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Not Your Grandmother's Fruitcake

. . . because the ingredients in this recipe are carefully curated. No harsh alcohol-burn. No artificially-colored fruit. No weird flavors. This version is super-moist and full of fruit-and-nut goodness. I made a batch of these mini-fruitcakes last week, and they have been wildly popular. Recipe first, notes and comments later. Read through the notes at the end beforehand so you know how to shop for the ingredients and how to plan the preparation. These can be made well in advance.

 



 

  • 135g dried fruit that has been soaked in the liquor of your choice

  • 28g toasted nuts, coarsely chopped

  • 65g all-purpose flour

  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg (or ground mace)

  • ¼ teaspoon salt

  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda

  • 115g melted coconut oil

  • 60g brown sugar

  • 50g beaten egg, at room temperature.

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 80g unsulfured molasses (such as Grandma’s brand)

  • 30g coconut cream or coconut milk

  • Extra liquor or rum for moistening the cakes after they are baked

  • Optional: Pieces of dried fruit and whole nuts for garnish

 

Baking equipment: Mini-muffin pans, enough to make 24 mini-muffins (each cavity should have the capacity to hold 2 tablespoons of water). Heavily grease and flour the pans. This batter is sticky, so correct preparation of the baking pans is essential.


Yield: 24 mini-muffin sized cakes.

 

1.     Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. (See notes below for high-altitude adjustments.)

2.     Drain the dried fruit and finely chop it. Scissors work well for this task. Reserve the soaking liquid and set aside.

3.     Whisk together the flour, spices, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

4.     In a mixer, beat the melted coconut oil with the brown sugar. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until fully incorporated. Add the molasses and coconut cream. Let the mixture stand for about 30 minutes to give the coconut oil a chance to re-solidify. The mixture will firm up somewhat, but it will still be creamy.

5.     Beat in the dry ingredients on low speed just until the flour disappears. Don’t worry if the mixture looks a bit curdled. The texture, once baked, will be fine.

6.     Mix in the fruit and nuts.

7.     Scoop the mixture into the prepared mini-muffin pans. Each cavity should be filled with approximately 29g of batter by weight -- or about ¾ full. It it’s a little more, say 31g, that’s fine. These cakes don’t rise very much.

8.     Bake about 12-15 minutes, and check after about 12 minutes. You may need to bake longer than 15 minutes if your oven runs cool. The cakes are done when they look dull and slightly puffed, and a toothpick in the center comes out clean, with maybe a few crumbs clinging. The tops will be flat, not domed (see the picture above).

9.     Remove from the oven, let cool about 5 minutes, and brush each with about a teaspoon’s worth of the reserved soaking liquid. If you don’t have enough, use more liquor (I like to use a combination of Frangelico and Curaçao). Let cool another 5 – 10 minutes and unmold. You may need to run a small knife around the edges of each cake -- they sometimes stick even if the pan had been prepared properly.

10.  Store in an airtight container. Before sealing the container, cover the cakes with clean cheesecloth or clean paper towels that have been moistened with liqueur or rum. The cakes will keep for weeks. Check the cheesecloth every few days and re-moisten if necessary.

11.  To serve, you can place each cake into a decorative paper liner and garnish it with snippets of fruit and whole nuts. In the photograph above, I used dried apricots soaked in rum, and whole marcona almonds.

 

Notes and Comments

 

High-altitude adjustments (above 5000 feet). Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Add an extra half-tablespoon of flour. Decrease the baking soda to a pinch.

 

Mini-muffin shapes. I baked these as mini-muffins because they are easier to serve in that size, and they can be included among Christmas cookie selections without looking out-of-place. At serving time, these cakes can be placed in a decorative paper mini-muffin liner for a nice presentation – rather like a chocolate bon-bon in gold foil, for example. I don’t like to bake these cakes in paper liners because sometimes the batter sticks, and then they are hard to peel away from the paper.

 

Fruit and nut mixtures. I like to mix-and-match variety of dried fruits, including cherries, blueberries, apricots, raisins, figs, currants, dates, pineapple, mango, and prunes.  For this recipe, the fruit had already been soaking for serval months, so I fished out pieces from the soaking liquid, drained them, and cut the fruit into small pieces—including the raisins and cherries. The pieces should be small, about the size of a dried blueberry or a dried currant (both of those fruits are small enough so that you do not need to cut them smaller). Scissors work well for this task. For the nuts, I used pecans and hazelnuts that had been lightly toasted. You can use any variety of nuts that you prefer. Some fruitcake recipes recommend candied citron, which is a very old type of citrus fruit that looks like a bumpy lemon, and is used in Mediterranean cuisine. I find candied citron to be too challenging for American palates (including mine), so I recommend that unless you and your guests definitely adore citron, avoid it.

 

Rum, liquor, and liqueur for soaking. You’ll need to soak the fruit at least a day before you plan to use it. I actually started soaking my fruit 13 months before – it keeps forever, and I like having it on hand for other recipes. I used a separate jar for each type of fruit, allowing enough headspace for the fruit to swell as it soaks. I covered it with whatever liquor I thought matched the fruit -- mostly I used rum. My main rule that the liquor should be smooth straight from the bottle, and should have a flavor other than alcohol. This is why I don’t use vodka, and it's why I like to use liqueur (which is sweetened liquor). The two rums I like are Pyrate or Flor de Caña 4-year. I use liqueurs such as Frangelico, Curaçao, amaretto, marsala, madeira, and port. I realize that the last three are wines, not liqueurs, but I am including them here because they are sweet and can work as a soaking liquid.

 

Coconut oil and coconut cream. This fruitcake recipe is adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s “Less Fruity Fruitcake” recipe on p. 66 of The Cake Bible. Her recipe calls for butter and milk. I prefer the coconut version I developed here. Coconut goes with rum, and it makes this recipe dairy-free. Some coconut oils are de-odorized, but I recommend organic virgin coconut oil that is minimally processed and still smells of coconut. Coconut cream is thicker than coconut milk, but if you cannot find it, use coconut milk. Do not use “cream of coconut” which is a super-sweet concoction used in mixed drinks.

 

A fully tropical version. Because rum and coconut are tropical, you could make your fruitcake fully tropical by using dried mango, pineapple, papaya, dates and figs that have been soaked in a good-quality rum. Macadamia nuts would be the nut of choice here.  


A note about molasses. Use only unsulphered molasses, not blackstrap. I like the brand called Grandma's because the flavor is well-balanced, and it is easy to find in supermarkets. 

 

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