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Attack of the Killer Fruitcake

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December 10, 2011 by wcobserver

By John Ford
Special to the Observer

It’s that time of year again. Time to feast, say thanks, deck the halls, wrap the gifts and tell Aunt Agnes with a straight face that yes, you really do love receiving her leaden, citron filled fruitcake every year.

No, it’s wonderful, really. You love food that’s green. In fact, you still have some from last year. Or, did you compost it? On the flip side, it does taste better than what you buy at the local grocery store or from those fancy boutique bakeries that all seem to be headquartered in Virginia and who just happen to sell hams, peanuts and petit fours as well.

If you are lucky, Aunt Agnes made it at least a month before you got it and it has been soaking in bourbon since then. A good bourbon does seem to make a lot of things more palatable.

Information regarding the origin of fruit cake is all over the internet as are a plethora of recipes. All of them incorporate nuts and fruit and a lot of sugar to sweeten and preserve. Jokes there are aplenty. My favorite was Johnny Carson’s assertion that there is really only one fruit cake that was given as a gift and it just keeps circulating.

If you are in the area in early January, Manitou Springs, Colorado hosts the annual “Great Fruitcake Toss” where the record is 1,420 feet, set by a group of Boeing engineers who built a mock artillery piece named the “Omega 380” to propel the fruit cake.

I have been hauling around a fruitcake recipe for the past 20 years or so from an issue of Cooking Light Magazine. It is attributed to Shawna Chapman of Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan. It makes 32 servings so there is plenty to share. Of course, you can freeze it. Or, you can bake it in 20 mini-loaf pans and give it as gifts.

I have never had the courage to give fruitcake as a gift. I am just not ready for the inevitable jokes or the looks of disappointment. I have, however, been taste testing it with friends and neighbors the past few weeks and if I call it something other than fruitcake, they enjoy it with abandon.

“Gateu Noel” is my favorite. It just sounds like something you want to eat.

This is the best fruitcake I have ever tasted and nothing like those cloying, sweet, heavy cakes that are in abundance. It does have ​​maraschino cherries (never liked ‘em) but no preserved citron. It is fluffy and light and has one-third fewer calories and two-thirds less fat than the traditional fruitcake. Light and fluffy and less guilt. Nice!

RECIPE

  • 3/4 cup maraschino cherries undrained
  • 8 oz dried plums simmered in 2 cups water, undrained
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3 tablespoons whiskey
  • 1 15 ounce box raisins
  • 1 15 1/4 oz can of crushed pineapple, undrained
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • vegetable cooking oil spray

Drain cherries, reserving 3 tablespoons juice. Cut in half. Drain plums, reserving 6 tablespoons syrup. Pit them if they are not already pitted.

Cream sugar, shortening and eggs or egg at medium speed of a mixer for two minutes. Stir in cherries, reserved cherry and plum juice, plums, walnuts, whiskey, pineapple and raisins. Combine flour and dry ingredients, add to creamed mixture and stir well.

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