In the Junkyard Tales story "Twelfth Night", Mr. Flinch tells his Junkyard friends about the days after Christmas when he was just a young possum, and how the townspeople would ring bells and gather in the park to sing songs, drink cider, and eat fruit cake. His enticing story sparks the curiosity of both Spiro, the fun loving skunk, and Ben Thompson, the clever cat.
“Do you think it’s still happening?” asks Ben. The unstoppable pair venture out into the weather to see if they can find the reveling townsfolk and sneak some cake. The cold wind and rain nearly dampen their spirits, until they come across an opportunity to discover the true meaning of the Twelfth Night of Christmas.
While Spiro and Ben are motivated to sneak out into frigid weather to attempt to sneak a slice, on the whole, fruit cake has a bad reputation. Because fruit cakes are traditionally “aged” (or preserved with alcohol) one can technically remain edible for years. As such, it’s become a bit of a holiday joke, with famed comedian Johnny Carson even insisting that there has only been one fruit cake in all of history which has just been handed down over the years.
Nonetheless, fruit cake can be quite delicious. Its dark maple-y texture is sweet, but not too sweet. Its slightly boozy essence (don’t worry, the alcohol cooks out) is quietly celebratory. And studded with red cranberries and green pistachios, as below, it can even wear the colors of the season.
In this recipe, the fruit cake is not aged, so it less dense than is traditional. While it makes a wonderful dessert, I’ll confess that—like Spiro and Ben, I often get up to sneak pieces out of the fridge for a late night snack.
Holiday Fruit Cake
¾ cup dried cranberries
¾ cup dried figs, chopped
⅓ cup maraschino cherries, with most of juice drained
¼ cup candied ginger, chopped
⅓ cup whiskey or bourbon
1 stick (½ cup) butter, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
⅓ cup pistachios, roughly chopped
Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 inch round cake pan very well.
In a medium bowl, mix the dried fruit, cherries, candied ginger, and whiskey. Set aside to macerate as you complete the rest of the cake.
Using a stand mixer if you have one, cream together the butter, vanilla, and brown sugar. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet. When those are well incorporated, mix in the eggs one at a time, and then the macerating fruit and its juices. Last, fold in the chopped pistachios.
Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean and the edges are starting to brown. Allow the cake to cool for a few minutes before inverting it onto a cutting board. Give it a good “thunk” on the bottom of the pan to dislodge it, and allow to cool completely before setting it right side up on a serving platter. Serve each piece with a dollop of whipped cream or Greek yogurt.
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About the Author
The Sparkle Kitchen Series is created by Meryl Carver-Allmond.
Meryl lives in a hundred-year-old house near the prairie with her sweet husband, two preschoolers, one puppy, one gecko, and about ten chickens. While she's been writing since she could pick up a pen, in recent years she's discovered the joy of photography, too. She feels lucky to be able to combine those skills, along with a third passion — showing people that cooking for themselves can be healthy and fun — in her Sparkle Kitchen posts.