We asked some of our favorite food bloggers to share a holiday treat with us over our holiday break. I've been a big fan of librarian Lisa Campbell's food writing ever since her first blog, Pittsburgh Needs Eated. Now she lives in Alabama and blogs at Baking With Lisa, which carries on her dry wit and dramatic photos. Stop by Lisa's blog, and enjoy this post from her — a recipe near and dear to my own heart: fruit cake.
Most of my friends hate fruit cakes. They joke about using them as door stops. They joke about re-gifting them to enemies. I get the impression that if I sent someone a fruit cake, they would most likely write me a thank-you note, then catapult it.
I'm mystified by fruit cake haters. To me, homemade fruit cakes represent abundance and generosity. They're made with ingredients that, in recent history, would have been considered rare and exotic. They can also get incredibly expensive, which might be why we don't receive fruit cakes more often.
I'll confess — I've only eaten one kind of fruit cake. For as long as I can remember, my family's friend Marge has sent us two fruit cakes every Christmas. She carefully wraps them in colored cellophane, packs them in gift bags, and mails them to our house. We love them so much, my mom often has to hide them so they'll last through the season. The one or two years we didn't receive them, we were devastated. I begged Marge for the recipe for over a decade, but she wouldn't divulge it (this only added to the cakes' popularity). When I had just about given up asking, this arrived in the mail:
I am sharing this with hope that you'll reconsider the much maligned fruit cake this year. With these photos I have tried to capture what I think is a beautiful, special recipe that's different from what most people think of as fruit cake. It's a dense loaf of nuts and dried fruit barely held together by a simple batter (somewhat similar to Alice Medrich's fruit and nut bars). I hope someone else will enjoy it as much as I do!
1 cup shelled whole brazil nuts
1 cup walnuts
1 cup pecans
1 cup pitted dates
1 cup cut pieces dried pineapple
1 cup maraschino cherries (*the candied kind, not the ones you put in drinks)
1/2 cup seedless raisins
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
Directions: Line a 9x5 inch loaf pan with flour or parchment paper and preheat the oven to 300°F. In a large bowl, toss the first 7 ingredients with the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the eggs and vanilla and stir until well combined and no visible flour remains. Pour into the loaf pan and bake for 1 3/4 to 2 hours.
Notes: While many of the ingredients are interchangeable, I recommend keeping the dates, pineapple, and brazil nuts, and using a good balance of nuts and sticky fruits. The finished cake can be wrapped in alcohol soaked cheesecloth if desired, and it freezes well. Use a large serrated or slicing knife to serve thin slices.
Baking With Lisa
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(Images: Lisa Campbell of Baking With Lisa)