So the whole world is baking for Christmas and behind the pixels, me too! Now by any rights, if I were to share a proper fruitcake recipe, it would be my grandmother's and the season would be summer. You see, her recipe needs shall we say? to soak awhile for what shall we call it? lushness. But since it's winter (really! look at the snow!) and there's no proper fruitcake in the pantry, this recipe for pumpkin fruitcake caught my attention. And I have to say, for a make-it-now and serve-it-fast fruitcake, it's got all the right parts.
Now piles of people think fruitcake is a scourge and for good reason, for truly inedible fruitcakes abound. I've got two tricks for great fruitcake, ones which I think might turn the tastes of the most ardent fruitcake hater.
Use real fruit, not that candied red and green and syrupy sugary gooey gunky rock-hard bumps from the supermarket. Real fruit. In this batch, I used a full four cups of currants, dried cranberries, dried apricots, dates and golden raisins and to my taste, the perfect amount. Other years, I've used the unsulphured candied fruit from King Arthur flour (unsulphured fruit is key) and love it.
Use real liquor, something with taste you really love. This cake is laden with marsala and the syrup is just delicious. But I'd also use dry sherry, Gran Marnier, anything a bit fruity that yes, that you like the taste of.
EXPERIMENTING with a STANDING MIXER I do love to bake and for all these years, have been completely happy with just a bowl and an inexpensive hand mixer. But this winter, I'm borrowing my mom's 1970s-vintage KitchenAid stand mixer. I've got mixed feelings about it. I do miss the control of the hand mixer and find myself wanting to reach for it with each new batch of cookies. I'm still not ready to commit to a stand mixer, that's for sure, the money or the counter space.
MY BEST CHRISTMAS PRESENT Meet Lisa, my best friend for so long it was before BFF. We've swapped favorite books, recipes and much more for so many years now, half the time, it's not clear not sure if a book or a recipe started with her, or with me. And now, yes, she's blogging, at My Own Sweet Thyme. If you're baking for the holidays, be sure to check out her recipe for peanut butter fudge (addictive!) and I've got my eye on the ginger cookie sticks, too.
~ more 'vegetables in dessert' recipes (this new section of the Recipe Box is actively under construction and will be complete soon, you'll see where it's headed ~
~ more pumpkin recipes ~
~ more Christmas recipes at Kitchen Parade, including Jesus' Birthday Cake ~
~ one year ago this week Festive Celery, Cauliflower & Apple Salad ~
Time to table: about 3 days
Made 5 mini loaves, about 8 slices each, each slice cut into 3 lengths so 120 pieces (the inspiring recipe used a Bundt pan and "8 to 10 servings" which is way way too much fruitcake, really, even when you love it!)
DAY ONE - SOAK the FRUIT
4 cups dried fruit - I used roughly equal measures of dried currants, dried cranberry, dried apricot, golden raisins, dried dates
Soaking liquor - I used marsala but choose anything you really like the taste of
If needed, cut larger pieces of fruit into small pieces. In a large glass bowl, collect the fruit. Stir in 1/4 cup of liquor and let rest for 15 minutes. Repeat until fruit no longer absorbs the new liquor. For 4 cups of quite moist dried fruit, this was only 3/4 cup of marsala. Let soak for 24 hours. (You should probably refrigerate, at least I did.)
DAY TWO - MAKE the CAKE
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar (the inspiring recipe used 2 cups, I like cake slightly less sweet but 2 cups wouldn't be too much)
4 eggs, at room temperature, one at a time
1 cup canned pumpkin purée (or if you like, roast your own pumpkin)
Zest of a lemon
Zest of an orange (save the orange for juice for the soaking liquor)
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 350F. While the oven preheats, place the nuts on a baking sheet to toast until golden and aromatic. Stir occasionally and set the timer so the nuts don't burn.
Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the pumpkin, lemon zest and orange zest.
Separately, stir together the flour, soda, spices and salt. Incorporate 1/3 the flour, then 1/2 the buttermilk. Repeat, then incorporate the remaining flour. With a wooden spoon, stir in the fruit and toasted nuts.
Separate into well-greased loaf pans (I used 5 mini loaves) or a Bundt pan. Bake until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 1 hour for the mini loaves, and (according to the inspiring recipe) 1 1/4 hours for the Bundt pan.
Remove from oven and let cool on a rack for 10 minutes.
1/2 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons marsala (or the liquor you're using)
Up to 1 cup sugar (I used 2/3 cup)
Stir together juice and liquor. Add sugar, stirring until the sugar no longer collects in the bottom.
While still warm, remove the cakes from their pans. Place on racks on plates with curved edges or a lip (something to catch the soaking liquor). With a knife or a skewer, poke the cakes in several places. Slowly spoon the soaking liquor over the top of the cakes, letting it soak in. Some will collect in the plates so collect this and spoon over top again. (In the end, I removed the racks so the cakes could soak up the extra liquor from the bottom, too.) Finish cooling. Wrap well (I used wax paper, freezer paper would be better) and keep tightly closed until ready to slice and serve.
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