In & Out of the Kitchen: Fruitcake can be delicious
Brace yourselves: I’m about to use the F-word, a dirty word that nobody ever wants to hear.
Wait, don’t stop reading yet. Just because you’ve never eaten a fruitcake that wouldn’t function better as a doorstop doesn’t mean that they don’t exist — honest, I swear.
The problem, really, is not what fruitcake is but what it has become, especially in the hands of commercial bakeries and candied-fruit-makers.
Let’s look for a moment at some common ingredients in your typical fruitcake these days.
The most abundant fruit in most fruitcakes is cherries. But have you ever seen a cherry that color in nature, seriously? And that goes double for the neon-green ones. Have you ever actually wanted to put something that color in your mouth? Those monstrosities look like toxic waste, and they taste about as good. And why do cherries even need to be candied, anyway? They’re already a sweet fruit.
And then there’s the citron, the candied rind of a fruit that was once used only for medicinal purposes. You probably do need to candy that stuff to make it even remotely edible, but why go to that much work when you could just eat something that tastes good in the first place?
Even the “normal” fruits look like a lab experiment. All right, maybe you’ve eaten candied orange peel in your life, but was it ever green or red? That goes for pineapple, too — just because you can dye fruit to look more festive doesn’t make it a good idea.
So all right, maybe fruitcake sort of deserves its bad reputation when you consider what’s being foisted off under the guise of being food. Perhaps that’s not a huge surprise, really, considering that fruitcake’s historical roots are more geared toward preservation (candying fruits and drowning them in liquor will both extend their shelf life) than toward actually producing something that tastes good.
Good fruit and nuts
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
What is fruitcake, anyway? Most of it is right there in the name: “fruit” and “cake.” But there’s no reason the cake can’t be moist and fragrantly spiced, with a nice, light crumb, instead of being as heavy as a brick and sticky with sugars and liquor. And the fruit could be just about any fruit, so let’s stick with edible ones, the kind we might actually eat outside of a cake. And yes, nuts are delicious, so let’s keep the nuts and use plenty of them.
No, it’s still not going to be cheap to make a fruitcake, especially with the price of pecans these days. But at least this time, you’ll be spending that money on ingredients that taste good instead of ones that taste terrible but are preserved with the brightest artificial colors.
2⁄3 cup butter, softened
6 tablespoons brown sugar
4 eggs, beaten
6 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons half and half
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped dates
6 ounces dried apricots, chopped
3 cups pecans, chopped with some halves reserved for garnish
Cream together the butter, sugar, eggs and honey, then mix in the half and half.
Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and spices in another bowl. Stir this mixture into the wet ingredients.
Then, stir in the fruits and nuts.
Pour the batter into two greased and floured loaf pans. Garnish with pecan halves.
Bake at 300 degrees, with a pan of water placed on the rack below, for 60 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let cool before removing the cakes from the pans.