Friday, December 3, 2010

Chocolate Cherry-Berry Fruitcake & a Holiday Give-Away

Trust me...I know what you're thinking.  Fruitcake!  Yes, fruitcake, but to ease you into the concept that fruitcakes can be good, I've chosen to bake a recipe from King Arthur Flour that includes chocolate as well as a variety of dried cherries,  Raspberry Jammy Bits and Pecans.

I first fell in love with fruitcake with my mother's recipe.  She started the day after Thanksgiving and I remember chopping all the fruit and nuts, then, adding it to the large wooden bowl filled with the batter (or as she called it, "the glue") to hold everything together.  I think that's how I developed great arm muscles--stirring everything together with a big wooden spoon!

The earliest recipe for fruited cakes dates back to Ancient Rome where they baked in pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, and raisins into the cake.  However, what we know as fruitcake comes from 18th century Europe where the cakes were made from the harvest of fruits and nuts for good luck the following year.  It's probably where soaking the cakes in brandy or rum started because they saved these cakes to be eaten before the harvest the next year!

In Canada, fruitcake is known as Christmas Cake and rarely shows up any other time of year.  Interestingly, in the Bahamas, the fruit is soaked ahead of time, for two weeks, in rum before making up the batter of the cake.  Then, there's versions of fruitcakes from Germany, called Stollen, which my mother made each year, and from Italy, Panatone, which I've added to my holiday baking.  I hope you try this recipe and fall in love with this holiday tradition that has come to be a big part of my memory of the season of baking with my mother.

Chocolate Cherry-Berry Fruitcake
2 cups dried cherries, chopped if very large ( I used a variety)
1/2 cup brandy or rum, or 1/3 cup water (I used rum that I had flavored with vanilla 2 weeks ago)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp vanilla extract (1 also added the seeds of 1 vanilla bean)
1/4 tsp. almond extract, optional
2 T Cake Enhancer, optional
3 large eggs
2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3/4 cup milk, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups candied red cherries
1 1/3 cups Raspberry Jammy Bits or Blueberry Jammy Bits, or a combination
2 cups chocolate chips (I used bittersweet chips)
2 1/2 cups rough chopped pecans or walnuts, optional (I used pecans)

3/4 cup simple syrup, brandy, or rum

1. Combine the dried cherries with the brandy, rum or water.  Cover and microwave for 1 to 2 minutes, stir, then set aside to cool.
2. Measure out the candied cherries,  Jammy bits, chopped pecans, and chocolate chips and set aside.

3. Preheat oven to 325F-degrees and grease the pans of your choice.  Two- 8 1/2" x 4 1/4" loaf pans, Five- 7" wooden bakers, Six &" paper bake & give pans, or 12-cup bundt style pan, or two-6-cup bundt-style pans.  I used my muffin bundt pans and have to tell you that wasn't the best of choices.  The detail in the pans gave me such grief in releasing the cakes!  I lost one of the cakes from sticking, so next time I think I'll do a plain muffin pan or loaf pans as my mother did.
4. In a large bowl (I used my KitchenAid and the paddle attachment), beat the butter, sugar, baking powder, salt, flavors, and cake enhancer.
5. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Stir in the flour alternately with the milk.
6.  Combine the dried cherries and their liquid, candied cherries, Jammy Bits, chocolate chips, and nuts,  Stir into the cake batter (the glue!)
7. Spoon the batter into the lightly greased pans, filling them about three-quarters full.

Bake 50 to 100 minutes; the smaller the pan, the shorter the baking time.  These cakes actually took 36 minutes.  When done, the cakes will be a light golden brown all over, and a cake tester inserted into the center will come out clean.
8.  Remove the cakes from the oven.  If you're removing them from the pans, wait about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack.  If you've baked them in paper pans, they can stay in the pans.

9. If you using simple syrup: heat equal amounts of sugar and water over medium heat.  I placed the vanilla bean pod into my syrup to infuse more flavor.
Brush the warm cakes with the simple syrup, brandy or rum--your choice.

 When completely cooled, wrap well and let rest 24 hours (or up to a month, brushing with liquor or syrup weekly), before serving.  I placed mine in a waxed paper lined tin and will keep them cool in our garage since our temperatures are in the 30s at night, it's the perfect place.
 In a few weeks, when I'm wrapping these up for the gift boxes I will give, I'll show you the presentation...until then, patience is a virtue!  I remember waiting for my mother to slice the fruitcakes we had made on Christmas Eve.  Every year she did an open house for family and friends to come by and the baked goodies were the always well worth the wait!

Now, for my Holiday Give-Away...
 Again, when you post a comment between now and the 20th of December (so you can have this apron in time for the holidays) your name will be entered to win.  And, there maybe a surprise with it. Enjoy!


  1. mmm i really like fruitcake, i think it is a lovely warming holiday tradition! xo

  2. I knew I loved you! You love chocolate and're perfect :)

  3. My Jeff loves fruitcake, even the mass produced commercial kind! I saw this recipe from King Arthur and was very tempted to bake it for him. You make it look even more delicious. I couldn't decide between this one, Fruitcake Even Fruitcake Non-Lovers Will Love, or Fruitcake Drops. The Fruitcake Drops sound exactly like a cookie Mother used to bring me from a restaurant/bakery where she worked when I was about 4 or 5 years old. They were a very rare and special treat as money was scarce. That business is still open and I occasionally buy the cookies. One bite and I am instantly transported back to my childhood, filled with memories of how special I felt when Mother brought me one of my favorite cookies. Funny how so many of our memories are related to food! :D Thank you dear friend for provoking this particular memory at this particular time of year.
    Love you, -mary

  4. I love this post Susan! Loved the part about Ancient Rome. . .very cool.

  5. OK Susan, you got me with the chocolate in the sounds and looks like a great recipe, I might just have to give it a go. Your posts are delightful...thank you, Joanne

  6. oh those fruit cakes look wonderful, bet the smell was heavenly, great gift, can't wait to see them all wrapped up.
    always thinking of you and yours
    love and care xx

  7. Susan I'm reading your blog for the first time. I'll certainly know where to go for a good recipe!I saw your post on Sharons blog and what drew me was what you said about losing your daughter, I'm so sorry. I also just lost my daughter, this Oct.I second that about saying good-by.

  8. This recipe does look very tempting!! We are, however, enjoying the Spiced Rum Fruitcake that you baked and sent to us last month. Next to Mom's fruitcake, this is one of the best I've eaten! I've never baked Stollen---I still haven't developed the "feel" of yeast dough like you and Mom!