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If your Christmas traditions derive from an Anglophone country, the mention of Christmas cake is probably sufficient to strike fear into your heart, evoking nightmare bricks of fossilized fruit, bound together into a substance so dense it captures passing silverware as moons. My husband's Aunt Doris, however, is German, and comes from an entirely different Christmas baking tradition. This is her fruitcake recipe, and it makes a light (both in texture and colour), somewhat dry cake studded with bits of tasty candied or dried fruit. It's definitely cake-with-fruit, not fruit-barely-held-together-by-cake, and goes very nicely with a cup of tea or coffee, or a glass of some sort of strong drink.

So, here's how it goes:

Preheat your oven to 325°F (160°C). Grease a bundt tin or two 9"x5" (23cm x 13cm) loaf tins (the original specifies a bundt tin, but since I'm usually making these to give away, I bake them in loaves instead) and sprinkle the chopped walnuts in the bottom. Take the dried or candied fruit and toss it with the quarter-cup of flour until all the pieces are well-coated - this coating of flour keeps the fruit from falling to the bottom of the cake while baking.

Then proceed in the usual cake-making manner with the rest of the ingredients: cream together the butter, cream cheese, and sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time, along with the vanilla. Stir in the flour and baking powder (preferably without causing a flour explosion that covers the entire kitchen). Finally, fold in the fruit/flour mixture and scrape the batter into the baking tin(s). Bake for 1hr 20m for a single cake, or 50m to an hour for loaves.

Leave them to cool for about ten minutes or so, then turn them out of the baking tins and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

*I usually substitute some form of liquor for the vanilla; this year I'm using a vanilla-infused bourbon. In past years I've used brandy, applejack, and pear brandy; they all worked out well.

**The original calls for candied fruit. I've always used mixes of dried fruit (apricots, sultanas, dried cherries, dates, etc.) instead.

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