Hope you all had a wonderful winter holiday and new year!
After 6 years, my Armenian husband and I (Jewish) finally negotiated what we want for holidays and family traditions, and in the sudden peace and happiness that descended on me when this issue (which has been tremendously thorny to me) was settled, I was reminded of my own family’s traditional fruit cake made for the winter holidays, it was a rare treat – a dark, flavorful, rum-soaked, rich delight that I adored.
I’ve never understood why fruitcake is so often the butt of jokes, when it can be so delicious! The origins of the cake hark back to Roman times, though since they thought rotten fish sauce was the ultimate condiment for everything, I’m thrilled the recipe has evolved a bit…
The Smithsonian wrote up a little thing about the history of the fruitcake HERE .
This is a perfect winter holiday recipe – surprisingly simple (I had remembered it as a complicated, laborious, difficult process, but it wasn’t!!!), warming and delicious, and laden with rich candied fruits, nuts, and exotic spices like nutmeg and cinnamon that all symbolize prosperity for the new year! Despite all the alcohol soaking it, it’s not very boozy and is safe for kids to eat.
Darcy’s Candied Fruitcake – The Original Version:
1 Cup (C.) chopped dates
1 C./8oz candied pineapple OR citron
1 C./8oz candied cherries
1 C. chopped dried apricots
½ C. dried cranberries
1 pound/16 oz pecan pieces
Mix the chopped fruits with 2/3 C. spiced dark rum and 8 Tbsp. orange juice concentrate, and let soak for several hours.
4 C. flour
2 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
Beat 8 eggs till frothy
Cream 2 sticks of softened butter with ¼ cup white sugar and 1 ¼ cup packed brown sugar
Add the eggs, and:
4 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
Mix the eggs and spices with the creamed butter, and slowly add the flour mixture. Stir until well-blended (do not over-mix) – batter may have a more ‘foamy’ or spongey texture than other cake batters. Add the fruit and rum mix and stir until well combined.
Pour into a loaf pan lined with a strip of parchment paper (see photos) – it will rise a bit as it bakes!
Bake until a toothpick or knife poked into the middle comes out cleanly – about 2-3 hours. Invert onto a rack to cool.
After the cake is cool, slowly pour another 2 cups of the spiced dark rum over the cake, pausing often to let it absorb (I did this as 2 sessions, 1 cup of rum each. A little would puddle on the plate, but would be rapidly absorbed – I was done and the plate was dry within 30-60 minutes.)
The Quick Version:
I stumbled on this when I was in a big hurry to make this AND desperate to clean out my cupboards (good combination for me that has birthed many delicious recipes!). Honestly, I now like this version better!
Use candied diced citron, candied cherries, candied pineapple – anything that is candied in those ridiculous neon colors (seriously, bright green cherries?!) goes in – preferably it comes already chopped, but I was so lazy I just tossed the cherries in whole. It worked! Because everything else was in nice pieces, and the cake was cut into slices, no one noticed the big cherries and it just made a nice variety of textures. Add the dried cranberries and anything else dried and fruity that you have laying around (I had about 5 dates, and some trail mix fruit bits, and I didn’t have EXACTLY 16oz of pecans. I could do either 12oz or 18oz because of the bag size, so I went with 18oz.). Follow the rest of the recipe as written, except for the sugar: I used ONLY the brown sugar in the original quantity, and just omitted the white sugar entirely. I think it was sweet enough as it was and had a very nice, moist, flavorful taste that was not chemically or rummy nor was it too heavy or too spicy or too sweet. The little kids who ate a slice didn’t seem to notice the alcohol so I think the cake is heavy enough to counter any alcohol effects.
A NOTE ON PANS:
When I made this last time, I decided I wanted enough for several holiday parties we had coming up, so I doubled the recipe and poured half into my fancy bundt pan, and half into a large loaf pan (which normally equals one cake), but everything seemed so full and I still had batter left over (HOW?!) so I started pouring what was left into mini loaf pans. This turned out to be a very good call since I’d forgotten the batter rose while baking, and the oven was nearly flooded! I filled 6 mini loaf pans besides!! Of the finished products, I left the mini loafs soaking in about 2 cups of rum for a week, and served the 2 larger cakes immediately. The large loaf pan cake ended up being the best – it kept its moisture well and was very good. All the others seemed a little drier and not quite as flavorful and balanced, even immediately on cutting. Since this was also the easiest size and shape to make… I’m happy!
Note the parchment strips in the mini loaf pans, baked on the mini cakes… makes removal from the pan very easy and mostly very clean (a couple of the minis lost a corner), and the paper easily peels off the cake without damage.