Did you know that fruitcake has been around for centuries? (And no, not the same fruitcake.)
Egyptians packed fruitcake with their deceased as a snack for the afterlife. Greeks called fruitcake “food of the gods.” Druids gave it to new brides to enhance fertility. The crusaders carried raisin cake abroad, and the Roman legions took it with them on campaign – mainly because it kept so well.
When honey and spices were added to the cake in the Middle Ages, it became a treat for special occasions, ultimately evolving into a cake we associate with Christmas.
The NAIT fruitcake recipe isn’t derived from the Middle Ages, but it does have some history. Thirty years ago, a former Baking instructor brought it from a British bakery, and NAIT students have been making it ever since.
For those who wish to make this delicious cake at home over the holidays (if you can’t make it to the campus Common Market to purchase a pound or two) here’s the famous and failsafe recipe.
Ingredients (makes two loaves)
- 1.8 kg (4 lbs) dried fruit
- 125 ml (1/2 cup) rum (optional)
- 500 ml (2 cups) roasted nuts (optional)
- 250 ml (1 cup) granulated sugar
- 250 ml (1 cup) butter, at room temperature
- 2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt
- Zest of one lemon and one orange
- 5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla
- 5 eggs, at room temperature
- 30 ml (2 tbsp) honey
- 550 ml (2 1/4 cups) unsifted flour
- 50 ml (1/4 cup) milk
Rinse and drain mixed fruits. Use cherries, raisins, currants, citron, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, pineapple or other fruits. Add the rum if desired. Cover and leave overnight to condition.
If desired, roast 500 ml (two cups) of nuts – walnuts are nice – in the oven at 350 F for ten minutes and set aside.
Cream butter, granulated sugar, a 50-ml portion of the flour, salt, zest and vanilla, until smooth and well combined.
Gradually add eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition. Add honey. Beat until smooth.
Add remaining flour alternately with milk, mixing well between additions.
By hand, fold in fruits and nuts.
Prepare two 9” x 5” x 3” pans by lining with parchment paper or bake in foil containers. Fill pans three-quarters full. If necessary, cover the cake with foil to prevent excess browning. Bake at 350 F for approximately one and a half hours or until skewer comes out clean.
Allow cake to cool, apply rum liberally if desired, wrap in plastic and then foil. Allow to age in a cool cupboard.