Twink's Treats: Nutty as a Fruitcake
We’re now in full holiday mode – December is officially here. Growing up in the rural South, an integral part of our holiday fare was the – fruitcake!!! All Southern families that I knew had at a fruitcake on a cake stand or in a metal cake tin to offer guests. My mother and aunts actually made them, and it was a process. They would bake them in November, and wrap them in a bourbon or brandy soaked cloth, then place them in a round cake tin, basting them every so often with more spirits. Now, mind you, some of my aunts in North Carolina would never dream of drinking that bourbon or brandy, but they sure soaked that fruitcake in it! By the time mid-December rolled around, the fruitcake was removed and sliced. If a home-baked fruitcake wasn’t a possibility, the next best thing was a Claxton Fruitcake, made by the Claxton Bakery in Claxton, Georgia. They came in a rectangular package, and I must confess – I buy one still to this day to get my nostalgia fix.
So, you guessed it – I love fruitcake, candied fruit, nuts, dates and all. History suggests that they originated in Europe, and became immensely popular in the United States in the early part of the 20th century. When I was growing up, it was very common to give them and receive them as holiday gifts. The mighty fruitcake has been the subject of many a ridicule and the brunt of jokes, and I agree that some are as appetizing as eating a dry brick, but a good, moist, loaded fruitcake is hard to beat. My mother, Fran, loved a shortcut in the kitchen, and began making Fruitcake Cookies in the early 1970’s. These little cookies are delectable and not nearly as time consuming to make as the actual fruitcake itself. So, they soon became a staple in our house during the holidays, and everyone loved them. Mama hasn’t been able to make them in several years, but I have carried on the tradition. I want to share the recipe with you – try them! I know you’ll like them.
Franny’s Fruitcake Cookies (makes about 9 dozen)
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 T. vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
¼ t. salt
1 pound mixed candied fruit
4 cups chopped pecans, toasted
1 cup raisins
1 cup dates, chopped
Preheat oven to 300. Beat sugar and butter at medium speed with a stand mixer (like my Kitchen Aid!) until creamy, and add eggs, one at a time. Stir in vanilla. Mix flour, baking soda and salt and add to butter mixture gradually, beating well. Stir in candied fruit, pecans, raisins and dates. Drop dough by tablespoonsful on lightly greased baking sheets. Bake 18-20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool on wire racks, and store in tightly closed containers – or better yet, an old fashioned metal cake tin! Have a cup of coffee or hot tea, enjoy and think of me and my mama!
Twink’s Tip: Use a fine quality flour- I always use White Lily.
Until next time, be kinder than necessary, and remember that the strongest people are not those who show strength in front of us, but those who fight battles we know nothing about. -Twink