A Family Tradition is Carried On
Today is National Fruitcake Day. Fruitcake was never something that I remember being included in our holiday traditions when I was growing up. My first memory of fruitcake came when I had my first full-time job after going to college and business school in the early 1970s. (Yes, I know, that was a long-long time ago. 😉 ) The office I worked in started getting holiday gifts from customers a few weeks before Christmas and in the mix of calendars and chocolate and trinkets were many boxes of fruitcake. I remember that the fruitcakes were nicely boxed and shipped by companies who specialized in making their style of fruitcake. None of them were homemade, that I recall. Some of my co-workers took them home to share as many of them included fruitcake in the treats they served along side fudge, divinity and other once-a-year treats that were traditions in their families.
Although fruitcake was not part of the holiday traditions in my family when I was growing up, on my husband’s side of the family there was something similar to fruitcake–raisin cake bread. Every Christmas season my mother-in-law would start the process of baking it in bulk, wrapping different size loaves into gifts for friends and family. For many years she kept the recipe a secret, until giving it to her daughter and later her grand-daughter. When a family cookbook was published, she included this recipe in it so we could all have the recipe, but I no longer have the cookbook.
This holiday when I opted to make some banana bread to share with family, my husband mentioned (yet again) that he really missed his mom’s raisin cake bread. (Sadly, Mike’s mom passed away in January 2010 so the raisin cakes she made for Christmas 2009 were the last that Mike had enjoyed this family tradition.) I immediately texted our daughter and she sent me the recipe from memory within minutes. I made one loaf right away and he has been enjoying it each night since!
(Thank goodness as I was putting the recipe together, I thought to text Mikki a second time as she hadn’t included the sugar when she texted it to me. Can’t even begin to imagine how it would have tasted minus that ingredient?)
Later, Mikki texted me a copy of the page the recipe is on in that family cookbook. And here it is:
You might notice that the recipe calls for a cup of water or cold coffee. Can you guess which I used? (I actually had a glass container in the frig with leftover espresso so I used that. Coffee IS mandatory!)
As you can see in the recipe above, it calls for a 1/2 cup of shortening to make two loaves of the bread, but I substituted coconut oil for the shortening in my version of this family recipe.
Honestly I haven’t used shortening in my household for a long, long time; coconut oil is a great substitute for shortening and much healthier. This is the coconut oil I have been using since we moved back to Spokane. http://amzn.to/2iyE7W6 This large container of organic virgin coconut oil lasts me a long time and I use it often. (It makes amazing popcorn!)
For the nuts in this recipe I used walnuts because that is what we prefer and I keep a bag of them on hand for baking. I also use parchment paper, which means I can eliminate the greasing/flouring part of the recipe.
The loaf I made using my substitutions turned out exactly as my husband remembered it from years past, so I would say it was a success.
Give this recipe a try of you have ever wanted to make a “frugal fruitcake”. It would be a great way to celebrate National Fruitcake Day!
PS Here is an interesting fact that is related, in a small way, to National Fruitcake day, as fruitcake not only has a variety of fruit in it, but also nuts. According to the National Day Calendar website:
- In 1935, the expression “nutty as a fruitcake” was coined during the time Southern bakeries, Collin Street and Claxton, had access to cheap nuts.
😉 😉 😉
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