As far as Christmas controversies go, fruitcake is often at the centre of much debate.
Team Fruitcake enjoys a good mixed peel when they see it, and the more raisins and currants, the merrier.
It’s for these exact ingredients that Team No Fruitcake dislikes the traditional Christmastime cake. I’ve been firmly planted on this team (it’s the fake green cherries that always do me in) but I have made it my mission this holiday season to create a fruitcake that will everyone will enjoy. The secret? No mixed peel! No fake cherries!
Instead, I’ve used dried tart cherries and figs. They both add a lovely flavour, and yes, while the dried fruit is soaked in whiskey for a few hours, this fruitcake isn’t over the top boozy. If you want more booze action, reduce the amount of boiling water and add more whiskey.
Nuts are necessary to any good fruitcake, and I added toasted almonds here. Chunks of dark chocolate may not be in your grandma’s fruitcake, but they are in mine. I love biting into a bit of chocolate and a bit of fruit.
Glory be, this is good fruitcake! It can be served as a centrepiece dessert after the holiday feast, or slices can be served with afternoon tea. Dessert for breakfast is definitely a thing in December, so keep in mind that a wedge of fruitcake and a cup of coffee go together like Bing Crosby and White Christmas.
A few notes about the recipe. Be sure to use a 10-inch (25 cm) spring-form pan. You may look at your 9-inch and think you can cram all the batter in. You’re wrong. If you try to bake this cake in a smaller pan, I guarantee that there will be fruitcake overflowing onto the bottom of the oven, the smoke alarm will go off, and the bit of Christmas spirit you had will go up in… smoke. If you don’t own a 10-inch pan, borrow one, or check second hand stores.
And, about the booze: I used Canadian Club whiskey, but if you have a bit of brandy about, or want to use up that bottle of Amaretto your aunt gave you, by all means, add it to the fruit. And, have a little sip for yourself. It is the holidays after all.
1¾ cups dried tart cherries
1 cup chopped figs or dates
2 cups (500 mL) boiling water
1 cup (250 mL) whiskey
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup (250 mL) unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups firmly packed brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup (150 mL) molasses
2/3 cup (150 mL) whole milk, at room temperature
1 tsp (5 mL) pure almond extract
1½ cups dark chocolate chunks
1½ cups slivered almonds, toasted
Icing sugar for garnish
- Place the dried fruit in a medium bowl. Add water and whiskey. Stir once or twice. Let the mixture sit for 3 hours. Drain and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 325º F and place the rack in the centre. Grease a 10-inch (25 cm) spring-form pan with removable sides. Line the bottom with parchment and grease that too.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, spices, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy - about 4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each one, and scraping the bowl down too.
- In a 2-cup (500 mL) measuring cup, stir together the molasses, milk and almond extract.
- With the mixer on low speed, add one-third of the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture, then half of the milk mixture. Scrape the sides. Repeat with the flour, then milk, then flour. When the batter is smooth, stir in the chocolate and almonds by hand.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Place the cake in the oven and
- turn the heat down to 300º F. Bake for 65-80 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
- Let the cake cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes then carefully remove the sides of the pan. Let the cake cool to room temperature before serving. Carefully remove the bottom parchment. If making ahead, the cake can be tightly wrapped and kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Dust with icing sugar before serving.