Fruitcake 101: We’re all nuts about fruitcake

I recently joined a Facebook group called “Fruitcake Lovers of the World Unite”.  It seems that there are others out there like me, people who share an appreciation for the much maligned fruitcake.  Now before you start in with the jokes, let me tell you that as a psychiatric nurse and a former resident of West Hollywood, I’ve heard my share of fruitcake comments.  I’ve certainly known my share of fruitcakes, but those are stories for another blog post on another day. 

I’ve always been a fan of fruitcake, but then all of my experiences have been with good fruitcake.  My mother’s southern-style fruitcake was my starter (and always the hands-down favorite) fruitcake, then I moved on to the hard stuff, namely alcohol-soaked cakes made by Trappist Monks in isolated monasteries.  I’ve recently learned that there are several basic styles of fruitcake.  My family recipe is known as a southern-style fruitcake.  It consists mostly of fruit and nuts bound together by a light-colored buttery cake batter and contains no alcohol.  This is in keeping with my Texas Grandma’s Southern Baptist roots.  Had the recipe come from my German Catholic ancestors, it would have been soaked in rum, wine, bourbon, brandy . . . you get the idea.  Both types, when done well, are moist, dense and delicious.  The latter has fallen into the dominion of The Monastery Fruitcake, as there are several orders of Monks in the US that make and sell fruitcake.  These cakes take work, time, effort and patience. . . something the Monks have in abundance.  For the alcohol-infused cake, I would suggest ordering from a Monastery.  I recently sampled the fruitcake from Assumption Abbey and it is high on the list of Best Fruitcakes Ever.  They are currently sold out until March, but their fruitcakes can be purchased through Williams-Sonoma. 

In my fruitcake research, I recently discovered a great blog called Mondo Fruitcake which lists, rates and reviews both Monastery Fruitcakes and Southern-style Fruitcakes available for purchase.  Yes, someone has actually gone to the trouble to order, eat and then post reviews about dozens of fruitcakes.  Bless her heart.  She eats them so you don’t have to.

Reading about fruitcake naturally started a chain reaction where I began craving fruitcake.  Particularly the southern-style fruitcake of my childhood, which my mother had not made in nearly a decade.  To get past the craving, I whipped up a batch of very easy fruitcake cookies.

THE CHURCH LADY’S FRUITCAKE COOKIE

1 c. brown sugar
2 sticks butter
3 eggs
1 tsp. soda
2 tablespoons vanilla
6 c. pecans, chopped
3 c. sifted cake flour
2 lb. of your favorite candied fruit
1 lb. pitted chopped dates (optional)
12 oz. white raisins or dried cranberries (optional)
Cream butter and sugar, then mix in eggs.  Add remaining ingredients a little bit at a time. Drop by teaspoon on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool before storing

It’s a dandy little Christmas cookie, and even people who don’t like fruitcake like fruitcake cookies.

You might say I have been fruitcake-focused as of late.  There is some new-age train of thought that says what you focus your attention on is what you will manifest.  This was proven when my Mom telephoned a few days ago and, out of the blue, announced that she would be making FRUITCAKE this year, for the first time in nearly 10 years!  I went to her house today for The Mixing of The Fruitcake and sampled the results tonight.  Yes, as good as I remembered.  This is undoubtedly the type of fruitcake one should use to convert non-believers to come to The Fruitcake.  My husband was quite convinced that he DID NOT LIKE fruitcake.  Tonight, a Christmas miracle!  My husband was converted into someone who LIKES fruitcake. He did recall that the last time he had fruitcake was from Stuckey’s, so that tells you something. Now, where can I hide it so there is some left for me . . . ?

Grandma Effie’s Texas Fruitcake recipe is a little bit of work to make, but not terribly difficult.  This is the type of fruitcake that is definitely worth the time and effort to make homemade.

Grandma Effie’s Texas Fruitcake

  • ½ lb (1 ½ cups) candied cherries
  • ½ lb (1 ½ cups) candied pineapple
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup dark raisins
  • 2 cups (8 oz) pecans
  • 2 ¼ cups (9 0z) walnuts
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ tsp lemon extract
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs + 1 egg yolk

 

 

  1. 1.    Grease pan (bundt or 2 loaf pans) and preheat oven to 250. 
  2. 2.    Mix together fruit, nuts and ½ cup flour.
  3. 3.    Sift together remaining flour, baking powder and salt
  4. 4.    Cream butter with vanilla and lemon extracts.  Add sugar gradually
  5. 5.    Add beaten eggs in thirds, beating each time.
  6. 6.    Add dry ingredients in fourths, beating only until smooth.
  7. 7.    Stir in fruit and nut mixture

 

Pour into prepared pan and bake at 250 for 1 hour 25 minutes, maybe longer depending on pan shape.  (May also be baked in a water bath).

(Keeps well in refrigerator, also freezes well).

 

Mom’s Variation:  Mom uses 1 lb of cherries and omits the dark raisins.  She also throws in a bit of candied citron. 

 

S0 there you have it, Fruitcake 101.  Johnny Carson once remarked that there was only one fruitcake in the world, and people kept re-gifting it to each other every year.  I blame Johnny for the intense ridicule that fruitcake has received for decades.  That, and fruitcake from a roadside Stuckey’s.  With the right fruitcake, anyone can reside in the land of fruits and nuts.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Fruitcake 101: We’re all nuts about fruitcake

  1. It is fun to find another aficionado of good fruitcake! My mother has made delicious old fashioned (Protestant) fruitcake every year until last year, when health concerns prevented it. And I made a large batch this weekend so I could take her a supply for the holiday! Our recipe is similiar to your grandmother’s, but we use an applesauce cake recipe as the base (lots of cinnamon and cloves). I use mostly dried fruit rather than the candied stuff, and my mother always used mixed nuts to include hazelnuts and Brazil nuts along with the pecans and walnuts. Slices of fruitcake make such a wonderful treat on cold winter evenings. Merry Christmas, WG

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