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Fruitcake for the Holidays

This article was originally published on November 15, 2008 and expired on December 25, 2008. It is provided here for archival purposes and may contain dated information.

Fruitcakes are a holiday treat that people either love or love to hate….there does not seem to be any in-between. For those who enjoy this holiday tradition, there are many recipes out there if you want to make your own. Interestingly, those who make this spiced cake use the same recipe year after year…just because the cake suits their taste buds.

When researching fruitcake, it is suggested the origin is English, but there seems to be some doubt. What sources do agree on is the characteristics. Fruitcake is traditionally a heavy spiced cake that includes lots of dried and/or candied fruits and nuts. In fact, there is not much batter in the recipe, just enough to hold the fruit and nuts together.

Often fruitcakes include some "spirits"—either in soaking the fruit before baking or added to the batter. Some also wrap their fruitcakes in cheesecloth soaked with brandy and/or wine for a little more flavor. Fruitcake seems to improve with age and this helps to bring out flavors. Often it is made one month before serving.

Recipes for fruitcakes include Light or White Fruitcake, Dark, Golden and so on. Often the Dark Fruitcake has molasses in the recipe.

Baking time for fruitcakes is a lower-than-normal temperature. Many recipes found were at 275-300 degrees F. With this lower temperature comes a longer baking time; 2 to 3 hours is common. Because of the longer time, it is recommended that a shiny or glass pan be used, rather than a dark pan, to reduce getting the edges too dark.

Pans are usually lined with wax or parchment paper to make removal from the pans easier. Trust me, you cannot ignore this step….the only way I got one cake out was to take it out in pieces….it broke my heart!

The recipe shared is over 30 years old—at least that is how long I have had it. In taste testing with my co-workers—most of whom do not like traditional fruitcake—they had to admit it was good. It won hands down over another "nontraditional" cake made with apples and grapes and another no-bake fruitcake made with graham crackers, marshmallows, nuts and dried candied fruits.

Notice the cake is flavored with orange juice rather than brandy or a wine. It is best to store it like most fruitcakes—in a cool place, like the refrigerator. Be sure it is well wrapped with plastic wrap, then placed in an airtight container.

Orange Slice "Fruit" Cake

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 lb cut-up orange slices

8 ounces chopped dates

2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts

1 1/4 cups flaked coconut

1 cup butter or margarine

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon soda

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 cup orange juice

2 cups sifted powdered sugar

Sift together flour and salt. Set aside. Combine orange slices, dates, nuts and coconut in large bowl. Add 1/2 cup of flour/salt mixture to dried fruit mixture; stir well to coat with flour. In large bowl, mix butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar while beating, to cream well. Add 4 eggs—one at a time. Beat well after each egg. Combine soda with buttermilk. To egg mixture, add buttermilk/soda alternately with flour/salt mixture. Blend well. Lastly, add fruit/nut mixture to batter, and stir well. Pour into large tube pan that has been greased and floured. Bake at 300 F for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Remove from oven.

Combine orange juice and sifted powdered sugar, mix well, and pour over hot cake. Allow to cool. Cover and let stand in refrigerator overnight before removing from pan. May make 5 smaller loaves if desired. Reduce cooking time to 1-1 1/4 hours; test to be sure is done.

Makes 1 large or 5 small loaves to yield 50 servings.

Nutrient Analysis Per Serving: 207 calories, 2 grams protein, 32 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 8 grams fat, 22 milligrams cholesterol, 98 milligrams sodium.

Exchanges: 2 starch/carbohydrates, 1 1/2 fat.

Source: Jananne Finck, Extension Educator, Nutrition and Wellness, finckj@illinois.edu

Pull date: December 25, 2008

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