All my life I've thought fruit cake, even my cake baker Mother's, was the nastiest food on the planet. It's dry, it's got GREEN pineapple in it, poisonous maraschino cherries (okay, just because they're approved by the FDA doesn't convince me that soaking cherries in formaldehyde, and then recoloring them with red dye and chemical flavors, makes for something good for the body), it's dry, it's tasteless, it's dry... well, you get the idea. You've all been tricked into taking a bite of the stuff at least once in your life. And I bet your swore off it too.
When I started blogging I noticed that all the English bloggers got all excited and into Christmas Cake each October/November and spent the next couple of months "feeding", nurturing, and dreaming out loud of their Christmas cakes. I wondered what this wondrous stuff was. I mean, come on, I grew up in a cake decorator's household and grew up to be a baker for a while too. Was there possibly some divine cake I'd never heard of or made myself? I looked more closely at those cakes on those blogs and was shocked, shocked I tell you!, to see that Christmas Cake was that other awful "F" word--Fruit Cake!!!
At first I thought it must be the seventh sign of the Apocalypse that a whole country would enjoy making AND EATING such a repulsive cake but then I started looking at the recipes and methods more closely and saw my favorite "B" word, as in "booze". It was my Oprah "AHA" moment heard 'round my house! The answer to good fruit cake was laid out in front of my eyes. Our Puritan forefathers had obviously screwed the pooch on this one when they denied me alcohol in my fruit cake.
Okay, seriously, I think part of my problem with fruit cake is that I always expected fruit cake to be "cake" and to Americans, cake is light and fluffy. I think it should be called "Fruit Bread" because, honestly, it's much more of a fruited bread in texture and density than it is a cake, although the cake designation may come from the idea that a lot of non-Americans bake theirs in round cake tins, where we're used to the long square log of nasty. So once I wrapped my head around the idea that it's really a bread, then I took the recipes that I'd been playing with this summer and combined them with my own baking knowledge to come up with my personal fruit cake/bread recipe that not only tastes great but doesn't require a cup of coffee or tea to wash down the sawdust aftertaste. It comes out a dense, moist bread with a sugary, fruity taste and a pop of smokiness from the whiskey. It's good straight out of the oven but really something special after being fed for a month or two. Give this one a try and you might change your mind about fruit cake like I did.
Glenna's Christmas Fruit Bread
recipe by Glenna Anderson Muse
I make this with a three bowl method.
In extra large (30 cup) mixing bowl, Mix together:
5 oz dried cherries, diced small
6 oz dried peaches, diced small
7 oz dried prunes, diced small
15 oz golden raisins
(Should make a total of 8 cups of diced dried fruit of whatever combination you like.)
2 cups Southern Comfort
Soak overnight or up to a few days.
3 cups white whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 lb butter
2 cups white sugar
2 cups brown sugar
When fluffy, beat in each of the following ingredients one at a time:
1 cup canola oil
2 tsp vanilla bean paste (I use Nielsen Massey)
2 tsp cardamom
Stir in 2 cups chopped Missouri Hammons black walnuts
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
By hand, with spatula or wooden spoon, add butter/egg/sugar mixture into fruit. Then stir in flour mixture. Mix by hand until all ingredients make smooth batter.
Bake on middle rack for 50-60 minutes (10 loaves at a time) until loaves are nicely browned and a toothpick poked into the center comes out clean andedges have started to pull away from the sides. Do not underbake. (I know, I NEVER say to not under bake but on this recipe you must make sure the center is done or it will come out too soggy with all the moisture from the fruit. Even a little overbaked, it will be okay. Just be careful and watch it closely once you get to the almost hour mark.)
Remove from oven and cool thoroughly on racks. Leave on baking sheets to store. cover loaves as a group with foil for easier access to "feed". Store covered in cool room.
Poke holes in each loaf with a toothpick. Drizzle approximately 1 Tbsp of Whiskey/Southern Comfort mix on each loaf and let soak in. Feed twice/week until Christmas.
Makes 20 mini loaves, plenty for sharing.