Cakes made with dried fruit, nuts and honey have been around forever, and to this day, just about every culture has its own version like panettone served in Italy, stollen in Germany and black cake in the Caribbean.
The fruitcake we've come to know -- and not love -- has its origins in Roman times (made with pomegranate seeds and pine nuts), and resurfaced with added ingredients like honey, nuts and preserved fruit in the Middle Ages. Admit it; some fruitcake you've had may have tasted like it was made in the Middle Ages!
The issue with commercially-made fruitcake today is that it is very different from the type that was made back in the day (fruitcake reached its height of popularity in Victorian England and was super-rich and supposedly tasty). The bad batches you've had were probably dry, hard and included unidentifiable, funky dried fruits.
To help change your mind about holiday fruitcake and maybe even start a new tradition with your family, SheKnows has a few favorite fruitcake recipes to share. With added twists on the traditional fruitcake, including a Christmas stollen recipe, you'll be sure to love these!
Christmas stollen recipe
Jen Klein shares her stollen recipe with SheKnows, and emphasizes that quality ingredients are what make this bread so tasty. This fruitcake recipe makes two very large loaves, three large loaves, four medium loaves or six small loaves.
Serves 12 people
11 cups flour, plus extra for kneading
3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon mace
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups milk
1-1/4 cups unsalted butter
3 packages active dry yeast dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water
6 eggs, lightly beaten
10 ounces currants, soaked overnight in 1/2 cup brandy
15 ounces golden raisins, soaked overnight in 1/2 cup orange juice
8 ounces candied citron, diced
4 ounces candied orange peel, diced
4 ounces dried apricots, diced
10 ounces blanched, slivered almonds
Grated zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup melted butter
In a saucepan, heat the milk and butter over low heat until the butter melts. Be careful, however, not to let the milk scald or boil. Let cool.
Sift together the flour, sugar, salt, mace and nutmeg. Stir in the milk and melted butter. Add the yeast and eggs, stirring, and then kneading, until fairly smooth, about 10 minutes.
Add in the dried fruits (including any liquid from the soaking), and knead until the fruits are incorporated and the dough is smooth, about 10 minutes, adding more flour if the dough is sticky (it will be quite moist, however). Don't skimp on the kneading time! The more you work at developing the bread during kneading, the less additional flour you will need.
Butter a large bowl, and place the dough in it. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 1-1/2 hours. Punch down.
Cut the dough evenly into the number of loaves you plan to make. Roll each piece into a rectangle. Brush the surface of this rectangle with a generous amount of butter. Fold one edge of the rectangle to just past the center, and then fold the other edge, overlapping the first by about an inch. Taper the ends.
Place on a parchment lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and let rise again until doubled, 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake stollen 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown.
After the stollen has cooled for about an hour, dust with powdered sugar -- but not too much. Dust on a little more before serving.
Christmas fruitcake muffin recipe
Moist and perfectly portioned, these mini fruitcakes will tempt your taste buds and will bring on the holiday cheer!
This fruitcake muffin recipe makes 60 mini-muffins or 30 large muffins
1 stick butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 small eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup pear or fig preserves (or your flavor of choice)
1/2 pound candied pineapple
1/2 pound candied cherries
1/2 cup dates, chopped
1 cup nuts, chopped
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease muffin tins. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar and beat in eggs one at a time. Mix in salt, baking soda, almond extract, vanilla extract and preserves.
Put fruit and nuts in a bowl and dredge in about half the flour. Add fruit, nuts and flour to batter and fold in the rest of the flour. Pour batter into muffin tins and bake 15 minutes for standard-sized muffins or 10 minutes for mini-muffins.
Christmas fruitcake brownies with cream cheese frosting recipe
Brownies as fruitcake -- what could be better? The added chocolate and frosting makes this fruitcake recipe something Santa might stick around for!
Makes 24 brownies
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2-1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
9 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1-1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 large eggs
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
1/3 cup chopped dried figs
1/3 cup chopped pitted dates
1/3 cup dried sour cherries or dried currants
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
Walnut halves (optional)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a rectangle pan with butter or cooking spray. Combine one cup butter and chocolate in a medium pot. Heat and stir until melted. Let cool to room temperature.
Beat sugar and three eggs in a large bowl. Mix in chocolate and vanilla extract. Combine one cup of flour, baking powder and salt in a second bowl. Fold flour mixture into chocolate mixture and then stir in nuts and fruit.
Pour batter into pan and bake 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool. Meanwhile, to make frosting, beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla together. Beat in sugar.
When brownies are cooled, spread frosting on top of brownies. Top with walnut halves if desired.
This year, break out the holiday cheer! These new fruitcake recipes will be sure to banish bad fruitcake with the ghosts of Christmas past!
Watch: How to make eggnog
What's the holiday season without a glass of creamy eggnog?