Monday, December 5, 2011


"Christmas means festive fare -- a blend of taste tempters, eye teasers, and hospitality extenders.Plan now to make every bit of your once-a-year food look festive with a sprig of holly, a flaming candle, or a plump red cherry." Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Ideas, 1954

My mother loved fruitcake. She wouldn’t appreciate today’s fruitcake jokes. In fact, I think she probably wouldn’t understand them. And she was particular about her fruitcake according to her preferences. She studied fruitcake recipes for years, making notes and developing her own recipe. She wanted just enough batter to hold the fruit together. She would slice the cake thinly, then hold it up to the light and admire the stained glass effect.

Frankly, I like fruitcake, but I’m not an avid fan of a lot of candied fruit, and I bypass candied pineapple altogether. Make mine golden raisins, dates and nuts with some fruitcake mix and candied cherries. So, when I decided to experiment with a baked fruitcake, I didn’t use Mother’s recipe.

Instead, I turned to Betty Crocker and selected a recipe called “Old-fashioned Fruitcake” from Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, 1969.  Of this recipe, the editors say: “Traditional but not-quite-so-rich version of fruitcake. Ideal for those who don’t really love fruitcake but who feel it’s a ‘must’ for the holidays.” Hmmmm. I’m not sure I’d say I don’t really love fruitcake, but I was looking for a “not-quite-so-rich version, so I chose this one.

Since we planned to go to the farm on Sunday (Dec. 4), I decided it would bring a bit of old-fashioned cheer (and warmth) to the “dear old place” if I baked fruitcake in the farm kitchen. I took time Saturday afternoon to measure the dry ingredients into one container and the fruit and nuts into another. At the farm, I mixed the fruitcake and then divided the batter into 18 cupcakes and two 8x4 loaf pans. I baked the cupcakes for 45 minutes and the loaf pans for two hours at 275.

Results: The cupcakes stuck to the paper baking cups. I guess I should have applied some shortening to the paper. And I think I over baked them just a little, but at least I was on guard not to over bake the loaves. By evening Mike had figured out how to break the cupcakes free of the paper, and he pronounced the fruitcake very good. That he is pleased – well, that’s the important thing. And because this fruitcake isn’t so rich, it makes a good snack or dessert.

We seem to be in the midst of a cold spell so we didn’t stay long at the farm, but I took the time to set up the Christmas tree. Mike went out to get it – out to the barn, that is, where we store it. I’m sorry it has to be an artificial tree, but it’s good that I can set it up early and not worry about it while we’re away.

Back at our valley “town house,” it was dusk when we took Nellie for her walk. I especially love our evening walks at this time of year. I love to see Christmas lights coming on over the hillside. KW


Chuck said...

My recolletions of Mom's fruitcake are fond. I, too, liked it without much dough to hold it together. I have not been able to find any like that, and I miss it. I hope your Christmas season is filled with good memories and good new activities.

drMolly, the BeanQueen said...

My mother's also was lots of fruit - little dough. She served it with what she called "hard sauce" - a mixture of softened butter and enough powdered sugar to make it "hard", no alcohol ever. She used some candied fruit from the market with raisins, nuts, & currants. Since I hate the candied fruit, especially the candied citrus peel, I changed the recipe to use my own dried fruit. I try to make at least one loaf each year just because & to honor the tradition.
Good on traditional holiday celebrations - phooey on the nonsense that is passed of on us today!

Hallie said...

That's a bummer about the fruitcake sticking to the paper. I've never heard of applying shortening to the paper. Is this necessary because there was so little butter/oil in the batter?

Kathy said...

Hmmmmm. Chuck's comment as well as Dr. Molly's have inspired me to try Mother's recipe.

I remember one year when Daddy insisted on soaking the cake with brandy. That didn't happen again, nor did Mother soak the fruit in alcohol.

We had 18 cupcakes and we ate the last two this morning. Mike found that if he broke the cake in the middle it would pull right off the paper. The two loaves are wrapped and stored in the shed. The parchment paper came right off as I had greased it well.

Fruitcake bakes at a low temperature -- 275 to 325 -- for a long time, which causes it to stick to the pan. Hence, the recommendation is to line the pans with greased brown paper or foil.

Hallie said...

I have just put a hold on a library book, On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee. Maybe I'll learn something about food science!