Fruitcake, much like Brussels sprouts, has received a bum rap over the years. And for pretty much the same reason. Because somewhere along the line, what was a wonderful, flavorful product became an overcooked, over processed mess whose only relationship to the original item was its name.
Thankfully, just as Brussels sprouts are once again moving beyond an unloved slimy, smelly, olive green globe to a crunchy foodie favorite roasted with balsamic vinegar or shaved and served with Gorganzola and pecans, fruitcake is enjoying its own resurgence.
Each year I make several different kinds of mini-fruitcakes. Even the fruitcake haters on my list beg me to send more. Luckily fruitcake is not difficult to make, and is a great canvas for cooking creativity. Below you will find step-by-step instructions to make my favorite Spiced Orange Fruitcake, followed by the recipe. Use these basic instructions for any fruitcake recipe. If you are looking for an even lighter, more tropical fruitcake, see this recipe for Lemon Chardonnay Fruitcake posted several years ago on my other blog.
The secrets to making a nutty, tangy fruitcake that dances on your tongue instead of a heavy, cloyingly sweet mess that in no way resembles anything “cake,”are simple:
- Use mostly (good quality) dried fruit.
- Make sure you have a good dried fruit to candied fruit ratio (at least twice as much dried fruit as candied fruit/peels).
- Choose a recipe that has a good fruit to batter ratio (fruit should roughly equal flour + sugar by volume).
- Avoid recipes with lots of molasses if you are looking for a light fruitcake.
- Don’t make too much! Many fruitcake recipes make several loaves of cake.
- If you can, make your own candied fruit and/or peels. See how I made my own candied cherries here.
- 4 cups dried fruit (I used a combination of dates, golden raisins, currents, cranberries, apricots, and candied orange peel)
- 1 1/2 cups candied cherries, halved
- 1/4 cup Triple Sec or orange juice
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 5 eggs
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 3/4 cups orange juice
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp ground mace
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 2 cups chopped pecans
NOTE: I like to make mini fruitcakes which are about the size of large muffin cups. You could also make micro-mini cakes using regular muffin cups, bite -sized mini cakes using mini muffin cups, fruitcake loaves using regular loaf pans, or even one large fruitcake using a 10 – 12 cup Bundt pan. The oven temperature should remain the same but the cooking time will change (probably about 18 minutes for bite-sized cakes to 1 1/2 or so for one large cake.