“Tis the season for lights and presents and fruitcake! Unfortunately the mention of fruitcake brings out jokes and laughter. This week’s cook column is dedicated to the much-maligned dessert and hopefully will provide a recipe that may make even the most skeptical give it a try.
The Middle Ages provide the first mention of “fruitcake.” A combination of the Latin fructus, and French frui or frug provides the base for the name. The oldest reference to fruitcake comes from Roman times and a recipe that included pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and raisins that were mixed into barley mash. The Middle Ages saw the addition of honey, spices and preserved fruit. This type of cake was carried by crusaders and hunters to sustain them during long absences from home.
When dried fruit was imported from the Mediterranean during the 1400s fruitcake became popular in Britain. Germany also had its own version of fruitcake known as “stollen.” Dresden Stollen was the result of a contest offered by the Bishop of Nauruburg in 1329. A bread baked with the finest butter, sugar, raisins, citron and other special ingredients, the stollen was enjoyed so much by the Bishop that a quantity of grain was reserved for the baking of stollen only. Stollens were baked in 30 pound loaves and became such a part of Dresdeners’ lives they had special utensils that were used only for cutting and serving it.
By the 1700s throughout Europe fruitcakes were baked at the end of the nut harvest and kept till the next year. It was believed that it would bring another successful harvest the following year. The previous year’s fruitcakes were consumed at the time that the new cakes were prepared. In Germany, the first and last piece of stollen were set aside and kept to ensure that the family would be able to afford the bread and would have enough food the following year.
The 18th century saw the outlawing of fruitcake or plum cakes as they were then known throughout Continental Europe. The cakes were deemed “sinfully rich” and laws were passed restricting their use. Between 1837 and 1901, however, fruitcake gained back its popularity. It was included in a Victorian “Tea” to complete the sweet offerings. It is said that Queen Victoria would wait for a year to eat the fruitcake she received on her birthday to show restraint, moderation and good taste.
In England, unmarried wedding guests would put a slice of fruitcake (usually the dark cake) under their pillows to bring dreams of the person that they would marry. (whatscookingamerica.net and dresdenstollen.com).
Wives with Knives
1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry
1/4 cup warm water
(110 degrees F.)
1 cup milk, scalded
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
4 to 4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
or bread flour, divided
1 egg, slightly beaten
3/4 cup white raisins
1/2 cup candied fruit (I use
pineapple and cherries)
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup chopped nuts (almonds,
hazelnuts, walnuts, etc.)
Powdered Sugar Icing (see
In a medium-sized bowl, soften yeast in 1/4 cup warm water. Cover with plastic wrap and ferment approximately 20 minutes until the sponge (yeast) is very foamy.
In a large bowl, combine the warm, scalded milk, butter, sugar, salt and cardamom; let cool to lukewarm. When cool, mix in 2 cups flour and beat well. Add yeast (sponge) mixture and egg, beating well. Stir in raisins, candied fruit of your choice, orange zest, lemon zest, and nuts. Add enough additional flour to make a soft, but not sticky dough. On a floured surface, knead the dough until smooth, approximately 8 to 10 minutes.
Lightly oil a large bowl. Add dough, turning to coat entire surface. Let rise until doubled, approximately 1 to 2 hours (depending on how warm your room is).
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a large heavy baking sheet. Prepare Powdered Sugar Icing.
After the dough has risen, punch down the dough and place onto a lightly-floured surface. Divide the dough into 2 or 3 parts depending on how large you want your stollens. NOTE: I cut it into thirds if I'm giving them as gifts. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
Roll each dough piece into a 10x6-inch rectangle and fold in 1/2 lengthwise to within one (1) inch of the opposite side. Place dough on prepared baking sheet, cover, and let rise until almost doubled in volume, approximately 1 hour.
After dough has risen, bake approximately 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and transfer to wire rack and cool slightly.
While still warm, spread the Powdered Sugar Icing over the top of the stollen. Decorate with candied fruit and chopped nuts. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Stollen can be prepared up to 1 day ahead. Cool completely. Wrap stollen in plastic and store at room temperature. Makes 2 or 3 loaves stollen.
Powdered Sugar Icing
1 cup powdered (confectioners’)
2 teaspoons hot water
2 teaspoons butter, room
In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar, hot water, and butter until smooth.
Elsie’s Blue Ribbon Fruit Cakes
3 cups whole candied cherries
2 cups dark raisins
6 cups mixed candied fruits (of
6 cups mixed nuts (not salted),
your choice of nuts
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups vegetable oil
3 cups firmly-packed brown
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons ground allspice
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 cups fresh-squeezed orange
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Generously grease (using solid vegetable shortening) and flour ten (1-pound) loaf pans. Place a pan of water on the lowest rack in the oven.
In a large bowl, combine candied cherries, raisins, mixed candied fruits, nuts and 2 cups flour; set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the vegetable oil, brown sugar, and eggs. In another large bowl, combine the 4 cups flour, baking powder, salt, allspice, cinnamon, and cloves. Add dry ingredients, alternately with orange juice, to the egg mixture, beating after each addition until well blended. Pour prepared batter over the candied fruit/nut mixture, mixing well. Pour into prepared loaf pans.
Bake the fruitcakes approximately 2-1/2 to 3 hours. Test for doneness by placing a metal/wooden skewer in center of cake. If it comes out clean, cake is done. Be careful not to over bake. Remove from oven and let the fruitcakes completely cool in the baking pans. Makes 10 (1-pound) fruitcake loaves.
Regal Fruit Cake Recipe
1-1/2 cups candied yellow
1-1/2 cups candied red cherries,
1 cup raisins
3/4 cup currants
2 cups chopped pecans or
1/2 cup white grape juice
1 cup butter or margarine, room
2 cups firmly-packed light
5 eggs, room temperature
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1 teaspoon almond extract
Grease a 10-inch tube or Bundt pan; line with wax paper and grease well.
In a large bowl, combine candied pineapple, candied cherries, raisins, currants, and pecans or walnuts. Add grape juice; stir until well blended. Let stand 1 hour. Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
In a large bowl, cream butter or margarine. Gradually add brown sugar, stirring until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
In another large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and mace; gradually add to butter mixture. Add almond extract and fruit mixture; stir until well blended. Spoon into prepared pan.
Bake 3 hours and 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Remove from pan, peel paper liner from cake, and cool completely.
Wrap in brandy-soaked cheesecloth; store in an airtight container for one week. After one week, store in the refrigerator. Makes 1 large fruitcake.
Vanilla Wafer Fruit Cake
Dana Thompson, AL; whatscookingamerica.com
1 pound vanilla wafers (cookies)
1/2 pound candied red cherries,
cut in half
1/2 pound candied pineapple
slices, cut in small wedges
1 pound walnuts, pecans or
combination of both, broken
in half or coarsely chopped
1/4 pound raisins (I mix and/or
match using dates, dried
apricots, dark raisins,
whatever I have.)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 (5 ounce) can evaporated milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
Whole candied red cherries
Candied pineapple wedges
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a large bowl, crush vanilla wafers. Add cherries, pineapple, nuts, and raisins; mix well.
In another bowl, beat eggs; add sugar, evaporated milk, and salt. Add to fruit mixture and mix well.
Cake: Pack into a waxed paper-lined 10-inch tube pan. Decorate top with reserved candied whole cherries and pineapple. Bake approximately 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes. Run a sharp knife around edge, turn cake out of pan, and then back over again so decorations are on top.
Cupcakes: Spoon batter loosely into cupcake pans using paper or foil liners, which you have sprayed lightly with oil spray. Bake in center of oven for approximately 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
Cake and/or cupcakes can be made ahead and frozen; taste improves with age. Yields 1 large fruitcake.
White Fruit Cake
1-1/2 cups candied pineapple
3 cups golden raisins
1-1/2 cups candied cherries
1 cup dried currants
2 ounces candied orange peel
2 ounces candied citron peel
1/2 cup orange juice
2 cups butter
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
8 eggs, separated
4 cups pecans, chopped
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
Chop pineapple, raisins, and cherries. Combine chopped fruit with currants, orange peel, and citron; soak in orange juice overnight.
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F (135 degrees C). Place a small pan of water in the oven. Line one 5x9 inch loaf pan and two 3x8 inch loaf pans with parchment or doubled waxed paper.
In a large bowl, cream butter and confectioner’s sugar. Stir in beaten egg yolks. Stir in fruit, juice, and pecans. Mix in sifted flour.
In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites to peaks. Fold into batter. Fill pans 2/3 full.
Bake for 2 to 2-1/2 hours until golden brown, or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted.
White Fruit Cake
Mary J. Vit, Favorite Recipes, Corpus Christi Church
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1 cup milk
3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt
7 egg whites
1 pound white raisins
1/2 pound candied citron
1/2 pound candied orange peel
1/2 pound candied lemon peel
3/4 pound candied cherries
3/4 pound candied pineapple
1 pound nutmeats or 2 cups full
1 cup coconut
Cream butter and sugar together. Mix 3/4 cup of the flour with fruit, nuts and coconut. Sift remaining flour with baking powder and salt, and add to butter and sugar with milk alternately. Mix well, and fold in egg whites, which have been beaten very stiff. Add vanilla and fold in mixed fruit, nuts and coconut. Grease cake pans and line with wax paper and bake at 300 degrees for 1-1/2 hours, or until done. (If you use disposable aluminum pans, it is not necessary to line with wax paper, just grease and flour.) Makes four loaf pans, 8 x 4 x 2-1/4 inch in size.
Rita Hughes, Favorite Recipes, Corpus Christi Church
1 pound dates
4 cups pecan meats
4 cups Brazil nuts
4 ounces red candied cherries
4 ounces green candied cherries
8 ounces candied pineapple
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Cut up dates and pineapple, leave cherries and nuts whole. Sift flour, baking powder and salt over fruit and nuts; mix. Beat eggs, and sugar and vanilla. Add to fruit and nuts; mix. Mix thoroughly using hands until well coated. Bake in 4 small greased and floured bread pans. Bake 1-1/2 hours. Start at 300 degrees for 15 minutes; turn oven down to 275 degrees. Place pan of hot water in oven 15 minutes before done.
Monie Joiner (makes a great Christmas gift)
1 pound pecans
1 egg white
1 tablespoon water
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Beat egg white and water to froth, add pecans and stir to coat. In a plastic bag combine sugar, salt and cinnamon. Add pecans a little at a time and shake well to cover with sugar mixture. Place pecans on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 300 (not 350) degrees for about 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Remove from oven and place pecans on waxed paper to cool.
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