No-Bake Fruitcake

I don't know why fruitcake gets such a bad rap! Made properly, it is delicious! Not hard, not dry. Not boring. Not something to hide or use as a doorstop.

If you have spent the holiday season in the South, you will have heard of Claxton Fruitcakes. Mostly fruit and nuts and hardly any cake. Now -that's- a fruitcake! We used to buy a couple extra and freeze them for later in the year. This recipe is like that.

This recipe also requires no baking.

I remember one year at home when my mother, sister, and I made fruitcakes. I marvel that Mama had made them all by herself for so many years! What a production! First you line all the tins with waxed paper by drawing around the bottom. Then you cut a strip just the right length (and with an overlap of 2") and fold it so it also was just the right height. (Put the folded-over leftovers part facing the tin.) Grease the tin and put in the paper. Grease the paper.

Mama made 30 pounds of fruit cake, so this meant at least 10 tins; more often it was nearer to 15 because she used several small tins because that's what she had. This step took absolutely forever! My sister and I got very cranky, but Mama made us finish the job.

At last, you got to make the cake! This was a long process, too, which included adding certain stuff only to other certain stuff and beating egg whites to soft peaks and folding them in. As I think of this last step now, I wonder, Why bother? Who'd notice that eggs were separated and the whites beaten and folded into the batter?

You baked the cakes - - each a different amount of time because the tins were different sizes, you recall - - and then you turned them out to cool. While this was going on, you'd peel off the waxed paper, wash and dry all the tins, and line them yet again! Finally, the cakes went back into the tins. You had to figure which cake went where when some tins differed only in depth, rather than depth and diameter. A geometry teacher's dream!

Then the cakes were put in the closet, and in a couple of days began the dousing with brandy, rum, or bourbon. Phew!

Anyway, this recipe side-steps all that. Just throw the ingredients into a bowl, pack the mixture into lined (sorry!) tins, and put them in the refrigerator. Douse the cakes with booze every so often, starting about Day 5. Keep refrigerated. (If you want to omit lining the pans, you can; the lining just helps you remove the cake. Or, you can cut the slices right in the tins, with or without lining.)

As they say in the South, "Honey, that's goooooood eatin'!"

The only trick to this recipe is that you have to make sure the graham cracker bits are ground as finely as flour and that all this powder is moist before you stop mixing.

No-Bake Fruitcake

fruits and nuts:
16 oz. candied pineapple
16 oz. candied cherries
8 oz. candied citron
8 oz. chopped dates (or whole dates and you chop them; remove pits)
1 15-oz. box raisins (approximate weight; an ounce or two one way or the other doesn't matter)
1 15-oz. box golden raisins (ditto)
1 10-oz. box currants (ditto)
12 oz. chopped walnuts (ditto)
8 oz. chopped pecans or walnuts; or -blanched- slivered almonds; or or a combination (see below)

liquids:
1/2 c molasses
1/2 c strawberry preserves
2 T frozen orange juice concentrate
1 12-oz. can evaporated milk (non-fat is ok)

dry ingredients:
l lb. graham crackers
1 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t ground nutmeg

Use your hands to mix this cake. A spoon will be far too inefficient.

Put the graham crackers in the food processor, one inner-seal package at a time, and process until they are ground as finely as flour. You may need to fish out any large, uncooperative pieces and have a go at them in the next batch. No lumps!

Add spices to graham crackers and swish your hand through to mix. Set aside.

Mix liquid-y stuff and set aside. (Here I use a spoon.)

Put fruits (and their syrup) and nuts into a big bowl and break up any stuck-together clumps of fruit. (I use a big salad bowl; a stock pot also would work; Mama used a dishpan.)

Pour the dry ingredients onto the fruit and "toss" so the fruit pieces are dusted on all sides.

Pour on liquids and mix well until no dry graham cracker powder remains. If needed, add more liquid (evaporated milk, orange juice concentrate, or jam).

Pack into prepared tins, pressing firmly. Don't worry; it will all fit even though it seems the tins will be too small. The cake will be sticky, but all the moisture will be absorbed.

Refrigerate 2 days to allow the graham cracker powder to absorb the liquids. Then start dousing with rum or brandy. Omit the booze if you prefer.

Let the fruitcake "rest" for a week before serving, booze or no booze, to let the flavors get to know one another.

Store in refrigerator.

Notes:

Yields 10 pounds (2 tins 8" in diameter). For a 2-lb. batch, use 1/3 lb. graham crackers (one inner-seal pack) and cut the fruit down to 4 oz. of each flavor and adjust the other ingredients accordingly.

If you like another combination of fruits or nuts (but not peanuts), certainly, feel free to alter as you prefer. Make sure you have approximately the total weight of approximately 90 oz. of fruit and 20 oz. of nuts. (My mother is, doubtless, shaking her head that I am so loosy-goosy with this recipe.)

The original recipe called for a 4-oz. can of flaked coconut, but my family does care for the taste, so I omit it, even though coconut doesn't bother me.

You can buy blanched almonds or you can make them yourself. Mama always used blanched almonds, but I use pecans and/or walnuts. 'Easy' is the by-word with this recipe!

Update, 2012: I'm going to try adding some crystallized, candied (minced) ginger this year!


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marbeth@marthabeth.com