Most people like fruit. Most people like cake. But most people don’t like American style “fruitcake” because it consists of hard fruit like nuggets that are bound together by brown slime like sludge. Dogs will pass on this stuff. If they’re hungry enough they’ll eat it, pass it, and it’ll still look like what you sliced onto your good china.
However, there is light at the end of sludge nugget tunnel and it comes in the form of my grandmother’s coconut flavored white fruit cake. If you go searching in old southern cookbooks (especially ones with a gulf coastal provenance) you’ll find that white coconut fruit cakes make a pretty regular appearance. This is probably because they taste better – question is, why? I think the answer is the interplay between flavor and texture. Because in this cake the cake actually tastes like cake instead of just some sort of wheat based adhesive gluing the fruits and nuts together. So with this recipe the cake tastes good, the fruits taste good and in the end all the ingredients enhance each other. Plus, and this is big, if sliced thin it makes really good toast, even cinnamon sugar toast! And let’s face it. No one has ever made toast, good or otherwise, from slimy fruitcake in a can.
So to get started on the torturous fruitcake prep path I need to make a few things clear. This isn’t exactly like my Grandmother’s cake or any of the cakes in any of the cookbooks I consulted. And if you decide to make it, yours won’t probably be exactly like mine. That’s because mine isn’t exactly like my recipe every time I make it.
As you can see from the shot below there are some macadamia nuts mixed in with the almonds. Although the recipe calls for, and is excellent with almonds as the only nuts, feel free to use walnuts, pecans, macadamias or anything else you fancy. When it comes to the fruits everyone has raisins and pineapple or citron, but I add crystallized ginger and dried apricots because I love them both. And the coconut can be shaved or shredded, sweetened or not, according to your preferences although the shaved makes a nice topping if you are baking it in a tube pan, which brings me to my final point. You can make this in a loaf pan as shown later in the post. It tastes the same but is easier to store and it makes two loaves which is great if you are making it to give as a gift.
The recipe as outlined below is broken up into two sections done over two days. I’ve found that it’s much more enjoyable to do the toasting, snipping, soaking etc… the day or night before, saving the mixing for later. The fruits really need to soak and since the tube pan version of the cake takes at least two hours to cook, doing the prep work the night before is a very good idea.
I included this close up of the crust because it’s the sour cream in the recipe that makes it delicate yet crispy.
- 2½ cups all purpose flour
- ¼ tsp. baking soda
- ¼ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. nutmeg
- ½ tsp. cardamom
- 1 cup butter
- 2 cups sugar
- 6 large eggs, separated
- ½ cup sour cream thinned with 2 tablespoons of water
- 1 small apple, peeled, cored and grated
- 2 tsps. vanilla extract
- 2 tsps. coconut extract
- 1 tsp. almond extract
- 1 cup toasted chopped almonds (or walnuts or macadamias)
- 1 cup toasted coconut (can be grated or flaked, sweetened or not)
- 1 cup candied ginger snipped into small pieces
- 2 cups golden raisins
- 1 cup glazed cherries (red or green)
- 1 cup candied pineapple tidbits
- 1 cup dried apricots, slivered
- rind of one large orange, slivered (abt. ½ cup)
- Day before prep:
- Toast the almonds and coconut on separate cookie sheets in a very slow oven (about 250) till lightly browned.
- Slice the orange rind into strips being careful not to pick up too much of the white pith. Put in a pan with boiling water for a minute or so. Drain and fill pan again with water. Let it come to a boil again for a minute then drain. This gets rid of the bitterness.
- Now put the orange strips, raisins, and apricots into a bowl and fill to the top with bourbon (or other booze of your choice). Cover and let soak overnight in the fridge.
- Day of:
- Grease and flour 10' tube pan. Or grease and line with parchment 1.5 quart loaf pans that have been greased.
- Preheat oven to 325.
- Combine and sift flour, baking powder, salt, and spices. Set aside.
- Cream butter and sugar well, then add yolks one at a time beating well after each.
- Add the extracts.
- Now alternate adding the flour mixture and the sour cream. Beat until completely combined, but don't overbeat.
- Beat the egg whites till they hold a peak. Now fold into the batter until completely mixed.
- Stir in grated apple.
- Drain the raisins & apricots.
- Add the raisins, apricots, coconut, pineapple, orange rind, ginger and almonds to the batter. Make sure the goodies are well distributed. Use your hands and get down in there if necessary.
- Fill pan about ⅔rds full and cook till a toothpick comes out clean. If you make this in a tube pan it will take at least 2 hours. If you use loaf pans it will be about 1.5 hours.