So, this is the first real recipe out of Hermena’s cookbook. It was not part of the original cookbook but instead, she apparently cut it out and glued (pasted) it in. She even used her pinking shears to cut the edges – and I remember those shears in her kitchen when I was a kid. (I also now have a new pair in my sewing room that I use – predates serger sewing machines and clips a curved seam like magic!)
Because baby Eleanor and I are now gluten free, I’ve updated the recipe and made it gluten free (gf), too. And it still tastes yummy.
And my husband loved it. You should know that he HATES bananas. He tried this voluntarily even though I thought he might be ill for doing so. I never intentionally trick him into eating something I know he doesn’t like. So was very surprised at his trying it AND liking it. That should be sufficient testimony that this is a very yummy recipe!
So, while this may be CALLED fruit cake, it really seems to me to be more of a banana bread with fruit in it. In fact, because of the stigma attached to fruit cakes, I would not tell anyone what the real name is if you make it. :)
That said – what IS a fruit cake? It is a cake made with chopped candied fruit (maraschino cherries) and/or dried fruit, nuts, spices and sometimes soaked in alcohol. It is an old timey recipe and this combination is for a reason – to preserve fruit to eat later.
Long ago, before electricity (or even the internet!) storing food was a problem. Drying fruit worked well but… so does making candied fruit - which is fresh fruit boiled in a sugar syrup – trading the water in the fruit for sugar. High concentrations of sugar prevent bacteria and mold from growing – so the fruit is preserved. With the developement of sugar plantations in the Caribbean in the 1500’s following the western discovery of the new world, sugar suddenly became plentiful and so much cheaper – allowing many more people to preserve their fruit in this manner.
Along these lines, rum is often frequently used in fruit cake. Rum is made from sugar cane juice (sugar cane is a grass – the juice is squeezed out and the sugar is extracted from the juice – so yes, sugar is just grass juice) and because alcohol also stops bacteria and other creepy crawlies from doing their thing on food, it also was an excellent means of food preservation.
So, you combine a whole lot of candied and dried fruits with a flour dough and then soak them in alcohol and you then have an excellent way to preserve food all winter long. Makes you appreciate your local grocery store a bit more now doesn’t it!
On to the recipe…
If you aren’t gluten free, you don’t need to worry about this, but if you are, this is the flour mix that I used.
GF Flour Mix - makes 3 cups
2 c white rice flour
2/3 c potato starch flour
1/3 c tapioca flour
1 t xantham gum
English Fruit Cake – updated
1/2 c coconut oil
1 c sugar
3 bananas, mashed (about 1 1/2 c. mashed bananas)
2 c flour
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
1/2 c nuts, chopped
1/2 c chocolate chips – mini works better
16 oz jar stemless maraschino cherries – chop 2/3 of the jar (about 1/2 c) and slice the remaining in 1/2
Cream together coconut oil and sugar. Add eggs and mix well. Add bananas.
Sift flour, baking soda and salt together and add to batter.
Fold in the nuts, chocolate chips and chopped cherries.
Pour into greased angel food or bunt cake pan. Top with cherry halves. Bake at 350 degrees for about 55 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean.
It really came out well, not terribly tall, but yummy still. Mini chocolate chips will work better – the big ones sank down to the bottom of the cake. Still good though! (I made the first one without adding the cherries to the top – I like the extra ones showing better!)
The second version of this cake baked a bit long… and got a bit dark. Ah well, tasted yummy so no matter!
So, I hope you enjoy this first of many recipes from my Grandma’s cookbook. Have a lovely day!