Not My Grandmother’s Fruitcake

Rumor has it that my grandmother, the one in Trinidad, used to start soaking the fruit for her Christmas fruitcake right after Easter.  I find this hard to believe, because seriously? Have you ever tasted anything that sat in rum for a couple of days, let alone months?  What was once a sweet piece of fruit can turn bitter and the alcohol plus the sugar make both the fruit and rum strong enough to cause a week-long hangover.  Plus, we’re talking about an island that not only reaches an average of 90-some odd degrees in July, but back when my granny was at the height of her fruitcake-making it wasn’t exactly the leader in refrigeration.  I have been assured, however, that her cakes were divine, despite (or maybe, because of?) the fact that they were so soaked in rum that you had to take a very sharp knife and cut a slice so thin it was practically translucent in order to make it to Christmas mass. 


I never got a chance to taste one of my grandmother’s cakes, and the store bought ones didn’t interest me, partly because of the nuts sprinkled on top, but mainly because I was a little terrified of the red and green bits sticking out of a “cake” that I could knock on and hear a dull, wooden sound.  A few Christmases ago, my mother was lamenting—well, mentioned in passing—the fact that you couldn’t just go pick up a fruitcake somewhere anymore; one had to be ordered from a fancy shop that would wrap up the same old dry fruitcake in red cellophane.  Being the good only child who likes a challenge, I made it a mission to find a recipe and make her the best approximation of a traditional, but tasty, fruitcake.  Two problems: I’d never had a bite of one before, so I didn’t actually know what one should taste like and I was really behind on my fruit soaking according to my grandmother’s schedule (it was already mid-December).  I searched cooking websites and blogs for days; it seems that few people actually like fruitcake and those who did insisted on adding maraschino cherries and other things not found in nature.  I finally came across a recipe on that sounded do-able if I made a few adjustments.  Unlike my other experiments in the kitchen, though, I followed that recipe, except I added alcohol to what was a basic cake recipe.  I soaked my fruit for just a week—apologizing to my long gone grandmother for being such a procrastinator the whole time—which gave it a good rum flavor and would still allow you to drive without getting pulled over. 


I wouldn’t say that fruitcake is my new fave thing, although I think in a muffin form it could pass as somewhat good for you if you took out some of the sugar (and the rum, I guess…?).  Plus, it’s kind of hard to convince anyone else to even taste it, given the bad rap it gets (I actually tried to convince Michelle to taste it during lunch the first year I made it, but she gracefully declined, saying she’d found something else to eat for dessert that day).  But, it only needs to be made once a year and, you know, retro things are back in style… 


Fruitcake Recipe (my tweaks in red)

Originally from under Lorrie’s Mother’s Fruitcake (thanks to Lorrie and her mom!)


Ø       3 cups all purpose flour

Ø       1 tablespoon baking powder

Ø       ½ teaspoon salt

Ø       1-2/3 cups chopped pitted dates

Ø       1 cup chopped pecans (omitted)

Ø       1 cup chopped walnuts (omitted)

Ø       ½ cup raisins

Ø       ½ cup golden raisins (I use ½ cup dried mixed fruit and ¼ cup of candied ginger, chopped)

Ø       2 cups sugar (I use ½ cup white sugar and ½ cup dark brown sugar)

Ø       1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

Ø       4 large eggs

Ø       2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Ø       ¼ teaspoon lemon extract (omitted)


Soak fruit in ½ cup Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum for at least one week, covered and refrigerated. 


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour loaf pan.  Combine first 3 ingredients in large bowl.  Add dates, pecans, walnuts and fruit (and the rum it’s soaked in) and toss to coat.  Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in another large bowl until light and fluffy.  Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add extracts.  Add dry ingredients; fold until just combined (batter will resemble cookie dough).  Spoon batter into prepared pan, smooth top.  Bake until cake is golden and tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 45 minutes.  Cool cake in pan on rack 10 minutes.  Using sharp plastic knife, cut around edges of cake to loosen.  Turn out cake onto rack; cool completely.  Can be made 2 days ahead; wrap tightly in plastic.  Serves 10.


One Response to Not My Grandmother’s Fruitcake

  1. Pingback: Christmas Treats « Pestle Mortar

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