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Golden Fruit and Nut Cake (Don’t Call it Fruitcake!)

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Golden Fruitcake

The word fruitcake immediately conjures images of boozy brown bricks studded with bizarre colored unidentifiable bits of fruit. I am not certain how fruitcake became the culinary oddity that it has become, but doesn’t have to be… What about a golden cake studded with naturally sweet bits of dark amber fruit and rich buttery pecans? Now, that sounds delicious! Read on for more about the fruitcake you actually want to make and eat.  It’s quick, easy, and absolutely delicious.

Golden Fruitcake

DIY Food Gifts

I’m in the gift-giving mindset these days. There is nothing like giving and receiving fresh baked goods during the holidays. And, if you can’t sit with friends and have a nibble and a cup of tea, perhaps the next best thing is making a loaf to give to them.

But don’t call it this a fruitcake.

I texted a friend and said I had a freshly made loaf for her. She shot back, “Oh thanks, I wouldn’t eat it. It’s not my thing.”

Golden Fruitcake

Festive Fruitcake

I get it and she is not alone. Americans malign fruitcakes. How did it go so wrong? Mass production baking ruined fruitcakes. Nearly every country has a type of cake that contains nuts and fruit (and is often liquored up.) Plum pudding in Great Britain, Stollen in Germany, Panettone in Italy, and Black Cake in the Caribbean. Fruit and nut cakes are celebrations! They are packed with valuable ingredients and served at special occasions.

Golden Fruitcake

Christmas Traditions

Traditional fruitcake is not my first holiday dessert of choice, but I’ve been known to enjoy a slice. My grandmother made the traditional fruitcake with the famous oddly colored fruit. She also made fruitcake cookies, bizarre brown blobs, which were decidedly not my thing. Fruitcake is definitely an adult taste, but hell, bathe anything in copious amounts of bourbon and you have my attention. I’ve left the hard stuff in the liquor cabinet for this recipe. It’s so light and moist that it doesn’t need a boozy bath.

Golden Fruitcake

Fruit and Nut Cake

My issue is not with sugared fruit. It is the particular quality of the candied fruit. Proper candied fruit from Provence such as Lilimand Confiseur is an incredible work of art. The grocery store fruit has an abundance of color but no real flavor. I far prefer more simple cakes – dried fruit on its own is naturally sweet — and clearly more wholesome and natural.

Golden Fruitcake

Tea Time

Given the time of year, I wanted to create a recipe that would be something nice for breakfast, dessert, or a cup of tea in the afternoon. However, one small loaf is all I need or want around the house! Given this year with everyone needing a bit of kindness, I thought it would also make a thoughtful gift.

Golden Fruitcake

Fruit Ratio

I’ve designed this recipe to take about a cup of dried fruit. Any less it’s not really fruit cake and any more inhibits the gluten formation and you’ll have a crumbly cake. I normally have on hand raisins, dates, and prunes. You can also use dried apricots, mango, cranberries, cherries, and more. You can use all of one fruit, even plain old raisins, but I like to use a blend. One baker’s tip, when I am using a mixture of dried fruit I nearly always love to add candied ginger or candied orange for a sweet-tart pop of bold flavor, as well. The choice is yours.

Golden Fruitcake

Danish Whisk

I wanted to create a quickbread that was super easy and quick to toss together, no mixer needed. Mama gave me a Danish whisk a few weeks ago — and I love it! It works like a charm. I will tell you I am not into random cooking tools and toys so I was quite dubious. However, it worked great and was a snap to clean. The way the wire part is built allows for the dough or batter to pass through easily. I was shocked!

Stay safe. Please let me know if you try my Golden Fruit and Nut Cake. It’s only about 3 points a slice for the mini loaf! Thanks so much for reading.

Bon Appétit, Y’all

Virginia Willis

Golden Fruitcake

Golden Fruit and Nut Cake

Makes 1 loaf or 4 mini loaves
Prep Time8 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Appetizer, bread, cake, Dessert
Cuisine: American, Southern
Keyword: angel food cake, dessert, fruitcake, holiday dessert
Author: Virginia Willis

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup mixed dried fruits of your choice
  • 1/4 cup pecans

Instructions

  • Heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease r 4 5" x 3" mini loaf pans or 1 9" x 5" loaf pan o. Place the butter, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, salt, and vanilla in a bowl, and beat till smooth.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour, stirring to combine. Stir in the applesauce.
  • Stir in the fruits and nuts.
  • Spoon the batter into the prepared pans, smoothing the top. Bake the cakes until they pull away from the sides of the pan and an instant read thermometer registers 205°F, about 30 minutes for the smaller loaves and 60 for the larger loaf. (You may need to cover the larger loaf in foil at the end of baking.)
  • Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool slightly. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

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Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis’ biography includes making chocolate chip cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraging for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvesting capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and hunting for truffles in France. She is talent and chef-instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen. Her segments feature authentic and innovative Southern cooking. She was the celebrity chef at the Mansion at Churchill Downs for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Virginia has spoken at SXSW, cooked for the James Beard Foundation, and beguiled celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman, and Jane Fonda with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Recently, her work has been inspired by her weight loss success story, Virginia has lost 65# and kept it off for over 1 1/2 years! “If a French-trained, Southern chef can do it, you can, too.” She is the author of Fresh Start; Secrets of the Southern Table; Lighten Up, Y’all; Bon Appétit, Y’all; Basic to Brilliant, Y’all; Okra; and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all won a James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence in the Focus on Health Category. Lighten Up, Y’all as well as her first cookbook, Bon Appétit, Y’all, were finalists in the Best American Cookbook for the International Association of Cookbook Awards and were also named by the Georgia Center of the Book as “Books Georgians Should Read.” She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, People Magazine, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, GRLSQUASH, Culture, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.” Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude, approachable spirit, and traveling exploits. Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in content creation, recipe development, culinary editorial and production services, cookbook writing, media training, spokesperson and brand representation, and public speaking. Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board, as well as the Community Farmers Market Advisory Board. She is a food and hunger advocate for No Kid Hungry and a premier member of the No Kid Hungry Atlanta Society. She a member of The James Beard Foundation, Chef’s Collaborative, Georgia Organics, and Southern Foodways Alliance.

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