Well, it's gift giving time and I'm having the usual troubles trying to find my Dad a present. He'll get the usual assortment of lottery tickets, and some small items, but I wanted to give him something special. Mind you, we spoiled him rotten for his birthday- the NC trip, a cooler full of meat & seafood, and tickets to NASCAR, WWE, and B B King- so he's not expecting a lot anyway. Mom & I are jointly getting him a new recliner, so that's his big gift.
Anyway, he was bemoaning the fact that nobody sells good fruitckae anymore. I don't believe that there's such a thing as a good fruitcake, but my father apparently loves the stuff. He's gotten them from Harry & David, Swiss Colony, and several other places over the last few years and nothing meets his standard. Nobody knows/remembers where Gramma used to order the ones she sent him. He liked the old Hostess slices, but they haven't made a comeback this year like Twinkies and the snack cakes. So Mom suggested we- meaning I- should make him one.
Do you know how many varieties of fruitcake there are? I had no idea, probably because we didn't cover those when I got my useless baking & pastry degree. I did an online search for recipes and nearly fell off my chair. It makes sense, I suppose. EVERYTHING has variations. Anyway, I eliminated the ones with really weird/exotic ingredients or that required 10+ weeks of marinating in booze. Then I crossed off the ones that called for any liquor other than bourbon or rum. I finally narrowed it down to about 5 recipes- 2 light, 2 dark, and 1 unspecified. (the difference, in case you're wondering, appears to be mostly the type of sweetener used and the variety of fruits. Dark fruitcakes tend to have brown sugar/molasses and more dark fruits like chopped prunes & dates)
After we sent the old coot off to bed last Sunday, I was telling Mom about my search. Turns out Dad likes dark fruitcakes, so that elminated 2 more of my choices. We were debating the merits of the other 3 when Mom bolted up out of her chair and ran to the kitchen. She came back a minute later, grinning from ear to ear, carrying one of her old cookbooks. It's called Platter Parade
and was the Camp Lejeune Oficer's Wives version of a Junior League cookbook. It has a fruitcake recipe that Mom used to make when I was small and was very well liked by the relatives she sent it to. I remember watching one year when I was about 6 and being scandalized that it had RUM in it. (No idea why I thought that was a bad thing)
Anyway, we discovered that it had several fruitcake recipes in it and got discouraged all over again because Mom wasn't sure which one she'd used. And then I dropped the book and the dust cover Mom had made for it fell off...revealing a handwritten index on the inside of the original color with page numbers listed and the notation "YUM!!!"
Sure enough, one of them was the fruitcake! The downside is that it makes a LOT of fruitcakes. 3-4 to be exact.
Then inspiration struck again. Why not make the full batch? I'm going to send one to Aunt Myrtle & Uncle John. One of my coworkers was moaning about trying to find one for her aunt, so she's taking one of them. Dad gets one, and since it keeps well, maybe two.
Next post may be about my adventures in fruitcake baking...