Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

Fruit Cake: Love It or Hate It?

posted in Sweets by Jessica Howard

As Christmas approaches, two kinds of people emerge: those who love fruit cake and those who detest it. While fruitcake lovers rhapsodize about candied fruit and that rich combination of seasonal spices, haters joke about candied fruit and that rich combination of seasonal spices. Rarely has a holiday treat polarized so many people!

As a born-again fruitcake lover, my opinion is that the haters simply haven’t tried good fruitcake. So many different kinds exist that there’s bound to be a style suited to any taste. Many do contain alcohol, but there are some varieties that do not. And there’s even a fruitcake option that doesn’t involve any baking!

Whether you want to buy it or try making it, you really should give fruitcake a try. Here are 10 tips on what to look for in fruitcake:

  1. First, it’s important to know that there are two basic kinds: dark and light. Light fruitcake typically contains sultanas, pineapple, apricots, almonds and has a light-colored cake base. Dark is usually made with molasses, brown sugar, raisins, dates, cherries and pecans. I always prefer the dark kind – the heavier and thicker the better!
  2. Fruitcake can contain alcohol or not. Recipes often call for wine, brandy, whiskey or another liquor, but might use a substitute like apple juice. Here is a version that’s soaked in pineapple juice.
  3. It’s common for European fruitcakes to have a layer of marzipan (almond paste) on top.
  4. Higher quality fruitcakes contain a bigger proportion of fruit and nuts than the mass-produced varieties. Rather than buying one at the grocery store, try going to a bakery or ordering one online from a specialist.
  5. If you’d like to order a really special fruitcake for your Christmas dinner, check out the fruitcake reviews over at mondofruitcake.com. This blogger orders fruitcakes from all over the U.S. and reviews them, listing her favourite as Gethsemani Trappist Fruitcake. It’s a version made by trappist monks that’s soaked in Kentucky Bourbon. Sounds heavenly!
  6. Fruitcakes are flexible: If you’re making a fruitcake and don’t have quite the ingredients called for in the recipe, it’s no big deal. Brandy can be substituted by wine or juice; citron or another candied fruit can be substituted with whatever fruit you prefer. But if you are planning on making a fruitcake for Christmas, get going! It often takes at least a few weeks to cure after it’s been baked (usually while wrapped in cheesecloth). Click here for other tips on making fruitcake.
  7. If candied fruit just isn’t your thing, one interesting variety is Tropical fruitcake, which contains dried mango, pineapple, papaya and figs, for a lighter, less-sweet fruitcake. Another offbeat variation is Chocolate Cherry fruitcake, which uses dried sour cherries, cocoa powder and chocolate chips.
  8. For the delicious taste of fruitcake in a healthier, bite-size format, try fruitcake cookies, which are made with wholewheat flour. Another idea is fruitcake bars, which contain rum like the real thing, but don’t have to cure for any length of time.
  9. An easier, no-bake version of fruitcake is icebox fruitcake. This is one that kids would love to help make — it’s got graham crackers, doesn’t contain a lot of fruit and has no alcohol.
  10. Experts suggest serving fruitcake chilled, sliced thinly, with a cup of coffee. I suggest serving it any way you like, just be prepared for those who don’t like it!

Whether you were in love with fruitcake before, or wouldn’t touch the stuff, now’s the time to give it a try! You could make it or buy it, stick with a classical variety or go with one of the alternatives, but ultimately, no holiday is complete without it!

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8 Comments

Isabelle said:

Thanks for the shout out. This post is a great primer on fruitcakes–I wish I had had it when I got started trying them all!

Jon (Sacker) said:

A good fruit cake is also often good with some butter spread thinly on the slice!

Jon

Kathy Maister said:

I LOVE fruit cake, but Jon, skip the butter and pass me some egg nog!

Paula from Only Cookware said:

For me, fruit cake is only good if it is moist. If it’s the least bit dry I don’t like it. And yes, definitely a bit of egg nog on the side.

Kathy Maister said:

Paula, I just noticed your site includes discount coupon codes for buying cookware on line! Nice touch! (Plus your cookware reviews are fantastic!) Happy Holidays!

Cly Stone said:

I am looking for a fruitcake from my youth that is the taste of christmas for me. I associate the taste of the fruitcake with the magic of christmas though I have only tasted once and that was when I was in the 5 to 8 year old range growing up in southeastern Michigan. Its is my reference for all fruitcakes and I have not found one to come close even though I try every christmas time to find one. Have kissed a lot of frogs.

I recall the cake being dark in color with red and green citron/candied fruits. The taste reminds me of the elfs of christmas and must be a combination of such spices as clove and ginger. Sort of a sweet twang rather than the mellow taste of nutmeg and cinnimon. Perhaps mace? I have seen a recipe with ‘mixed spice’ what ever that is.

Probably have to taste it to find it. Please help in my christmas quest.

gary said:

i am in about 22 days of making a brandied fruit starter. my receipe didn’t call for brandy. it called for yeast in the starter mix. will it still turn out? or should i start over. i have an old receipe from a great,great aunt who died a few years past.

thanks, gary

Kathy Maister said:

Hi Gary, I have checked with several people and have come up empty! No one I spoke to has done their own starter mix. Sorry I couldn’t help. :(