I can't tell you how many times I have heard the word "fruitcake" and cringed. The nasty candied fruits, that otherwise would have been perfectly wonderful, an over spiced or sometimes under spiced cake filling barraged with an over abundance of NUTS. Not just any nuts...walnuts. Walnuts have never been my favorite and they seem to end up in EVERYthing around the holidays. Fudge, cookies, breads...you name it, someone finds a way to get walnuts in there.
Fruit cake SOUNDS good when you hear the name, unless you have what most people do candied citron, fruits and...the dreaded walnuts. There are two main types of fruit cake; dark and light. I prefer mine dark and I find dark is more moist than the light and retains its moisture longer than light fruit cake does. Since I really hate all the things I just mentioned that you'd normally find in cake...we'll talk more about what you WILL find in my fruit cake. Bing cherries, raisins, dates, pecans, molasses....sounds great already right? Well, lets not prolong the agony...let's get to work!
1 1/4 c. pitted, chopped dates
4 T. unsweetened apple cider
1/2 c. unsulphered molasses
1 c. dried Bing cherries
1 c. raisins
3 1/2 c. unsweetened apple cider
1 c. chopped pecans
3/4 c. vegan buttery spread
1 1/4 c. organic fair trade brown cane sugar
4 large eggs
4 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. baking soda
1 3/4 tsp. sea salt
4 c. flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
*Whatever you have decided on to bake this in, grease and flour the pan now. If you use a bundt pan it needs to be large enough to hold 11 cups of batter. I used my Pampered Chef mini loaf pans, in my case I only lightly greased my pans. Normally they don't require it at all but mine are not very "seasoned" yet.
In a large saucepan, bring to boil 4 c. of unsweetened apple cider. Once boiling toss in your cherries and raisins. Remove from heat to rehydrate. At least 10-15 minutes.
In a very large mixing bowl stir together flour, pecans, cinnamon, ginger, soda and salt. When mixed well, set aside.
In a medium sized saucepan allow dates and 4 T. of unsweetened apple cider to simmer. Simmer until dates loose their shape. Stir in sugar and allow to come to a boil so sugar can caramelize. Remove from heat and add molasses and butter. The date mixture should be much cooler by the time the butter melts, just warm to the touch; not hot. Add in the 4 eggs. Completely incorporate them.
Now comes the easy part. I can do this with a large wooden spoon and I find it works better than using a stand mixer. Pour the date mixture into the flour and stir until MOSTLY incorporated. Add in the cherries, raisins and the juice it was rehydrating in. Stir until your batter is nice and smooth. Pour into your pan. If you use mini loaf pans or individual small aluminum ones, only fill it about 2/3 of the way. This batter rises beautifully, so overfilling will be a mess!
For a bundt cake, bake 75 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. For mini loaves 25-30 minutes or until toothpick clean. Pay attention to smell and color. With this recipe, when you smell it, its done or VERY close! When finished baking, remove to cooling rack and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before removing from the pan.
The bread comes out soft and VERY aromatic; reminiscent of gingerbread cookies. If you aren't a fan of ginger there is NO problem leaving it out of this recipe. But the best secret to this whole thing is keeping the bread moist by rehydrating the fruits and rehydrating them with unsweetened apple cider rather than just boiling water. It adds another element in the background that brings "rustic" to mind in the flavor the apple brings out. I hope this recipe makes you LOVE fruit cake again if you were hating on it. Or if you've always liked it, that this new updated, refreshing, slightly healthier version finds its way into your cookbook as a new favorite!