The day after Halloween, signs of Christmas begin to appear, among them, the fruitcake display in the grocery store. For many, a red cardboard shelf stacked with bricks of fruit-filled confection signals the beginning of the holiday season. Fruitcake gets a bad rap in the states but it is a dessert that has stood the test of time. The first fruitcake was a rudimentary cake made from pomegranate seeds and nuts created by the Romans. Dried fruits, honey and spices were added to fruitcake as the ingredients became more widely available and eventually bakers began brushing the finished cakes with rum, brandy or bourbon. The cake became a staple at British tea time and was even served at Queen Victoria’s birthday celebration. Back in the States though, fruitcake has not been as well received, and has even become the brunt of a few jokes.
This year, resist the urge to bring home a store-bought fruitcake. Once you make one yourself, you will never go back to those grocery-store bricks. We have several fruitcake recipes that will end your fruitcake aversion.
A fruitcake recipe that is based upon the fruitcake she used to make back home in her native India. Dried currants, raisins and currants are soaked for days in rum and honey before being added to a vanilla cake batter along with a buttery caramel sauce. The finished cake is then brushed with rum everyday for a couple of weeks.
from Pastry Chef Emily Cookson
formerly of Butcher and Bee,
Charleston, South Carolina
A panforte is a classic Italian Christmas dessert that is part cake, part candy. A honey syrup is made and then nuts, flour, spices and candied citrus peel are folded in.
from Pastry Chef Liz Lane
of Isa’s Bistro in Asheville, North Carolina
This cake is a more traditional version packed with currants, dates and jelly but with an added infusion of molasses and coffee. This recipe makes a few cakes so that you can give a couple away as gifts and keep one for yourself.
from Chef Jackson Newitt
formerly of Astra Modern Market in Lafayette, Louisiana
“We wanted to recreate the classic flavors of a holiday fruitcake in a novel way that remains familiar,” he says. The result is a spiced pastry crust filled with pecan frangipane made with pecans, vanilla and rum that is topped with pecans, apricots, blueberries and candied grapefruit peel.