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, tawny port, 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 too 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.
ABOUT THE PHOTO When I remade this recently, I intended to update the photo, too. But I'm sticking with the old one out of nostalgia. I no longer live in that house, it had such pretty light, the back yard was so pretty both summer and winter. And there's a nuthatch in the lower right corner! I'm sticking with the memories ...
Time to table: about 3 days
Makes 5 small loaves or 8 mini loaves (see ALANNA's TIPS)
4 cups mixed dried fruit
About 3/4 cups liquor
DAY TWO – FRUITCAKE
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 cup butter, room temperature
1-1/2 - 2 cups sugar (the inspiring recipe used 2 cups, I like cake slightly less sweet but 2 cups wouldn't be too much)
4 large eggs, at room temperature, one at a time
1 cup canned 100% 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 cups buttermilk, well-shaken
DAY TWO - FRUITCAKE SOAKING LIQUOR
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons liquor (same kind used for fruit)
2/3 cups sugar
DAY ONE – PREP & SOAK THE FRUIT 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. Cover and let soak for 24 hours in the refrigerator, turning occasionally.
DAY TWO – MAKE THE FRUITCAKE
Heat the oven to 350F/180C. 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 in a large bowl with an electric mixer. 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. Bake until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes for mini loaves, about 1 hour for the small 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.
DAY TWO – SOAK WARM FRUITCAKE
While the fruitcake bakes, stir together orange 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 a rimmed baking sheet along the long edge. 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 underneath so collect this and spoon over top again. Lift the cakes and let them sit in what's collected underneath. In the end, all the liquid should soak into the cakes.
Finish cooling completely. Wrap well in waxed paper or freezer paper, then foil. Keep tightly closed and refrigerated until ready to slice and serve. This is a "fresh" fruitcake so should be eaten within a few days, it's not one to keep for weeks and weeks before eating.
ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
HOW MUCH WILL THIS MAKE? The inspiring recipe called for a Bundt pan and "8 to 10 servings" – way, way too much fruitcake, even for fruitcake lovers like me. The first time, I made a full batch for 5 small loaves, about eight slices each; even then, the slices were large enough to cut into 3 lengths each, so 120 small pieces. The second time, I halved the recipe and made 4 mini loaves (each one holding about 1-1/4 cups batter).
FRUIT I use roughly equal measures of dried currants, dried cranberries, dried apricot, golden raisins and dates. This fruitcake could be even more fruity, I wouldn't hesitate to move up to six cups of fruit.
LIQUOR FOR SOAKING THE FRUIT I've used both marsala and tawny port. For something non-alcoholic, apple cider would work too. Hard cider might be wonderful! This technique works really well, starting with 1/4 cup liquid, letting the fruit soak it up, then adding more in 1/4 cup increments until the fruit can take no more. Both times I've made this, it's added up to about 3/4 cup liquor.
WALNUTS I've used both English walnuts and Missouri's beautiful black walnuts. Both are good!
SPICES The second time I made this, I double the spices and used my own pumpkin pie spice, you'll find the recipe here, Pumpkin Spice Lattes. This was not too much spice!
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MORE FAVORITE PUMPKIN RECIPES~ My Favorite Pumpkin Recipes ~
~ Pumpkin Pancakes ~
~ Baked Pumpkin Donuts & Donut Holes ~
~ Pumpkin Bars ~
~ Honey Pumpkin Pie ~
~ more pumpkin recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture
~ Pumpkin Spice Lattes ~
~ Homemade Kabocha Squash "Pumpkin" Purée ~
~ Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars ~
~ Autumn Pumpkin Bread ~
~ Perfect Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins ~
~ more pumpkin recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade, my food column