Fruitcake Woes

By Chandra Orr

September 12, 2008 6 min read

FRUITCAKE WOES

A new take on the holiday food can make it an immediate favorite

Chandra Orr

Creators News Service

Each year, fruitcake aficionados trickle into the tiny town of Manitou Springs, Colo., braving the early January cold to show their appreciation for this culinary curiosity.

Granted, their admiration has more to do with pastry's projectile properties than its flavor pairings -- but still, the love is there.

At the Annual Great Fruitcake Toss, located in the shadow of Pikes Peak, locals compete to see who can hurl this holiday heavyweight with the most accuracy and panache. Teams used to vie for distance -- until a group of Boeing engineers sent a cake soaring nearly 1,500 feet into the nearby mountains with a pneumatic canon.

Although you probably won't attempt this feat, it still begs the question: Is the fruitcake simply a scapegoat for our holiday angst or is it really that bad?

The odd combination of candied fruit, nuts and spices was, at one time, very much in vogue. In fact, it was so beloved that in the early 1700s, European officials outlawed the savory sweet on account of its "sinful richness."

Now, collectively reviled and relegated to perpetual re-gifting, fruitcake bears the brunt of jokes before being tossed out with the other holiday trash. But things don't have to be this way. Replace the candied fruit with a tropical twist of kiwi, carrot and pecans or add a little all-American bourbon to the mix to heat things up and you might just be on to something.

It looks like the fruitcake has finally evolved. So go ahead and give it another try:

TROPICAL KIWI FRUITCAKE

Cooking spray

1 cup vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 large eggs

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

8 ounces sour cream

3 cups grated carrots

1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans

Frosting Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, softened

16 ounces cream cheese

3 cups powdered sugar

3 tablespoons chopped pecan halves, toasted

3 tablespoons chopped, pitted dates

3 tablespoons coarsely chopped raisins

Garnish Ingredients:

2 kiwis, peeled and sliced long-ways

Pecan halves

Maraschino cherries

Yields 10 servings

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line bottoms of 2 (8-inch) round cake pans with waxed paper; coat with cooking spray. Combine and stir oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla extract and eggs in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and nutmeg.

Alternately add flour mixture and sour cream to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; stir until combined. Stir in carrot and pecans. Divide batter between pans. Bake 45 minutes until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove cakes; cool completely on racks.

To make frosting, combine and beat butter and cream cheese. Gradually add powdered sugar; beat until smooth. Remove 1 1/4 cups frosting and add pecans, dates and raisins; set remaining frosting aside. Top one cake layer with nut and fruit mixture. Place second cake layer on top. Spread thin layer of frosting over top and sides of cake. Chill cake and remaining frosting 1 hour. Spread remaining frosting over entire cake. Garnish with kiwi, pecans and cherries.

--- Recipe courtesy of LouAna Oils.

BOURBON FRUITCAKE

1 pound candied cherries, halved

24 ounces candied mixed fruit

1 pound raisins

8 ounces candied pineapple

2 cups bourbon

6 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon nutmeg

2 teaspoons cinnamon

3 teaspoons baking powder

2 cups margarine

3 cups sugar

12 eggs

8 ounces strawberry jam

1 1/2 pounds pecans

1 1/2 pounds walnuts

Bourbon syrup:

2 cups water

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup bourbon

Yields 14 pounds

Combine all fruits and soak overnight in bourbon. Reserve leftover bourbon to add later.

Preheat oven to 275 F. Line pans with brown paper; grease and flour. Combine dry ingredients and set aside. Cream margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in jam and reserved bourbon. Mix thoroughly. Lightly fold flour and spice mixture into creamed batter.

Dredge fruit in small amount of flour before adding to batter. Combine batter and fruit in large bowl; add pecans and walnuts. Pour into two large tube pans or five small loaf pans. Bake loaf pans 1 1/2 to 2 hours; bake tube pans 2 to 3 hours. Cakes are done when tester comes out clean.

Prepare bourbon syrup by boiling water and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add bourbon. Pour over hot cakes. Leave cakes in pans until thoroughly cooled. Decorate tops of cakes with additional candied fruit and slice thin to serve. Freeze leftover portions to preserve freshness.

--- Recipe courtesy of Maker's Mark Bourbon.

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