Fruitcake for people who hate fruitcake? It’s possible! Most people hate the candied peel (citron) and fake green cherries. This recipe forgoes those for dried real fruit. You can use whatever dried fruits you want — just use a variety, chop them to roughly the same size, and don’t skimp! It really can handle 2 3/4 pounds of fruit.
You’ll need a total of about 2 to 2 3/4 pounds dried fruit.
1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) dried pineapple
1 1/2 cups (9 ounces) raisins
1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) dried apricots, diced
1 1/2 cups (7 7/8 ounces) chopped dates
6 ounces dried cherries
1/3 cup 2 1/4 ounces) diced crystallized ginger (optional)
3/4 cup (6 ounces) dark rum or brandy
1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter
2 cups (15 ounces) light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 large eggs
3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) All-Purpose Flour
2 tablespoons (3/8 ounce) black cocoa (optional – for a darker fruitcake)
1/2 cup (5 1/2 ounces) light corn syrup (or dark if you want a darker fruitcake)
1/2 cup (4 ounces) apple juice, cranberry juice or water
2 cups (8 ounces) chopped, toasted nuts (pecans or walnuts)
rum, brandy, or vanilla syrup, for topping
The Fruit: Combine all of the fruit ingredients in a non-reactive bowl and soak overnight. Alternatively, cover with plastic wrap and zap them in the microwave on 50% power for about 3 minutes and allow to cool to room temperature.
The Batter: Cream the butter until soft, then add the sugar, spices and baking powder. Beat in the eggs one at a time. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour and cocoa (if using). Add about half of the flour mixture and all the syrup to the batter. Then add the remaining flour and the juice or water and mix well. Fold in the fruits, any remaining liquid, and the nuts.
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Grease the bottom and sides of the pans or line them with parchment paper. I use disposable aluminum so that I can store the cakes in them and then just give them away. This recipe makes enough for 8 mini-loaf pans or two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans. Spoon the batter into the pans, filling them about 3/4 full.
Bake the cakes on the middle shelf of a preheated 300°F oven — about 65 minutes for the mini-loaves and 2 hours, 15 minutes for the large loaves. The cakes are done when a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove the cakes from the oven, and brush them with rum or brandy. Let them cool, then remove them from the pans. Brush all surfaces with rum, brandy or vanilla syrup. (If you like just a hint of rum or brandy flavor, add 1 tablespoon of liquor to 3/4 cup vanilla syrup and brush this mixture on the cakes.)
Wrap the cakes in parchment paper, then in aluminum foil or plastic wrap, and store them in a cool, dry place. Unwrap the cakes every week (for up to 5 weeks) and brush them with more syrup. By the fifth week the cakes will have absorbed as much liquid as they’re able. They’ll keep for several months this way, as long as they’re tightly wrapped. The flavor improves and mellows over time. Yield: a possible plethora of fruitcakes.