It is National Fruitcake Month, but does anyone really care? Do you even like fruitcake? The earliest recipe from ancient Rome lists pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, and raisins that were mixed into barley mash. In the Middle Ages, honey, spices, and preserved fruits were added. Soon, fruitcakes were being made all over Europe, and soon reached America.
Wikipedia says that "In the United States, the fruitcake has become a ridiculed dessert, in part due to the mass-produced inexpensive cakes of questionable age. Some attribute the beginning of this trend with The Tonight Show host Johnny Carson. He would joke that there really is only one fruitcake in the world, passed from family to family."
You might like these versions, and the ice-box one is pretty good.
1 lb walnuts or pecans
1/2 lb. pitted dates, sliced, or golden raisins
8 oz. crystallized pineapple
8 oz. candied red cherries
8 oz. green glazed cherries
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
4 whole eggs
Line bottom of tube pan with two greased layers of waxed paper, and grease sides of pan; or use two loaf pans or eight mini-loaf pans, bottom and sides lined with two greased layers of waxed paper.
Cut pineapple and red and green cherries in half; cut dates in 3 pieces. Using hands, combine pineapple, cherries, dates or raisins, and nuts in a large bowl. Add sugar, mix well, and set aside for 10 minutes.
Beat egg and vanilla until light and fluffy; pour over fruit and nut mixture. Using hands, mix well. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Pour on above mixture until syrupy, again, using hands.
Preheat oven to 275. Add cake mixture evenly to pans and pack down tightly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean, approximately 90 minutes for a tube pan, 75 minutes for 2 loaf pans; and check starting after an hour for mini-loaf pans.
Remove cake from oven, cool slightly, and remove waxed paper while still warm.
Ice Box Fruitcake
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chopped raisins
1 (4 oz.) jar maraschino cherries, drained and chopped
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12 oz.) package vanilla wafers, crushed
In a medium bowl, stir together the pecans, raisins, walnuts, cherries, condensed milk and vanilla wafers. Dough will be very thick.
Form dough into a ring shape on top of a dinner plate. Wrap in many layers of plastic wrap and/or aluminum foil. Allow to age in the refrigerator for at least a week.
Tip: If fruitcake seems dry or overdone, sprinkle with a little water and wrap.