Why is it that such tasty ingredients as fruit, nuts, and spices can end up in such a vile product as the common fruitcake, that morsel which has become the brunt of many a cruel joke?  We all know the cliche of the regifted fruit cake.  I think it is because, as a rule, not many cooks care enough about what comes out of their oven to take the time to use wholesome ingredients.  Why chop fruit and crack nuts when you can grab a tub of artificially colored fruit off the grocery store shelf?  Because that tub of goo has all the flavor and appeal of a picked-green-ripen-in-the-truck-on-the-way-to-the-market tomato. 

Yesterday I did some research on such cakes and created my own version which is quite tasty, if I do say so myself.  How many days must one labor in the kitchen to produce it?  Relax – it was done in 3 hours and that included the long slow baking time. 

Fruit cakes keep for extended periods of time because the moisture content in them is very low – low enough usually to prohibit the growth of nasties which promote spoilage, thus the length of baking time is much greater than other cakes.  Your batter should be stiffer than a regular cake batter, but yet easily stirable.

If we examine the fruit which is one of the major ingredients in the cakes, we find that fruit in and of itself is usually sweet with a kiss of tartness to pique our tastebuds without the trace bitterness found in most commercial products, therefore, I used only top quality dried fruits and avoided the stuff in the tubs altogether.   I used 1 lb. of dried fruit that was a combination of apples, apricots, golden raisins, and cherries.  Other excellent choices would be currants, cranberries, blueberries, etc.

I used pecan meal and sliced almonds for the nuts, and I do admit to being too lazy to pick out the nuts myself.

Since I research, produce, and sell a line of period spice blends which date as far back as the 1300′s, I naturally used whole spices I ground myself so as to get the utmost in flavor from them.  I used a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and mace, but cloves or allspice and ginger would be fine also.

To produce my cake, you’ll need the following:

1 lb. mixed dried fruit, 1 cup brown sugar, 3/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 teaspoon soda, 1 stick (4 oz) butter, the juice of one large orange

Combine all ingredients into a medium sized saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes.  Turn off heat and allow this mixture to cool.  (From here you can continue the next day if you wish)  If you’re in a hurry, simply place the pan in the sink and run some cold water to come to about half way on the pan.

The fruit, butter, and sugar mixture after it has been set aside to cool.

Next, to the cooled fruit mixture add the following:

zest from the orange (no white, zest only), 2 eggs, 2 cups self-rising flour (if the batter is too thin, add another 1/4 cup of flour – fruit varies in the amount of liquid it takes to reconstitute it), a half teaspoon of mixed spice, and 1 1/2 cups of nuts. 

Stir well together.  Put into 1 large or 2 regular sized loaf pans which have been generously greased and floured.  Put into a preheated 325 degree oven for half an hour.  Reduce the heat to 300 degrees and continue baking for 1 to 1 1/2 hours (depending on the size of pan). 

I chose not to put alcohol in or on my cake, however, if you wish to do so you can brush the baked cake with dark rum or brandy.

One of the original recipes I used for reference in creating this cake after came from Litchfield Cookery.  It was published by the Methodist church ladies in Litchfield, CT in 1897 and sold for 25 cents. 

DRIED APPLE FRUIT CAKE.  Soak 3 cupfuls of dried apples in cold water overnight.  Chop them in the morning, and stew them until almost soft in 3 cups of molasses and 1 cup of raisins.  When cold, add 3 cup of flour, 1 cup of butter, 3 eggs, 1 teaspoon of soda, all kinds of spices to suit taste.  Bake in a steady oven.  Raisins may be omitted. 

    Merry Christmas & Blissful Meals yall.

Finished product - golden brown goodness.

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