When I was growing up, fruitcake was enjoyed by most grown ups around the holidays. It seemed to be somewhat of an adult treat; a desire for the fruit-filled doorstop escaped me entirely. My mom, her friends and my aunts looked forward to making and eating it, much like we kids longed for frosted sugar cookies and Russian Tea Cakes. I remember fruitcakes being baked in early December, wrapped in rum or brandy soaked cheesecloth, and then tucked away in obscure places around the house to “season.”
Years later as a newlywed, and living far away from family, we were given fifteen (that’s right, fifteen) foil wrapped fruitcakes by our thoughtful, well-meaning neighbors. They didn’t want us to get homesick. And frankly, it was oddly comforting to have fruitcakes stacked in our tiny refrigerator just an arm’s length away. Although we appreciated their kindness, neither one of us would eat the stuff.
It was that year, far away from home and with lots of time on my hands, I learned why I didn’t like fruitcake. I discovered, through careful dissection, that fruitcakes were largely made up of a suspicious looking mixture called Fruitcake Mix. Ick! Other distasteful culprits in the fruitcakes were identified as dried citrus peel and dark raisin. More ick! One saving grace for the traditional, although aromatic, brick was the dense dark cake, loaded with sugar and spice and everything nice, like applesauce, honey and nuts.
And that’s how and why I developed Applesauce Fruitcake with Honey, and other similar recipes for fruitcake. I omitted the suspect fruits and replaced them with candied cherries, candied pineapple, golden raisins or currants, toasted pecans or walnuts. All of this was folded into just enough spiced cake batter to hold everything together. Now, we’re talkin’ holiday fruitcake! I’ve loved it ever since, and that’s with or without the rum.
Applesauce Fruitcake with Honey
3 cups unsweetened applesauce
1 3/4 cups granulated white sugar
1 cup shortening or margarine
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups honey
2 cups dates, chopped
2 cups golden raisins or currants
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup candied cherries
1/2 cup candied pineapple
Preheat oven to 250°F. Blend together applesauce, granulated white sugar, and shortening; pour into a medium saucepan; boil gently for 5 minutes. Set mixture aside to cool.
Mix together 4 cups flour, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and cloves. Gradually add to cooled applesauce mixture.
In a medium bowl, mix together honey, dates, raisins, walnuts, candied cherries and pineapple; fold into the applesauce mixture; add 1/2 cup flour; mix well.
Divide mixture into 3 greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pans; bake in a pan of hot water for 2 hours and 30 minutes. Cool completely.
The fruit and spice flavors of fruitcake are enhanced when it’s wrapped tightly in cheesecloth or plastic wrap and then stored in an air tight container. Storage in a cool dark place helps to preserve moisture and flavor. Slice and serve after 1 week; fruitcake keeps well for 4 to 6 weeks.
Yield: 3 loaves, approximately 36 slices
Baked and cooled fruitcakes can be wrapped in rum or brandy soaked cheesecloth to enhance flavors. This is of course optional.
More fruitcake recipes can be found in my apple cookbook, Sweet Apple Temptations