This holiday season I feel compelled to speak up in defense of fruitcake. I know most people hear fruitcake and think of those awful, too sweet concoctions filled with tragically neon mystery fruit, but I wish the world would try a REAL fruitcake just once. When I was a kid I remember my Grandma making fruitcakes for the holidays and I loved how they tasted. She used lots of fruit, lots of super fresh nuts and plenty of liquor to make a dense, delicious cake that was the perfect accompaniment to the cups of coffee that she would serve us when my parents weren’t looking.
As an adult, I still love a good fruitcake and up until a few years ago I would pay out the nose for a super high quality fruitcake made by a group of monks in a monastery in the mountains. It was so good, but it was so expensive that I eventually decided that I could and should do it myself so I started to look around for a good recipe. Happily, I came across Alton Brown’s Free Range Fruitcake recipe and I have been using it with my own modifications for the past 2 years with delicious results. Like any recipe, your end result can only be as good as the quality of ingredients you put into it so be sure to buy fresh, high quality nuts and dried fruits and use liquor that you would want to drink, not just cheapo stuff to cook with.
Every time I have made this recipe, I have made substitutions based on what ingredients I have on hand at the moment. If I can find dried peaches I use them instead of apricots. Sometimes I can’t find dried blueberries so I just make up the missing amount with the other fruits. Sometimes I use the candied ginger and sometimes I don’t. If I don’t happen to have unfiltered apple juice, I use peach nectar or white grape juice. I prefer walnuts so I use them instead of pecans and I like to spritz with Grand Marnier instead of brandy. I have found that as long as I follow the structure of the recipe, any ingredient substitutions that I make will work out. If you are very adamant about minimizing processed foods from your diet, try substituting the sugar with evaporated cane juice and switch out the all purpose flour for white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour.
I encourage you to follow this link to Alton Brown’s recipe and to give fruitcake another chance. The difference between a good homemade fruitcake and one of those gross grocery store fruitcakes is like the difference between a Rolls Royce and a Pinto, they’re both cars but one is pure luxurious indulgence and the other one may explode on you.
How about you? Do you love or hate the fruitcake? I would love to hear from you, please feel free to comment below.