Fruitcake. That most maligned of holiday desserts. The butt of hundreds of holiday jokes. Theories abound about fruitcake. Some say there’s really only one and it gets passed from person to person. Other people swear it’s best used as the filler for potholes. And, honestly, there are some fruitcake recipes that are deserving of that treatment. Still others adore its rich, dark candied texture. People seem to be of two minds about fruitcake – they either hate it or they love it. Not much middle ground with fruitcake.
Did you know that fruitcake has been around for hundreds of years? In the Middle Ages honey, spices and dried fruits were added to bread dough for special occasions. It was even once protected by law which restricted its consumption to celebrations such as Christmas and weddings. Most traditional recipes that have come down to modern cooks contain loads of candied citron, raisins, either dark brown sugar or molasses and a healthy dose of rum or brandy. They’re dense, heavy, dark and rich. They’re also loaded with booze. Maybe that’s part of the appeal for those in the fruitcake lovers camp.
This fruitcake has many of the same ingredients as the traditional, but instead of dark and dense, it is light in color, texture and taste. It is what we in the South would call a “blonde fruitcake.” It’s loaded with candied pineapple, cherries and orange peel (no citron!) and pecans. And the cake is light in color, rich and buttery.
I’ve been making this fruitcake every year since I first saw the recipe in the November 1991 issue of Bon Appetit. I really need to re-write that recipe card before I forget what it says in all the places that are spattered with butter and vanilla.
This is one of the treats that BeeBop looks forward to every Christmas and every crumb is consumed by the end of the holidays. For several years I sent one to work with him near Christmas and it became a standing request from the guys he worked with starting about November first each year. It’s really that good. If you haven’t made a fruitcake for the holidays yet, I highly recommend this one.
3 cups chopped pecans
16 oz. candied pineapple, chopped
8 oz. candied cherries, halved
4 oz. candied orange peel
1 ¾ cups plus 3 tblsp. all-purpose flour
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tblsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
Position an oven rack in the lowest third of your oven and preheat to 250°.
Grease and flour a bundt or tube pan and set aside.
Chop the pineapple into about 1/3 inch pieces. Cut the cherries in half.
In a large bowl, mix the pecans and fruit with 3 tblsp of flour.
In another large bowl, cream the butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Stir in the vanilla extract.
Sift 1 ¾ cups flour with baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the batter and stir until blended.
Mix the fruit and nuts into the batter. Just a note – at this point the batter become heavy. Heavy weightwise. It’s hard to turn it all around and mix it well, but just keep pulling the wet batter up from the bottom of your bowl until everything is well combined.
Put the batter into your prepared pan. This is not really a pourable batter. I use a wooden spoon to put big blobs of batter into the pan. When all of the batter is in the pan, smooth the top.
Bake until golden brown and a tester inserted halfway between the outside and tube of the pan comes out clean, about 2 ½ hours. Cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes.
Turn out onto a rack and cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar.
— Original recipe from November 1991 Bon Appetit magazine