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Posted on Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 3:30 p.m.

Faux Fruitcake: A fruitcake for those who despise it

By Erin Mann

Erin Mann is baking a new cake every week for a year from the "All Cakes Considered" cookbook and shares her adventures here on Read past columns here.


Comic from the I Hate Fruitcake Hate Page

What’s “hard as a brickbat, sticky as the glue NASA uses on the tiles of the space shuttle, and preserved better than Twinkies?”

If you said, “fruitcake,” you’re absolutely right.

In preparation for this article, I came across an anti-fruitcake website and a Facebook group page devoted to despising this traditional holiday dessert. Poor fruitcake; it gets such a bad rap.

In her book, the "International Dictionary of Desserts, Pastries and Confections," Carole Bloom defines traditional fruitcake as: A rich, buttery, dense, sweet, sometimes spicy batter mixed with a variety of candied fruits and nuts, then baked. It is traditionally baked in a loaf shape or in a tube pan and is made several weeks in advance of serving so it can “mellow,” by being wrapped in cheesecloth and soaked in rum or brandy.

“All Cakes Considered” author Melissa Gray sought to prove all the fruitcake naysayers wrong with Faux Fruitcake, an alternative fruitcake recipe given to her by her aunt.

The dates are the only real fruit in the cake. I bought a container of pitted dates at the grocery store and chopped them myself.

Instead of other fruits, the recipe calls for 1 pound of orange candy slices. I chopped each slice into five pieces. (Try using kitchen shears and occasionally coat with flour to minimize sticky fingers and utensils.)


Unsweetened coconut flakes, chopped orange candy slices and dates are ready to be added to fruitcake batter.

I had plenty of whole milk in the fridge, so rather than buy buttermilk for this cake, I made my own buttermilk substitution. I poured 1 tablespoon of white vinegar into a measuring cup and filled the cup to the 1-cup line with whole milk. The milk will curdle and look kind of gross, but don't worry. If you don’t have white vinegar on hand, Joy the Baker has a great blog post about buttermilk substitutions and suggests using other ingredients like lemon juice, yogurt and cream of tartar.


Caution: Consuming Faux Fruitcake may induce sugar coma.

Erin Mann | Contributor

I baked the cakes in two loaf pans for the recommended 1 hour and 20 minutes. The cakes failed the toothpick test, so I left them in the oven to bake a little longer. In total, the cakes baked for an additional 15 minutes until they tested done.

I finished the cakes by poking the small holes through the top of the cake with a wooden chopstick. I made a simple glaze from orange juice and confectioners sugar and poured it over the cakes, allowing it to soak in before I removed the cakes from the loaf pans. I brushed a little bit of leftover glaze on the sides of the warm loaves.

The orange candies and the brown dates look pretty in a slice of this fruitcake. I found the taste much too cloying and only ate a small piece because it was so sweet.

It’s difficult to slice this cake thinly because of the candy and dates. I recommend cutting a thicker slice and then cutting that in half. Slicing it this way makes a nice hand-held piece to enjoy with a strong cup of coffee or other beverage that will counterbalance the sweetness.

Erin Mann is a lover of all things cake and welcomes your baking wisdom. Email her at or follow her on Twitter. Facebook users can also keep up-to-date with A CAKE A WEEK by joining the group.



Tue, Aug 10, 2010 : 5:52 p.m.

I wish I could find the dromedary candied fruit Fruit Cake recipe. My mother made it. The cake was full of raisins, nuts, plus a reasonable amount of citrus peel and cherries. She soaked the dates and raisins in Mogan David before adding to the batter. She also soaked it several times with the sweet wine too. Sometimes she got some dyed green cocktail cherries to be "festive".

Kathleen Giesting

Tue, Aug 10, 2010 : 3:49 p.m.

I can't imagine putting in orange slices??? I have a recipe from my great aunt for fruitcake that uses only raisins, for which I have successfully substituted dried Michigan cherries. It's unusual in that you boil the raisins first with water and cinnamon and then add baking soda. This is pretty exciting as it all foams up! Then the flour, nuts, etc. go in. The raisins are plump and moist and the cake is not too sweet.