Sunday, December 14, 2014

Calling All Fruitcakes

It is that time of the year, when I develop urges, deep needs.  Maybe it is habit, maybe it is the colder weather, but I need a good fruitcake.  I don't know what is happening here in northern Virginia, but I have been out two weekends in a row trying to pick up a good fruitcake without any luck.  I like them dark, the fruitier the better, with big nuts.  This is a seasonal thing, I only crave a good fruitcake at this time of the year.  For years my mother supplied them.  When she started to slip she talked my father into procuring my winter fix for a couple of years, he was never really enthusiastic and she was critical of his results.  I have to admit they were a bit dark, not fruity enough.  With J still in Kentucky grading finals, it is up to me to pick up something satisfy my needs.  So far the only thing I have picked up was at Whole Foods, and it was so little, it would never satisfy a man.  And it was wet, I like to be able to booze them up- like mom use to do - and you can't do that if they are wet to start with.

Now get your minds out of the gutters.  I am looking for a nice dark fruitcake, the kind my mother use to make, that I can soak in brandy, and bourbon.  I like the candied cherries, and  lots of walnuts and pecans.  Usually they are easy to find, but this fall nada.  One small one at Whole Foods, nothing at Harris Teater,Trader Joe's or Balducci's.

The noble fruitcake gets a bad wrap.  There are bad jokes about them lasting forever, and being re gifted year after year.  Some town does a fruitcake toss.  Really sad.

To appreciate a fruitcake you have to start with and understanding of what it is. To start with it not really very cake-ey. Now there are two fundamental styles, yeast leavened and baking powder/baking soda leavened. A yeast leavened fruitcake is more cake-like, think of an Italian Panitone.  A baking powder or baking soda leavened fruit cake is dense and heavy, more like a brownie then a wedding cake.  There is just enough cake to hold together the fruit and nuts.  The fruits are raisins, candied cherries, candied peels, maybe dates, or prunes. The candied cherries get a lot of bad press, they are not very cherry like. They are made by candying, a process or replacing most of the moisture in the cherry with sugar.  Candied fruits have a very-very long shelf life. Candied cherries are dyed in unnatural colors, they lose their natural color in the process of candying.  They are wonderfully moist and sweet, and most important for a fruit cake they will soak up booze like a college freshmen.  The thing that sets light fruitcake apart from dark fruitcake is the mixture of sweeteners.  I like dark, probably because that is what my mother made.  She made them for about 25 years until the work became too much for her.  I have made them a couple of times.  I try not to, the recipe makes several pounds of them, and if I make them, I am likely to eat them.  Fruitcakes do get better with age, if I was going to make them, I should have done so 4-6 weeks before I need them to give them time to absorb the booze as they age.  I miss mom's 90 proof fruit cake.


  1. You and chris both
    He adores Christmas cake

  2. My fav is Claxton's made in Georgia. They have a website but I've always been able to find them at Rose's dept. stores for cheap(under $4).
    Sadly when we were near a Rose's this year(on our annual trip to Ocean City)that Rose's had yet to receive their shipment of Claxton's. sigh

    It's not really a "soaking" type fruitcake however. You need a cake-ier one to soak it and you have to start that process around mid November to have it mellowed out enough for Xmas consumption.

    For a soaked cake this one can't be beat, made in Trappist, KY so maybe your Hubs could pick it up before heading North to DC.......

  3. I purchased a 1 pounder made in canada from my grocery store this year. once a year is enough to scratch the itch.

    hopefully your cute hubby will be home soon!

  4. I know what you mean and for the last 30 years my good friend John has given me one of his fantastic home made fruit cakes. I look forward to it every year. He really makes very good fruit cake and everyone who had a slice are amazed at how good his cake is.

  5. Claxton! My dad's Civitan Club used to sell them every year! I loved them!

    Now my grandmother's whiskey cakes were far better! She would make them in September, douse them in whiskey and store them in airtight tins in the root cellar. Adding more whiskey every few weeks. By Christmas they were 100 proof! And I was allowed to eat them! WHEE!!! You gotta love a 10-year-old drunk on grandmother's cake!!!

    Peace <3

  6. I have never had fruitcake. I haven't been deliberately avoiding them. I have never been lucky enough to receive one/see one etc.
    On the other hand, I am 5 hours into steaming a christmas pudding which looks suspiciously like a fruitcake.