This time of year, fruitcake might as well be a dartboard. Food snobs and others fling pointed insults.
The sport of fruitcake bashing plays out in December as predictably as Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" will play 1,000 times on the radio.
I confess, I still like "Rockin' " after all these years. And I still have a taste for fruitcake - well, a good one, that is - that dates to my childhood.
Apparently I'm in the minority, though I seem to recall hearing some news earlier this fall about fruitcake being more liked than people were willing to admit. Maybe that was a dream...
However, this column always gets a request for a fruitcake recipe during December and two callers left messages just last week.
Joyce Evans asked for a rerun of an "icebox" (no baking) fruitcake recipe that included a graham cracker crust.
There are many variations on the icebox fruitcake, including version made with melted marshmallows in evaporated milk and others with just sweetened condensed milk. Some recipes call for coconut and/or dates.
Here's one from the archives submitted by Judy Oken of Meggett:
Fruitcake (No Bake)
Makes 3-pound loaf
2/3 cup evaporated milk
2 cups miniature marshmallows
6 tablespoons frozen orange concentrate
4 cups honey graham cracker crumbs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
¾ cup chopped dates
3/4 cup white raisins
1 cup broken walnuts or pecans
¼ cup candied cherries
Splash of bourbon or grape wine
Butter for greasing pan
In a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat, stir together the evaporated milk, marshmallows and the frozen orange juice concentrate. Heat until marshmallows melt. Take off heat.
Stir until well-blended: graham cracker crumbs, cinnamon, nutmeg, dates, white raisins, walnuts or pecans and candied cherries. Add this to the liquid mixture with a little bourbon or grape wine to your taste.
Grease a loaf pan with butter and press crumb mixture firmly into it. Cover tightly.
Note from Judy: "I add grape wine or bourbon each week to flavor and keep moist (just a little)."
Here's a streamlined version from Sylvia Strickland of Goose Creek:
2 (16-ounce) containers Paradise Extra Fancy Fruit Cake Mix
4 cups pecans or walnuts
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (14.4-ounce) box of graham crackers, crushed
11/2 cups raisins
Cut fruit and nuts into small pieces and set aside.
In large mixing bowl, gradually add milk to graham cracker crumbs with a wooden spoon and stir until blended. Add fruit, nuts and raisins. Press into 1 large loaf pan or 2 small loaf pans and refrigerate.
If one desires a dark, old-fashioned fruitcake, they don't come much more "from scratch" than this recipe.
McCall's Famous Christmas Black Fruitcake
1/4 pound citron
1/2 pound candied cherries
1 pound candied pineapple
1 pound golden raisins
1/2 pound seeded raisins
1/4 pound currants
1/2 cup dark rum, brandy or sherry
1/4 pound blanched almonds
1/4 pound walnuts or pecans
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/8 pound candied lemon peel
1/8 pound candied orange peel
1/2 teaspoon mace
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon almond flavoring
1/4 pound butter or margarine
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
To prepare fruits: Cut citron in very thin strips; cut cherries in half; cut pineapple in thin wedges.
Pick over raisins and currants and soak overnight in rum, brandy or sherry. Chop up nuts coarsely.
Grease and line pan or pans with brown paper. Set oven at 275 degrees.
Sift flour. Measure out 1/2 cup by spooning lightly into cup (do not pack or shake down), then mix it with the fruits and nuts in a large bowl. Sift remaining flour again with spices and soda onto wax paper.
Beat eggs slightly; mix milk and almond flavoring.
Cream butter or margarine until soft, with your hands. Gradually work in white sugar, then the brown sugar until fluffy. Stir in eggs, milk mixture and then flour. Mix thoroughly. Pour this batter over fruits and nuts mixture. Mix extremely well.
Using both hands, lift batter into pan. Press down firmly with your palm. Bake (see times below).
For a 10-inch tube pan, fill with batter and bake 3 hours, 15 minutes.
For 9x5x3-inch loaf pans, fill halfway with batter and bake 2 hours, 15 minutes.
Let stand 1 hour after coming from oven before turning out of pan. Then turn upside down on a wire rack and tear off paper.
When stone cold, put cake in crock or tin with sliced, unpeeled apples. Cover tightly and keep cool.
For a magnificent flavor, pour 1/2 cup rum, brandy or sherry over cake every 4 weeks.
Tip: Wrap cakes in bourbon-soaked cheesecloth, refreshing once a week, then wrap in waxed paper and aluminum foil. Keep in refrigerator to ensure smooth slicing.
Who's got the recipe?
Debbie Johnson requests recipes for a pineapple pie and a pineapple cake.
If there's a recipe you've lost or a dish you desire, email food@postandcourier or call Features Editor Teresa Taylor at 937-4886.