Hey! Look at the Fruitcake!

Let’s face it, the traditional Holiday fruitcake gets a bad rep.  Say fruitcake, and the first thing you think of is an overly processed loaf.  This also brings words to mind like brick hardness, and gummy green and red chunks that are meant to represent “fruit.” Adding insult to injury, they can come boxed in the mail or given by your distant Aunt who smells like mothballs.  No wonder why everyone turns an eye with thought of fruitcake.  It doesn’t really make your mouth water, does it?  It’s time to change that and revitalize a Christmas tradition that’s been heading to the South Pole for far too long.

Fruitcake is a cake that is traditionally made with chopped fruits, spices, and nuts all soaked in spirits. The earliest recipes can be found back to the ancient Romans using pine nuts, pomegranate seeds, and raisins all mixed into a barley mash.  With the discovery that high concentrations of sugar could preserve fruit in the 16th century, we began to shift to dried fruits and candied fruits.  The problem was fruit was very expensive and there were costs of potent spices, liqueurs and the waiting game of soaking the ingredients in them. Then with years of commercialization and in a constant attempt to shrink costs and raise profits, fruitcakes started going alcohol free.  They removed the best part and pump it full of preservatives for a ridiculously long shelf life. No wonder why over the year’s fruitcake got such a bad reputation.

That being said, over the past months I have stumbled across multiple fruitcake recipes and two recipes stand out for the most superior. It was love at first sight and spot on perfection. So I invite you to recreate Chef Roland Mesnier’s Fruitcake recipe, and Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten’s Fruitcake cookie recipe.  With a little time and costs, crank up the oven, pour yourself some eggnog, and be part of the fruitcake movement. No pun intended!

Chef Roland Mesnier’s Fruitcake Recipe

2 cups golden raisins

1 15-ounce package raisins

1 cup currants

10 ounces mixed candied fruits

1 6-ounce mixture of glazed pears, peaches, apricots, figs and dates, cut up
**If you’re unable to find these I found out using a mixture of dried fruits like apricots, dates, and figs with the same proportions works just fine**

1/3 cup candied pineapple

1 cup chopped pecans

4 ounces slivered almonds

1/2 cup bourbon or Port

1/4 cup brandy

1/2 pound butter

1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons honey

1 1/3 cup sifted all-purpose flour

Grated rind of 2 lemons

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

5 eggs

1 cup sifted cake flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 12-ounce jar apricot preserves

1/2 cup rum

6 to 8 tablespoons bourbon

1 pound confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons softened butter


Combine the raisins, currants, candied fruits, glazed fruits, candied pineapple, pecans and almonds with the bourbon and brandy in a large bowl. Refrigerate overnight, or if possible, for two days.

Beat the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, honey, one-third cup of all-purpose flour, grated lemon rind, almond and vanilla extracts until well blended. Beat in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Sift together one cup of all-purpose flour, one cup of cake flour, salt, baking powder, nutmeg and cinnamon together. Add to the batter and beat until well mixed. Combine batter with the fruit and nut mixture, mixing well.

Grease three 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-by-2 1/2-inch pans. Line the bottoms and sides with aluminum foil; grease the foil. Spoon the batter into the prepared pans, smoothing tops.

Bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until the centers spring back when lightly pressed. If tops are browning too fast, cover lightly with buttered foil.

While the cakes are baking, bring the apricot preserves to a hard boil and boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to reduce.

Remove the cakes from the oven and while they are still hot, sprinkle with the rum. Then brush with the hot apricot jam.

Mix enough bourbon with confectioners’ sugar and butter to make a frosting that is thin enough to spread on top of the apricot jam while the cakes are still warm.

Cool cakes in pans on wire rack. Allow frosting to dry. Remove cakes from pans; peel off foil. Cool completely. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate. Cake should be sliced chilled

Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten’s Fruitcake COOKIE recipe

1/2 pound dried figs

1/4 pound raisins

2 ounces candied cherries, coarsely chopped

2 ounces dried apricots, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons dry sherry

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

6 ounces chopped pecans

Kosher salt

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 cup superfine sugar

1/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1 extra-large egg

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour


Snip off the hard stems of the figs with scissors or a small knife and coarsely chop the figs.  In a medium bowl, combine the figs, raisins, cherries, apricots, honey, sherry, lemon juice, pecans, and a pinch of salt. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit overnight at room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, cloves, superfine sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.  With the mixer on low speed, add the egg and mix until incorporated. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt just until combined. Don’t over mix! Add the fruits and nuts, including any liquid in the bowl.

Divide the dough in half and place each half on the long edge of a 12 by 18-inch piece of parchment or waxed paper. Roll each half into a log, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4-inch thick, making an 18-inch-long roll. Refrigerate the dough for several hours, or until firm.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

With a small, sharp knife, cut the logs into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place the slices 1/2-inch apart on ungreased sheet pans and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly golden.

This article is preserved here as part of the QArchives. Help us preserve Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ history, like this article, by contributing to our GoFundMe.

Jay P. Obertance is a food, quality, and entertainment addict; a gourmand/chef with a passion for fine dining and a love of company to enjoy and share it with. As his motto goes, “Life is too short to eat mediocre food.”