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The ubiquitous Christmas Fruitcake: It is typically dense and baked in a loaf pan (therefore shaped like a brick and heavy enough to serve as a doorstop), usually served in very thin slices (so thankfully one doesn’t have to ingest too much if forced to eat it out of politeness), crammed with nuts and dried fruit (by what stretch of the imagination are hard candied bits of citrus PEEL—the stuff you throw away when you’re eating an orange!—and translucent flavorless bright GREEN cherries considered fruit?), and is sometimes presented to family and friends during the Yuletide season (the gift—or regift—that says “I really don’t like you very much.”)

In the middle ages fresh food was so hard to come by that having some withered pieces of dried fruit in the winter was a treat. Hell, times were hard, plagues were rampant, and having anything to eat was probably a treat! We have better transportation and refrigeration now—we can eat fresh fruit year-round. But traditions are traditions, so here’s my family’s fruitcake recipe. It includes cocoa, does not contain candied peel, and it’s actually pretty good.

Applesauce Fruitcake

  • 2-1/2 cups flour (300 g)
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar (250 g)
  • 1-1/2 Tbs cornstarch (11 g)
  • 2-1/2 Tbs unsweetened cocoa (23 g)
  • 2-1/2 tsp baking soda (23 g)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3 g)
  • 1/4 tsp EACH cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice (1.5 g)
  • 1/2 cup red wine* (120 ml) {I confess: we use Manischewitz Blackberry}
  • 2 cups applesauce (450 g)
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil (160 ml)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (150 g)
  • 4 or 5 rings of dried, sweetened pineapple, chopped*
  • about 6 oz dates, chopped* (175 g)
  • 1 cup dried cranberries (150 g) {or raisins if you prefer}
  • 1 cup dried cherries (150 g) {or glacé red cherries if you really must}

Preheat oven to 350° F (175° C). Prepare one 10 inch tube pan by cutting parchment or waxed paper to fit bottom. Grease pan, insert paper, and grease paper.

Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl; then stir in wine, applesauce and oil. Fold in nuts and fruit. Pour into pan and bake for about one hour, or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean (the center part of the CAKE--not the center of the tube!).

*NOTES: If you don't want to use wine you could probably substitute cherry juice (but I've never tried that); the natural foods section of most supermarkets is a good source for many of the dried fruits; I find it easier to cut these sticky fruits using kitchen shears.

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