January 04, 2011

Homemade Fruitcake

I've never been a fan of fruitcake.  Truth told, I've always actively disliked the stuff.  Every version I've ever had - from the mini-loaves Hostess inflicts on the public every Christmas through upscale mail-order versions - has been downright dreadful.  Gummy, flavorless chunks of dried fruit encased in leaden, chewy bread... no thanks.  The stuff seems better utilized as a doorstop or paperweight than a food. 

That said, I was surprised to find myself intrigued by a fruitcake recipe from a recent (Dec/Jan 2010/2011) issue of Fine Cooking.  The ingredient list actually sounded pretty good.   Real dried fruit, boiled and soaked in rum, sounded a whole lot better than the candied cherries one often encounters in fruitcake, and the batter promised to cook into a moist confection featuring cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and other warm spices, plus two of my favorite flavors:  Ginger and cardamom.  I already had some dark rum that sees frequent use in Caribbean barbecue sauces, so I checked out the selection of dried fruit in my pantry, went shopping for a couple more types of dried fruit and gave the recipe a try.

First thing I should note:  this fruitcake does not come together quickly.  One minces up the fruitcake and boils it, along with some orange zest, in rum, then lets it soak (refrigerated) in the rum for between 24 and 72 hours.  Then one makes up the batter, incorporates the soaked fruit, cooks it on low heat for 1 1/2 hours, brushes it with more rum, then wraps it up in plastic and foil and stows it away for a minimum of 48 hours before serving. 

In my case, the fruit got the full 72-hour soak, give or take a couple hours, and it rested in the wrappings for six full days before we finally gave it a try on New Year's Eve. 

This fruitcake is quite moist, and the fruit pieces are quite pleasant - flavorful and fairly tender for dried fruit, as opposed to the dried-out-gumdrop quality I've encountered in fruitcake before.  It smells really nice, and the bold, warm spices do stand out.  That said, we weren't big fans.  Juli and I found the fruitcake's flavor to be too boozy, by far. 

I don't drink, though Juli does.  I enjoy using alcohol in cooking, though, and I'm particularly fond of rum, but this one has way, way too much of it.  In addition to the rum soaked into the fruit and cooked into the cake, the fruitcake is also basted with rum after it's taken out of the oven.  We both found this amount of rum more cloying than pleasant.  Juli also thought the crystallized ginger was a bit too strong, though that didn't bother me.

Our not liking it doesn't mean some other people might not appreciate, it, though, so I sliced up half of the loaf and took it to work.   Several of my coworkers tried it, though some were dubious, relating the same sorts of experiences I've had with fruitcake in the past.  A few of them didn't like it, with their reactions being more or less in line with mine and Juli's.  One responded with the faintest of praise, "Well, it's edible.  For fruitcake, that's pretty good."   

However, most of those who gave it a try rather liked it, and several praised it.   So, it just goes to show that in food as with just about everything else, things not to some people's taste may be a big hit with some other people.   Clearly the time, effort and quality ingredients I put into the fruitcake paid off for several of my coworkers.

In summary, I don't think this is a bad recipe.  It produces a fruitcake vastly better than any I'd ever tasted.  It's simply not the sort of thing we like.  It's not our thing, but if you're wondering what a moist homemade fruitcake with a strong rum flavor would taste like, this might be perfect for you.


  1. This sounds really delicious. My husband and I love fruit cake and Christmas pudding. It's too late for this year, but Ive bookmarked your recipe for Christmas 2011. I hope you had a great holiday and that the new year brings you continued health and happiness. Blessings...Mary

  2. What a lovely blog you have! Beautiful pictures, elegant recipes...and the clip from "Waterloo Bridge" was so wonderful. We'd love to hear back if you decide to make the fruitcake next year.