For me, fruitcake was something that shifted about the back of the car as we drove home from my grandparent's house. No one wanted to sit next to it. In fact, we three kids were a little afraid of it truth be told. My parents however adored it! She was very artistic and she made floral patterns on the top with fruits and nuts. My foggy memories are of gleaming red and green cherries that dotted the loaf my grandma had made sometime months before and doused with brandy. I think the cake could have burned in our fireplace and remained unscathed!
Today, my attitude about fruitcake has matured. I now enjoy certain types and I am unashamed to admit it. There is an English Whiskey Cake that is rich and dark and sumptuous I make every year and we nibble on throughout the holidays. I have come to see fruitcake as cake for fruits. The batter should be the vessel for all the goodness like pecans and almonds and dried tart cherries and apricots. Banished are the dreaded (and frightening) green candied cherries but the red variety is welcome in our home and my cake. I don't like to taste alcohol in a cake for fruits. I don't like to taste any one flavor in a cake for fruits. The batter should be rich with spices and a touch of homemade candied peel. The fruit and nuts should be evenly distributed throughout. The cake should be baked to a firm tenderness that goes perfectly with tea, coffee, whiskey or something fortified like Madeira. Are you with me Dear Readers?
The cake for fruits I am describing is not a quick bake. It requires gathering, chopping, toasting, mixing and patience. The cake for fruits I am describing requires loving attention. The cake I am describing is worth the effort.
If you have never attempted a cake for fruits here are a few tips:
1. Take your time. Toast the nuts, plump the dried fruits in alcohol, make the peel... Do not rush the process.
2. Toss some of the fruit and nuts with a bit of flour and fold them in to help them distribute throughout the cake.
3. Bake it a little longer than you think you need to, to be certain it is baked throughout.
4. Cool it completely, wrap it up tight and store it in the refrigerator but serve at room temperature.
5. Give yourself the freedom to experiment and play with flavors.
6. Accept your first attempt or two may not be perfect and settle in to have a good time.
7. Cross reference recipes from books and the internet to fine tune your spice and fruit combinations.
8. DO NOT be upset with your favorite blogger because she did not post this blog until after Christmas. After all, she only just got an oven again...
Share your favorite cake for fruits tips, if you love or hate it and which kind you make.
Avid home cook and passionate instructor