Fruitcakes Have Gotten a Bad Rap
Story & Recipe: Phyllis Myers
Introduction: Vickie Kite Milburn
Here’s a recipe that will change your mind about this fruity, nutty holiday treat. We’re not joking!
One of my oldest and best friends Phyllis Myers, author of several cookbooks, sent me this story and recipe to share with our readers. It’s the perfect addition to our holiday issue.
If you are someone who has been turned off to fruitcake in the past, do yourself a favor and try this one. You’ll be glad you did!
Too cakey, too dry, too many green-looking things! I just don’t like the look of it!
A lot of people don’t even give it a chance because they have heard so many people give fruitcake a bad rap.There are thousands of recipes for fruitcake, white, dark, lemon, date-nut and spice. I even found a recipe for watermelon pickle fruitcake. And then there is the dreaded stepmother fruitcake.
How about that friendship fruit cake sent from friend to friend — it really should be “pass it on” fruitcake. … Now I’m starting to give it a bad rap myself.
Truman Capote made this fruitcake noble in his story, “A Christmas Memory.”
The story takes place in the 1940s during World War II. Capote, 7 at the time, lived in a boarding house with his 60-year-old mentally challenged cousin.
In November she would announce, “Oh my, it’s fruitcake weather!” They would go into the pecan groves and collect the leftover nuts. Upon their return they would excitedly check their fruitcake fund, hidden under a secret board in the floor.
They earned and saved the money during the year by performing odd jobs, such as killing flies in the boarding house (they got a penny for every 25 killed). With the hard-earned money, they would buy enough ingredients to bake 30 fruitcakes; whiskey was the most expensive ingredient.
The two worked happily for days in the kitchen, making cakes for their friends, although some cakes were sent to strangers they had met by chance and some to people they had never even met, such as church missionaries and even President Roosevelt.
Capote and his cousin would celebrate Christmas Eve drinking the last two ounces of whiskey and looking back over collected thank-you cards and letters. They always wondered if President Roosevelt would serve their cake with Christmas dinner.
This tradition went on for years until Capote was sent away to school. Then his cousin continued to make the cakes by herself and would always send him a “best of the batch” fruitcake.
Sharing recipes is a timeless tradition. I would like to share my fruitcake recipe which is fabulous. I make it every holiday season.
Put aside your prejudices and give it try.
PHYLLIS’ FABULOUS FRUITCAKE
3 cups mixed/diced candied fruit (one large container)
1 cup dark raisins
1 cup light raisins
2 cups chopped walnuts
2 cups chopped pecans
3 cups plain flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cloves
2 sticks butter
2 cups brown sugar
4 large eggs
¼ cup apple juice
Wax or parchment paper
Mix fruit and nuts. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and spices. Sprinkle 1½ cups of the mixture over the fruit and nut mixture. Cream the butter and sugar with a small hand mixer; add egg one at a time. Add dry ingredients, then nut and fruit mixture, alternating with apple juice.
Preheat oven to 275°. Line a tube pan with wax paper. Grease and flour pan and paper. Bake for 1½-2 hours depending on your oven. Do not overbake. Check it, and take it out of the oven when it is golden brown and has a firm top. Allow to cool before removing from pan.This cake keeps well in a plastic or tin container with a tight-fitting lid. You can wrap the cake in a cloth dipped in a little sweet wine or brandy. I usually store mine in the bottom of the refrigerator for several months.