I do realize that fruitcake is a bit of a joke. It seems to be somewhere on most people's list of dislikes - sadly usually quite high up the list. I may be putting myself up for more than a little ridicule but I hold my head up and proudly say ... I like it. I even like it a lot. That was not always the case, I hated it when I was a child. It was none of the things that qualified anything as a treat nor was it any of the things that qualified as legitimate food. It was just ..... not good. So I avoided it (easy enough to do) and that was that. Then one day I was visiting a new friend and she offered me a piece of fruitcake - made from a recipe that was a family favorite. It was one of those awkward situations; I didn't know her well and I certainly did not want to offend her in any way but I really didn't want to even nibble the fruitcake. I could have declined but she was so eager that I try it that I would have felt small if I hadn't. Gracious manners won out and my life was changed in a tiny way. I joined the small (by comparison) number of fruitcake fans. I may not be the head of the fan club but I am a card-carrying member for sure. I remember that December afternoon in Kobe eating my Australian friend's family favorite fruitcake every year when I pull out the recipe for what is now our family favourite fruitcake. I have lost track of the friend but send out a little thankful thought to her as the aroma of the baking cake fills the house.
My mom loves fruitcake and David claims it is his favorite Christmas treat. I like this fruitcake because it is many of the things that make a treat - buttery, tender, toasty, a little bit sweet but not too, filled with wonderful dried fruits and nuts. Light not dark. Fresh with a bit of lemon. Perfect with a cup of tea or a glass of eggnog. Might be you would like it too.
Like everything else this is as good as what you put in it. So use the best butter you can. It really is worth it. Same goes for the dried fruits and almonds. I dislike candied pineapple so you won't find it in my fruitcake. I like the pretty shades of brown in the raisins, almonds and ginger with the bright red cherries. I think it is pretty - in a soft and modest way.
(from a lost friend's recipe file)
1 cup unsalted butter
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup sultana raisins
1/2 cup dark raisins
1/2 cup mixed peel
1/2 cup crystalized ginger, chopped
2/3 cup glace cherries
1/2 cup glace fruit mix
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 1/2 cups flour
Prepare a round 8" baking pan by cutting a parchment circle to fit the bottom of the pan and buttering the sides of the pan. Set aside.
Cream butter, lemon zest, and sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs. Stir in fruits and almonds, then flour. Spread mixture evenly in prepared pan. Bake at 300 degrees F for 3 hours. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.