History Matters: Fruitcake's checkered past begs historical context

Dec 9, 2014

Fruitcake is one of the most ridiculed holiday traditions, but for many families, it is one with a rich history. Marilyn Joiner has graciously shared two of her go-to fruitcake recipes. 

First published in 1885, this was the first Creole cookbook ever printed, and it includes a recipe for fruitcake.

Splendid Fruitcake

One pound of butter washed and creamed, one and one-fourth pounds of white sifted sugar, creamed with the butter; add the yolks, beaten lightly, alternately with the whites beaten to a stiff froth, of twelve eggs; stir in carefully a pound of sifted flour. The day before, wash and dry two pounds of currants, pick and seek two pounds of large raisins, and slice one pound of citron. Pour all this fruit into a large pan, and dredge it well with a quarter of a pound of sifted flour; stir all well into the butter, add a grated nutmeg, a glass of wine, and the same of brandy. Bake in a large cake mould very carefully, four hours. It is safer to have it baked by a confectioner, if it is convenient to do so.

A historic recipe from Lafcadio Hearn’s “Creole Cook Book.”

Original copyright 1885 Will Coleman, copyright 1967 Pelican Publishing Company.

Dark Fruitcake

A traditional recipe adapted from “The Joy of Cooking”  

Yield - four 9 x 5” loaf pans or two 10” tube pans of cake.

Have all ingredients at room temperature.

Grease and line pans with wax or parchment paper.

Dry Ingredients:

4 cups flour (reserve 1 cup)

1 Tbsp. cinnamon

1 Tbsp. cloves

1 Tbsp. allspice

1 Tbsp. nutmeg

1 ½ tsp. mace

1 tsp. salt

Place the three cups of flour in a bowl with the spices and salt and whisk together.

Toss with fruits suggested  (you may use others if you prefer, but maintain volume and avoid overly sugared fruit)

2 ½ pounds of dried currants (8 cups)

2 ½ lb. raisins (6 2/3 cups)

1 lb. candied citron, diced  (3 cups)

1 lb. coarsely chopped pecans (3 ½  cups)

In another large bowl place 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter. Gradually add 2 cups packed dark brown sugar. Add 12 egg yolks, one at a time.

Add remaining cup of flour, 1/3 cup at a time, alternately with ½ c of bourbon missed with ½ cup of molasses. Stir flour mixture with fruit and nuts into the wet mixture.

In a clean bowl, beat the 12 egg whites. Fold one quarter of them into batter; then fold in remaining. Divide into pans and bake until cake shrinks slightly from the side of the pan and toothpick in center comes out clean. This can range from 1 ½ to 3 hours, depending on pans used.

Cool on a rack. Puncture cooled cakes and pour ½ cup of bourbon over them. Wrap in waxed paper and place in plastic bags or sealed container. Some may choose to put a jigger of bourbon in the center of the tube cakes or in large container holding loaf cakes. When sealed, the flavor of the bourbon permeates the cakes.

Note: Be sure to use shiny metal pans, not dark ones, to keep the cakes fro becoming too brown.

Joy of Cooking indicates they will keep for one month at room temperature and six months in the refrigerator. 

History Matters is made possible in part by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities and Louisiana Cultural Vistas Magazine.