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Stop making bad fruit cake ... make Way Better Than Fruit Cake

Posted by by Bea James, senior manager of organic, natural and sustainable programs
Friday, December 6, 2013

OK, so normally I blog about organic, natural and sustainable stuff, but I’ve learned over the years that NO ONE wants to hear about it during the holidays (except maybe me…and my hardcore environmental friends…and people looking to find support for eating a Tofurkey). But this year I’m going to tell you how to make a fruit cake that breaks the mold and will wow your guests. I promise.

What am I doing writing about a spectacular fruit cake? Well in my prior life I was a pastry chef and baker. I’m mostly self-taught, which by my standards is often the true training grounds of some of the best bakers and chefs I know, like Maida Heatter.

I studied under Maida Heatter, who’s also a self-taught baker and an author of seven amazing baking books that I highly recommend for anyone looking for tried and true baking recipes. My favorite book of hers is Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts. This book will make an awesome holiday gift for those who love to bake.

In the 80s, I baked my way through some of the best bakeries in Portland, including Papa Hydens, where I mastered the baconna dolce (a three layered Italian meringue masterpiece filled with whip cream, berries and ganache). Here is my son ogling over a slice.

I’ve also opened and operated my own bakery called Hands On Baking, where I made mostly breads and gourmet cookies, but I also made desserts on the side for a three-star restaurant. It was here that I created Way Better Than Fruit Cake. This recipe is basically a mixture of buttery shortbread cubes, brandy soaked cherries and apricots, and toasted pecans enrobed in…wait for it…wait for it…chocolate truffle. Yes, chocolate truffle!

It’s amazing, rich and decadent. Everything a fruit cake wants to be, but by nature never will be. Sorry fruit cake, I love you for your years of ceaseless efforts towards self-improvement, but let’s face it, you are fruit cake and always will be. It’s ok, be yourself.

This cake works well as a gift, dinner party dessert or with champagne for that special New Year’s celebration for two. Enjoy, and may the New Year bring you sweet and wonderful memories.

Way Better Than Fruit Cake

  • 1 ¼ cups Hope butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon real vanilla
  • 1 ¼ cup Bob’s Red Mill Unbleached White Flour
  • ¾ cup Myer Rum
  • 1/3 cup dried apricots, diced
  • ¼ cup dried cherries
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 8 oz. (1 cup) Guittard Real Semi-Sweet chocolate chips
  • ¼ cup Organic Valley heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon rum from soaked dried fruit
  • ¾ cup pecans, coarsely chopped and lightly toasted

Preheat oven to 350. Line cookie sheet pan with parchment. In mixer with paddle attachment, cream ¼ cup butter, ¼ cup sugar and vanilla. Scrape down sides. Slowly add flour and mix until all ingredients come together. Roll out on parchment lined cookie pan to ½ thick rectangle. Cut dough into ½ inch little squares and separate on parchment prior to baking. Bake for 12 minutes until cubes are golden brown around edges. Cool completely.

In a noncorrosive small sauce pan, lightly heat rum with dried fruit. Rum should not come to a boil. Remove from heat and let rest for 1 hour at room temperature. (Can be made in advance and held in refrigerator for up to a day.)

In your clean mixer with paddle attachment, cream 1 cup butter, scraping down sides and combining until smooth. While butter is mixing proceed to next step.

In small sauce pan combine 2/3 cup sugar and water. Bring to simmer and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add chocolate chips, whisking until all chocolate is melted and smooth. Wisk in heavy cream and rum. Cool slightly.

Slowly add chocolate base to butter mixture scraping down sides until well combined and smooth.

Drain remaining rum from dried fruit. Fold pecans, dried fruit and 1 heaping cup of shortbread cubes into chocolate mixture. Line two small bread pans (6inches long by 3 inches wide by 2 inches deep) with plastic wrap. Divide batter into two pans and cover with plastic. Refrigerate for 24-48 hours. This fruitcake must be kept refrigerated at all times and can keep refrigerated for up to a week.

Before serving, remove Chocolate Fruit Cake from pan and discard plastic. Dust with cocoa powder and serve with fresh raspberries on the side (optional).

*Hint for cutting: heat knife under hot water first so knife is warm when cutting chocolate fruit cake.

Tags: fruit cakeholiday

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