Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Who are you calling a Fruit Cake?

Well, it's that time of year again. Time to feast, say thanks, deck the halls, wrap the gifts and tell Aunt Agnes with a straight face that yes, you really do love receiving her leaden, citron filled fruit cake every year. No, it's wonderful, really! On the flipside, it does taste better than what you buy at the local grocery store or from those fancy boutique bakeries that all seem to be headquartered in Virginia and who just happen to sell hams, peanuts and petit fours as well. if you are lucky, Aunt Agnes made it at least a month before you got it and it has been soaking in rum or bourbon since then. My mother made hers right after Thanksgiving, soaked them in rum and set them out on the enclosed porch to soak up that rum for three or four weeks. I attribute my early fondness for alcohol to those fruit cakes. Or perhaps it was all that wine I poured as an altar boy. No matter, back to fruit cakes.

Information regarding the origin of fruit cake is all over the Internet as are a plethora of recipes. All of them incorporate nuts and fruit and a lot of sugar to sweeten and preserve. Jokes there are aplenty including Johnny Carson's assertion that there is really only one fruit cake that was given as a gift and just keeps circling. If you are in the area in early January, Manitou Springs, Colorado hosts the annual " Great Fruit Cake Toss" where the record is 1,420 feet, set by a group of Boeing engineers who built a mock artillery piece named the "Omega 380" to propel the fruit cake.

I have been hauling around a fruit cake recipe for the last fifteen years or so from Cooking Light magazine. It is attributed to Shawna Chapman of Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan. I have not made it for some time as it makes thirty two servings. Of course you can freeze it. Or, you can bake it in twenty mini loaf pans and give it as gifts. I have never had the courage to give fruit cake as a gift. I am just not ready for the inevitable jokes. However, this is the best fruit cake I have ever tasted and nothing like those cloying,sweet, heavy cakes that are in abundance. It does have maraschino cherries (never liked em) but no preserved citron. It is fluffy and light and when made with eggs it has one third fewer calories and two thirds less fat than the traditional fruit cake. It is even lower in fat if made with egg substitute. The Tuesday Vegan made it with ENER G Egg Replacer that I bought at Whole Foods, with wonderful results. It is light and fluffy and the egg substitute combined with the baking soda leavened it nicely. It was finished ten minutes sooner than the recipe states. I have no idea if the egg replacer had anything to do with it or it was my fancy new oven. As oven temps vary, I would suggest you check on it after being in the oven for an hour.

3/4 cup maraschino cherries undrained

1 16 oz jar ready to serve prunes in heavy syrup undrained

1 1/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup vegetable shortening

4 eggs (or equivalent amount of egg replacer)

1 cup chopped walnuts

3 tablespoons whiskey

1 15 ounce box raisins

1 15 1/4 oz can of crushed pineapple, undrained

4 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

vegetable cooking oil spray

Drain cherries, reserving 3 tablespoons juice. Cut in half. Drain prunes, reserving 6 tablespoons syrup. Pit prunes.

Cream sugar, shortening and eggs or egg substitute at medium speed of a mixer for two minutes. Stir in cherries, reserved cherry and prune juice, prunes, walnuts, whiskey, pineapple and raisins. Combine flour and dry ingredients, add to creamed mixture and stir well.

Spoon batter into a 10 inch tube or bundt pan coated with cooking oil spray. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a toothpick or wooden skewer comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack, remove from pan and let cool completely. Store in tightly wrapped plastic wrap. Slice and enjoy.

I hope your holidays are happy and that you have plenty to be thankful for. I know I do.

" I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, old and new."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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