I started looking at Victorian foods and specifically Victorian holiday foods and found there is no shortage of recipes. After the successful sugar plums, I wanted to look at the infamous fruitcake. As expected, there are as many variations out there as there are families that baked the holiday treat. One thing about all the recipes that did jump out at me was a simple fact that us modern people with our internationally stocked grocery stores simple don’t think about. When so many of our holiday traditions were formed, the average kitchen did not have electricity or refrigeration. This meant that so many of the foods had to be seasonally available, stored well, or were preserved in some manner. This is why so many of the winter recipes involving fruit use dried or other-wise preserved fruits. This made perfect sense to me and gave me a little insight into how I was going to make my fruit cake.
The dry ingredients:
3 cups of flour
2 cups of lightly packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup milk (or water)
3/4 cup of vegetable oil
1/4 cup syrup or molasses
1 cup dark raisins
1 cup light raisins
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup chopped candied pineapple
1 cup craisins (dried cranberries)
Let’s start with a word about the fruit, if it is a dried fruit you enjoy, you can use it. Personally, my next batch will include apricots and cherries. I am also planning a tropical fruit only fruitcake. Like I said earlier, there can be lots of variations.
In a large mixing bowl, I gently whisked the dry with the spices. I think I get a better spice blend by starting them in early. Next, all the wet goes in. I blend this until it is mostly smooth. Then, it is time to fold in the fruits. Yes, it is a thick and sticky mess, but it smells amazing.
It is now time to cook. Personally, I like small loaves. Small loaves makes them easier to wrap up for travel, give-aways, and everyone that wants one gets their own so no excess handling of the bread loaf. I baked mine at 350 f for 30 to 35 minutes. Basically, when they looked nice and done, they were. I use non-stick bakeware, so greasing the cooking surfaces is kind of a matter of preference.
This is a fun recipe to make. Take your time, get the kids involved, and feel free to experiment. You might just find out that you like fresh fruitcake. Yes, mine were also amazing with the adult version of a splash of rum or brandy added just for fun.