Chef Becky loves spending hours flipping through cookbook pages and seeing how she can modify each recipe to work in our Farm Kitchen. “I’m a cookbook junkie!” she says. And goodness knows there’s an abundance of deliciously ripe fruit to incorporate into all the old favorites, including the notorious winter staple that you either love or hate: the holiday fruitcake.
"Every year we’d get a fruitcake at Christmas time sent from some well-meaning relative. I would look at it and wonder, why," says Chef Becky. For years, she was resistant to the thought of adapting a fruitcake recipe like she has for other seasonal favorites like the Caramel Pumpkin, Whiskey Pecan, and Apple Pies. But then, nearly 18 years ago, Chef Becky began working on a recipe. If she could turn unpleasant childhood memories of bright green-colored candied “whatever-it-was” fruitcake into something she enjoyed, that would be cause for celebration.
Whether you share Becky’s childhood disdain for fruitcake or not, we think you’ll agree this one is unlike any other you’ve tried. It’s filled with dried peaches and cherries, plus crunchy walnuts—all soaked overnight in dark rum. Then there’s the candied orange peels we make in our Farm Kitchen, plus the leftover rum from the fruits, which we add to the batter and sprinkle over the cakes as they come out of the oven. When the cakes cool, we wrap them in cheesecloth that has also been soaked in rum. Yes, lots of rum in these!
“I wanted it to actually be a cake and not just a dense, compressed loaf of alcohol-soaked dried fruit,” says Chef Becky. “I looked through many recipes and, at last, found one. I began tweaking and experimenting and finally arrived at the recipe we now use.”
Even with the age-old adage from Johnny Carson that the world is simply re-gifting the same fruitcake ad infinitum, fruitcake recipes have changed quite a lot throughout history, depending on availability of ingredients and even legal regulations. As far back as 2,000 years ago, a fruitcake was a loaf of barley mash filled with pomegranates, pine nuts, and raisins. Honey and preserved fruits show up often in the ingredient lists of the Middle Ages. And in 18th century Europe, you wouldn’t see a fruitcake with butter or sugar in it because the church banned the extravagance! While brandy and wine-soaked linens were originally meant to store the cakes and prevent mold, the habit led people to age the cake on purpose, believing it better with a little time to mature. We think so too, which is why we allow our cake to sit for three weeks to a month in the kitchen before it’s enjoyed. Otherwise it is too “hot” with rum, which overpowers the flavor and makes the texture a little boggy. Don’t wait too long to enjoy it though, like the long-forgotten 106-year-old fruitcake that the Antarctic Heritage Trust recently discovered. Apparently it was in “excellent condition” and “almost” edible. The rich deliciousness of the Frog Hollow Farm fruitcake is sure to be gobbled up much sooner than that!
A little richness goes a long way, which is why Becky always wanted to keep the cake small. Pair it with a coffee and a slice of Warren pear and you’ve got something to smile about. As Chef Becky says, “I am happy to report that those–like me–who don’t like the traditional fruitcake and those that always have both enjoy it.”