Friday, December 06, 2013

Pecan date fruitcake

pecan date fruitcake

How do you feel about fruitcake? For some, it’s a cherished Christmas tradition but for others it’s more of a joke. We’ve all heard the one about the 20-year-old fruitcake that people keep giving away.

There are several different types of fruitcake. There are those that are so loaded with dried fruit and nuts that you need a tall glass of milk to make it through a slice. Then there are the fruitcakes that that have been soaking in spirits since the summer, and one juicy bite makes you feel crazy and wild. There are sticky fruitcakes and dry fruitcakes, heavy fruitcakes and light fruitcakes. If you think you you’re not a fan of fruitcake, just keep looking, as I’m sure there’s at least one out there that you might like.

In my family, fruitcake doesn’t play too prominent a role, as it’s usually shuffled to the side, hiding behind all the tins and platters filled with cookies, candies, crunchy snacks, and other types of cake. But it wasn’t always this way.

pecan date fruitcake

When I was writing my new book and going through my great-grandmother Blanche’s letters, she would mention fruitcake often. She’d either be baking one and then sending it to someone in the mail, or a friend of hers may have dropped by for a visit and brought fruitcake as a gift.

As I was looking through her papers I found a recipe for fruitcake she attributed to her friend Mrs. Ollie Edwards. I never met Mrs. Edwards but I did know her husband, a man I called Mr. Edgar. He was a neighbor who helped my great-grandma plant her crops, and I have fond memories of him driving around her farm on his tractor, always quick to offer a kind word or a big smile.

Now, Mrs. Edwards’ fruitcake was unusual in that there weren’t any eggs, oil, or leavenings. Instead, it was simply dates, pecans, and coconut all held together by a bit of flour and some sweetened condensed milk. When I asked my grandma about it, she said this fruitcake wasn’t my family’s usual one, but as the recipe was in my great-grandmother’s collection, I assumed as some point it had been made. I was curious and decided to try it.

The results were not what I was expecting. Instead of being a soft cake studded with fruit, this pecan date fruitcake was chewy, gooey, and yet a little crisp. Are you a fan of dolly bars? Well, then this is the fruitcake for you. While this dessert is a bit more virtuous as it’s filled with dates instead of chocolate chips, it’s just as good. And while the basic recipe is fine on its own, to make it even more seasonal I added some orange zest, cinnamon, and ginger.

What I like about this pecan date fruitcake is that it tastes decadent but also healthy, the latter enabling you to eat more than one slice without feeling too guilty. For instance, as I baked mine up in a Texas-shaped pan, I soon found that I’d eaten most of the Panhandle and was well on my way to finishing up everything between Lubbock and El Paso, but because it’s full of wholesome ingredients like dates and pecans, I didn’t feel too bad.

pecan date fruitcake

This is definitely not a traditional fruitcake, though for some I suppose that will be a virtue not a fault. Though welcoming flavors aside, I believe my favorite thing about this pecan date fruitcake is that it was a recipe shared between two friends, perhaps as they sat at my great-grandmother’s table enjoying a slice or two. And for me, being with those that you love is what truly makes the holidays a delicious time of year.

Pecan date fruitcake

Ingredients:
4 cups chopped dates
2 cups chopped pecans
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease and flour or line with parchment paper a 9-inch baking pan (square, round, or Texas shaped) or a 9x5 loaf pan.

In a mixing bowl together the chopped dates, pecans, coconut, flour, orange zest, salt, cinnamon, and ginger until well combined. Pour in the sweetened condensed milk, and stir until a thick, sticky batter forms.

Spread the fruitcake batter into the baking pan and then bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes or until the top is lightly brown. Be careful not to over bake it, as it will harden as it cools. Allow to cool for 30 minutes before slicing. The cake can keep in an airtight container for several days. It also freezes well.

Yield: 16 servings

Note: I used unsweetened coconut because I didn’t want my fruitcake to be too sweet, but if you prefer a sweeter cake, either use sweetened coconut or perhaps add a little sugar to taste.

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24 comments:

DessertForTwo said...

This sounds like a fruitcake that even I would eat.

Have you ever had a fruitcake from Collins Street Bakery? My aunt was good friends with the owner, and we'd get one every year as a gift. I wasn't crazy about it as a kid, but I love it now :)

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

DessertForTwo--You know, I haven't had the Collin Street Bakery one since I was a kid and I can't remember if I liked it or not. I should get one when I'm home at the end of the month!

Anonymous said...

My mil from Louisiana always sent us a Collin Street bakery fruitcake for XMas So delicious. Now that she is gone, it doesn't feel right ordering one for our gatherings without her, but, this recipe looks like a suitable substitute for this holiday.... Thanks!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Anon--You're welcome!

purplerangerfood said...

I love fruitcake. For as long as I can remember, my mom has made fruitcake cookies every year for Christmas.

As for me, I came up with a fruitcake brownie recipe several years ago. Take your favorite dried/candied fruits (apricots, pineapple, cherries, whatever) and soak them in bourbon and/or rum. After they've soaked for 24 to 48 hours, add to your favorite brownie recipe, along with some chocolate chips (I prefer those to nuts), and bake.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Purpleranger--Those sound good!

Vicky Lynn said...

My grandmother (in Waxahachie, TX) makes this fruitcake every year. Or, she used to. She'll be 90 in February and is no longer interested in making 50 fruitcakes to pass out at church, lol. Other than your additions of zest and spices, her recipe was nearly identical. It is the only fruitcake I like and am not above stealing family members' cakes if left unguarded.

Peggy W said...

I grew up with fruitcakes and this is one of the recipes that graced our table but I had forgotten all about it until now. Thank you! I've recently started working my way through the collection of recipes my mom gave me as a wedding present 23 years ago. They are a collection of the dishes I grew up with as well as a few she added to her repertoire after I left home. Somehow we got in a rut of only making certain recipes so now my family is getting to experience a bit of the diversity of my childhood. And this fruitcake will definitely be added to the growing list of recipes to make this Christmas!!

Thank you!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Vicky Lynn--That's a great story!

Peggy W--What a great idea for a wedding gift!

Liz said...

I made this, this morning...kind of. I had to make a number of substitutions:

Currants and dried cranberries for the dates
crystallized ginger for the powder (this was my choice as I had fresh crystallized and thought it would be good)
Meyer lemon zest for the orange zest

and the kicker, I did not have sweetened condensed milk but found this: http://www.justapinch.com/recipes/dessert/cake/substitute-for-sweetened-condensed-milk.html?cpage=2#comments

The condensed sub mix was easy and the cake is wonderful!

I'm guessing this would work with any dried fruit and nut as well, but I do want to make the date & orange version as written. I will keep the crystallized ginger and condensed milk sub, though.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Liz--That was fast! I love your substitutions--I can't wait to try it with cranberries and crystallized ginger.

Susan Chambless said...

My mother used to make a fruitcake that I liked. It was a date nut bread to which she added candied fruit. No citron, though. I hate citron - can't imagine why anyone would like it. I think I would like this recipe or the original date nut bread recipe better, though. All the candied fruit is a little much.

Liz said...

Lisa,

This looked and sounded SO good - I would have made it last night but didn't think to look up if there was a substitute for sweetened condensed milk until late.

I know you probably know but I also looked up quantity equivalent for the crystallized ginger and found sources saying 1/2 cup crystallize ginger for 1 tsp ground ginger. I actually made 1/2 the cake recipe as I wasn't sure about the sweetened condensed alternate and didn't want to spend too many pecans if it didn't work... so I used 1/8 cup (heaping!) crystallized ginger for 1/4 tsp powdered.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Susan--I agree--a ton of candied fruit is a bit much for me, too.

Liz--Thanks for the conversion amount--I did not know that!

Anonymous said...

I have a nearly identical fruit cake recipe. The difference is that mine includes 7 egg whites and 1 whole egg. I have been using dried chopped dates. They come chopped and really dry from the bulk food store here in Canada. You might not need the whole egg if you can't find the really dry pre chopped dates.

Unknown said...

Made this today. Very good and so easy. Baked it in
9x9" square pan 25 minutes and it was perfect.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Anon--Do the egg whites make it an airier dessert?

Unknown--So glad you enjoyed it!

Anonymous said...

I guess you are from the Houston area so you probably never heard of the fruitcake that is well known in the Ft Worth area; the Aronowitz Fruitcake. It has a very interesting history and is named after the now deceased Mr Aronowitz who made them for years and gave them away to friends. The recipe was published every year in The Ft Worth Star Telegram and I have made it a number of times over the years. The recipe is available on a lot of internet search engines.

Rocky Mountain Woman said...

I'm not much of a fruit cake fan, although I have been called a fruit cake on occasion....

this one looks worthy of a try though so try I will!

Shelley said...

If I were open to being swayed on the topic of fruitcake, that post would do it!

But I'm not.

Becky said...

Looks yummy! My question is...where did you get that awesome Texas shaped pan? :)

Anonymous said...

I have the Same question as Becky. I need one of those!

Anonymous said...

When in Texas, I loved the Texas Manor fruit cake. Surprise, I think they were out of Missouri - maybe. But it was wonderful, with dried cherries, pineapple, and I think maybe coconut. Haven't thought of those in years! But they changed my mind about fruitcake, and this looks like a delicious recipe. Gonna have to give it a try - THANKS!

Schteveo said...

I love fruit cake, grew up eating fruit cake and I'll most assuredly make this cake.

However, I'm writing to say...I have GOT to get me a Texas Cake Pan!!! That's a cool pan, and I'm not even FROM Texas...yet.

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