake you find in stores around the holidays, tastes dry, stale and processed. We know that fruitcake can be better than that--much better.
When fruitcake is poorly made with lots of processed ingredients, it is going to turn out tasting like a poorly made processed cake. When fruitcake is made with fresh high quality ingredients, it is going to taste like a fresh high quality cake!
Our recipe starts with a basic sponge recipe which then ups the flavor with fruit--lots of fruit! Forty-three ounces of dried fruit and 1 fresh granny smith apple to be exact. When making fruit cake, skip the candied brightly colored fruit created just for fruitcake. Instead look for good dried fruits--the kind of dried fruit you would like to snack on. The dried fruit we've used in this recipe includes:
candied mandarin orange segments
But really, any combination of dried fruit will work in this recipe. If you like raisins or currents, either or both would be a traditional choice. Including just dates will make a very nice date bread. Dried apples, pears, figs, peaches, mangos, or apricots will also create a delicious fruitcake. Use what you like and what is available to you. Just make sure the dried fruit is really good fruit!
To add a holiday flavor to the basic sponge base, we looked for a warm rich flavor and found it in a few teaspoons of Baking Spice. Crystallized Ginger helps to balance out the sweetness and richness of the dried fruit. A more unusual ingredient called for in this recipe is the Black Onyx Cocoa which adds an under laying depth as well as producing a beautiful dark cake.
What About Aging FruitCake?
Have you heard about the Ford family of Ohio that's been passing down the same fruitcake since 1878? While we don't recommend aging this fruitcake that long, we do think it needs to be aged at least a week or two. We've aged it as long as three months, but usually make it the first week of November for a Christmas treat. If you are going to age this more than a week or so, it will need to be fed! And how does one go about feeding a fruitcake? With brandy or rum of course! We feed each loaf with a spoonful or two of rum every week. In between feedings, it is wrapped in parchment and kept on the counter out of sunlight. It would seem that after weeks of alcohol feedings this cake would be boozy, but it somehow mellows out!
We are sure this fruitcake will be one that actually gets devoured and not passed around the neighborhood in a gift giving version of hot potato!
Don't Hate On Fruit Cake Recipe
Time: 26 hours plus 1-12 weeks for aging.
Servings: 20-24 servings
12 ounces candied mandarin orange segments, sliced into bite size pieces
12 ounces medjool dates
4 ounces dried sweetened cranberries
6 ounces dried tart cherries
6 ounces dried sweet cherries
3 ounces noor dates
3/4 cups of rum or brandy, and additional to feed your fruitcake
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 1/2 teaspoon Baking Spice (also known as Pumpkin Spice)
1 teaspoon Pacific Flake Salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
3/4 cups light brown sugar
2 tablespoons Black Onyx Cocoa
2 Tablespoons dried Orange Peel
1/2 cup orange juice
1 Granny Smith Apple, grated
3/4 cup nuts, chopped into small pieces
3 tablespoons Crystallized Ginger
1. Chop all dried fruit into bit sized pieces.
2. In a large bowl, combine all dried fruit with 3/4 cup of rum or brandy.
3. Cover and let sit on the counter for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours. Stir a few times during that time period.
4. After fruit is done soaking, preheat oven to 300°F.
5. While oven preheats, oil two 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" x 2 1/2" loaf pans. If you do not have the exact size of loaf pans, no worries--use a similar size.
6. Line each loaf pan with parchment paper.
7. Whisk together dry ingredients, flour, baking powder, Baking Spice, and Pacific Sea Salt.
8. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
9. Add eggs, one at a time. Incorporate each egg well before adding the next egg.
10. Add the flour 1/3 cup at a time to the butter mixture.
11. Stir in the orange peel and juice.
12. Stir in the apple, nuts, and crystallized ginger.
13. Get your muscles warmed up and add all the dried fruit mixture! Stir until everything is combined!
14. Divide the mixture between the two loaf pans. Smooth out the tops of the batter in each pan.
15. Bake 60-80 minutes. The batter is dark and it can be hard to tell when the cake is finished, so start checking for doneness at 60 minutes. The cake will be done when a toothpick or skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean.
16. Remove from the oven when done. Allow to cool completely in the loaf pan.
17. After the fruitcake is cool, drizzle 1 tablespoon of rum or brandy over each loaf. Wrap in parchment paper and place in a cool, dark, safe space. We keep ours on the kitchen counter covered with a baking sheet.
18. Allow to age for at least one week or up to 12 weeks. Feed again once a week during the aging process.
19. Enjoy! Share with neighbors who just might learn to love fruitcake again!