My grandparents are especially hard to shop for at Christmas, as most grandparents are. At 80-something years old, they pretty much have everything they need. Every year, their Christmas lists consist almost entirely of gift cards to chain restaurants, Amazon, and maybe a department store. Last year, they added something new… a fruitcake. My aunt called dibs and ordered a fancy one from a website my grandparents had found.
This year, the fruitcake showed up on their list again and I claimed it immediately. (Basically, if people have non-Amazon wishlists, we all send out emails “claiming” the gift we’re going to buy off of the emailed wishlist to everyone except the recipient. The whole process leaves few surprises unless someone goes “off-list,” which probably happens 25-30% of the time, but it is what it is. There are far fewer exchanged or re-gifted gifts this way, I guess.) Anyway… I knew that I wanted to make a fruitcake if they put it on their list this year. Specifically, Alton Brown’s fruitcake, which has an unbelievable 5 stars for 173 reviews. I’d seen the episode of Good Eats where he made the fruitcake and it sounded good! Not at all like the doorstop bricks made of day-glo colored candied fruits. I mean, just look at the ingredients. Dried fruit, sugar, rum, butter. What wouldn’t be delicious about it?
I ended up making a few tweaks based upon my specific preferences, but the basic components of the recipe are still there:
+ Instead of the exact proportions of raisins, currants, cherries, cranberries and blueberries called for, I used two bags of Trader Joe’s Golden Berry Blend (golden raisins, cherries, cranberries, and blueberries). This was much more economical than buying full bags of each (and tracking down the currants), plus, in my opinion, cherries, cranberries and blueberries are WAY better than raisins so I’d rather have more of those in the fruitcake. (With the two bags of dried fruit, I ended up with exactly the same total amount of dried berries called for in the recipe. It was fate!)
+ I omitted the candied ginger because I don’t care for it, and the recipe used so little I would end up with nearly a full bag going to waste. So, instead, I upped the amount of dried apricots a bit.
+ I didn’t have any oranges, so used two clementine peels.
+ I substituted apple cider for apple juice.
+ I didn’t want to buy and grind my own allspice and cloves, so I looked up substitutions and used a heaping 1/4 tsp already ground of each.
+ I didn’t have a large enough loaf pan, so I used an 8″ pan (I think), plus two mini loaves – perfect for testing out the recipe before foisting it upon my grandparents.
The mini loaves came out of the oven about twenty minutes ago and I already dug into one of them. I have to say, it’s quite good. It’s basically a spice cake, spike with rum, basted in brandy, and studded with plump dried fruits. Really, what’s not to like?
I totally sound like an 80-something myself, don’t I?