No dish has a harder time winning people over during the holiday season than fruitcake. It seems like the purpose of the fruitcake is not to be eaten, but to be made fun of. The joke is that fruitcake makes a better doorstop than gift, that you only give them to people you dislike, and that anything containing electric green cherries should be approached with caution.
Despite the rampant anti-fruitcake rhetoric, delicious fruitcake does exist!
So why the bad reputation?
On one hand, our modern palates, so accustomed to readily-available fluffy, buttery crumb cakes topped with pillowy frosting, have a hard time appreciating a cake that has been around since the Middle Ages and was meant to make the most of expensive, imported ingredients. The alcohol in fruitcake added flavor and acted as a preservative so the cake could be eaten and shared over a long period of time. We don’t often have that challenge today.
On the other hand, most of the fruitcakes on today’s shelves are commercially made without much care, and contain a slew of chemical preservatives along with those previously mentioned, unnatural-looking candied fruits that many folks find unappealing in a cake. Candied fruit is fruit that has been heated in sugar syrup, which absorbs the moisture from the fruit and acts as a preservative. What’s left behind is brightly colored and cloyingly sweet.
But that’s not the kind of fruitcake we are going to make today. This is the kind of fruitcake you’ll love, as shared by Edie Clark in her article Fruitcake Weather.
An authentic fruitcake is a serious undertaking for the casual baker. It must be made weeks in advance, preferably at the end of November, and then “fed” with brandy throughout December to keep it moist. This is another reason why so many of us have never actually tried a “real” version of the dish. It’s hard enough to remember to defrost the turkey and haul out the Christmas decorations at the end of November, never mind make a cake that won’t be eaten for a month.
I had hoped to make a genuine fruitcake this season, but proving my point, time just got away from me. Thankfully, Yankee has a recipe for a one-day fruitcake that makes a sincere effort to look and taste like the real thing, without the weeks of waiting.
The secret lies in the combination of ingredients. Dried currants (which you’ll find next to the raisins at the supermarket), dates, apricots, and cherries are soaked in brandy for flavor and preservation, orange and lemon zests are added to the batter for their bright citrus aroma and flavor, and ground almonds keep the cake moist.
Once you have your ingredients assembled it all comes together pretty quickly.
Add the currants and roughly chopped dates, apricots, and cherries to a saucepan of warm brandy, then allow them to soak up the spirits for 10-15 minutes.
Whirl the almonds in a blender or food processor until they resemble soft sand. You won’t need many for the 2/3 cup ground almonds called for in the recipe. Start with 1/3 cup and go from there.
Butter, brown sugar, eggs, and the normal team of dry ingredients round out the ingredients.
The recipe calls for the cake to be baked in a 6-inch round cake pan with 4-inch sides, but since I couldn’t find one like that I just used a small ceramic souffle dish, and it worked fine. Make sure to the line the bottom with parchment for easy removal. Once removed from the oven, cool the cake completely to room temperature before slicing.
After you try a bite, you will know why we call this our best quick fruitcake. Fragrant with citrus and almond, dense with brandy-soaked fruits, and just sweet enough from the brown sugar and natural sugars of the fruit, this old-fashioned fruitcake is a winner.
Are you ready to make your own fruitcake and wow your friends and family? View our Easy Fruitcake recipe that’s so good, we call it the best!
Happy baking and happy holidays!