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Open Your Mind to the Joys of California Fruitcake

| December 22, 2011
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Arizmendi Bakery of San Francisco makes itty bitty fruitcakes. Now, how intimidating can that be? (Credit: Arizmendi Bakery)

[Editor's note: This is a post by, for, and about fruitcakes.]

[Rachael Myrow's note: No, you are.]

I’ll admit right off the bat: I’m not a natural fan of fruitcake. Every December, when I was growing up, Great Grandpa Irving sent us one in a can. Every December, we chucked it on top of the refrigerator, where it sat until July, when we threw it out. Why we saved it, I don’t know. Maybe we were afraid Irving would visit, in which case we could take it down, dust it off, and offer him a slice.

Perhaps we should have followed the recommendation of “Fruitcake“, the fabulous ode to the holiday staple by the Superions: “If you’re family don’t want it, give to a neighbor!”

Ahead of a fruitcake interview (now, you know what I mean) for the California Report, I did a little research – and discovered quite a lot of them are actually produced in-state. Good fruitcakes. I’m not talking about trans-fat laden “doorstops,” as Evan Kleiman of KCRW’s Good Food aptly put it in that interview.

Robert Lambert of San Rafael makes fruitcakes that travel far beyond California, in the best sense possible. (Credit: Frank Deras)

Yes, Virginia, there are tasty fruitcakes, made with top- notch ingredients by people who know how to bake.  While it is true that fruitcakes are designed to last a long time (because of the preservative qualities of booze), you might actually be tempted to eat these like right away. Please note these are listed alphabetically, not qualitatively:

Finally, Evan Kleiman is a well known Pie Maven in Southern California. So, of course, she has a recipe to offer up.

California Fruit Cake

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

3 extra large eggs

 

3 cups walnut halves and pieces

2 cups dried apricots

1 1/2 cups pitted dates

 

Stuff each pitted date with walnut piece.  Set aside

Sift together the dry ingredients into a bowl:  brown sugar, flour, salt and baking powder.

Add the dried fruit and toss into the sifted dried ingredients until completely coated.  If any apricot halves are sticking together, separate them and coat with dry mixture.

Beat the eggs with fork in a small bowl.  Pour the beaten eggs over the fruit and sugar-flour mixture.  Using a large spoon or your hands mix the egg until a batter forms and you no longer see any specks of flour or sugar.

Grease two small loaf pans and line them with parchment or wax paper. Pack the mixture into the prepared pans, making sure there aren’t a lot of empty spaces created by the fruit.  Place the pans in a baking dish and add boiling water to the baking pan until the water level comes 1/2 an inch up the sides of the loaf pans.  You are creating a bain marie.

Bake at 325 degrees for an hour or until the batter is completely cooked and a toothpick comes out clean.  You might need to cover the pans if the nuts and fruit start to brown too deeply.

Carefully remove the loaf pans from the water bath and place them on a rack to cool.  Slice very thinly with a serrated knife when cakes are completely cooled.

Evan Kleiman of KCRW’s Good Food, in the kitchen, baking pie. (Credit: Bryony Shearmur)

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Category: Berkeley, Food

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About the Author ()

Rachael Myrow hosts the California Report for KQED. Over 17 years in public radio, she's worked for Marketplace and KPCC, filed for NPR and The World, and developed a sizable tea collection that's become the envy of the KQED newsroom. She specializes in politics, economics and history in California - but for emotional balance, she also covers food and its relationship to health and happiness. Reach Rachael Myrow at rmyrow@kqed.org.
  • Fresh Bite Food

    There are even more fabulous fruitcakes made in California.  Our small, artisan food company in Berkeley, Fresh Bite Food, makes two varieties of holiday fruitcakes aged with spirits from the St. George distillery in Alameda.  We also have fruitcakes, Not Your Grandma’s, that we sell year round in retail.