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Dried fruits and alcohol take fear from fruitcake

By Betty Shimabukuro

LAST UPDATED: 1:48 a.m. HST, Feb 9, 2011

I put my latest baking experiment out on the newsroom food table a couple weeks ago. Fruitcake. But I told everyone it was spice cake, and it disappeared.

I told one guy the truth; he said no thanks. An exchange followed in which I mocked him and he admitted that he'd never tried fruitcake, he'd just heard enough about it to believe he wouldn't like it. So I mocked him some more until he had a piece, finding it quite satisfactory and not at all the syrupy-sweet brick he thought it was going to be.

So here's the thing: The scary part of fruitcake is not normally the cake, it's the fruit, those candied, plasticine-looking nuggets in the bright colors that scream "fake!" I substituted dried cherries because I didn't want to go hunting for fruitcake fruits out of season. It was delicious.

All this comes up because of Josh Violette's search for a recipe clipped from the newspaper sometime in the '70s that had gone missing. "The recipe was for fruitcake (possibly Grandma's or Grannie's) and it was distinguished by using sour cream as an important ingredient."

It was found by Dee Tyau, who says she made a lot of fruitcakes in the 1960s and '70s and was attracted to this one because of the sour cream.

It is one of the best cakes I've tested -- moist and perfectly balanced. The recipe is written for candied fruits, but it's easy to substitute any type of dried fruit. Something tart like cherries or cranberries would be perfect.

I realize it is not fruitcake season, but you should still bake this cake. See the note at the end about seasoning, which involves wrapping the cake in a booze-soaked towel for a month or so. (A portion of my cake is now in its third week absorbing whiskey fumes in its wrapping. Tried a piece yesterday. Wow.)

Soak yours in Irish whiskey and unwrap it for St. Patrick's Day. Call it whiskey cake, not fruitcake. You're welcome.

Great Granny's Delicious Fruitcake

4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 cup white sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons brandy (or other liquor such as whiskey)
2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
1-1/2 cups golden raisins
2 cups diced mixed candied fruits (or use the same amount of dried fruit)

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Grease two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans, then line pans with baking parchment and grease the paper. (Or use eight 5-by-3-inch pans.)

Combine flour, salt and spices.

Cream butter with sugars until fluffy. Add eggs, beating well after each addition. Blend in sour cream. Dissolve baking soda in brandy and add. Gradually beat in flour mixture until smooth. Fold in nuts, raisins and candied fruits.

Divide batter among baking pans. Bake 2 hours (1 hour 45 minutes for small pans), or until cakes are golden and a pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let stand 20 minutes, then remove to wire rack to cool completely.

To season: Soak clean cloth in brandy (or another liquor). Wrap cakes in cloth, then cover with foil. Refrigerate at least 1 month. To give as gifts, remove cloth and wrap in fresh foil.

Nutritional information unavailable.


Write "By Request," Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu 96813. E-mail

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