There are many desserts associated with the holidays, but perhaps the most well-known is fruitcake.
As with any dish passed down through many generations, the likelihood for refinement is equal to the propensity for decay. When made badly, fruitcake resembles a bran-colored sidewalk paver, studded with neon green and red jellied cherries. The texture, to quote the song “Grandma’s Killer Fruitcake” can be “denser than a drove of barnyard turkeys, tougher than a truck-load of all beef jerky, dryer than a drought in Albuquerque.”
Luckily, a few bakers have attempted to redeem fruitcake’s tarnished reputation. These saviors went back to the basics, replacing key ingredients with higher-quality substitutes and exploring creative fusions. We combed the web for the best upgraded recipes. Here are our top picks for you to try out:
An Honest Fruitcake
An Epicurious blogger sought to reinvent her mother’s ill-fated fruitcake recipe. She swapped candied fruit peel and jellied cherries for a medley of dried pineapple, dates, figs, cranberries, and papaya. She also recommends soaking the fruits in a sweet table wine the night before to give them a softer texture.
On a bright Hawaiian Christmas Day, say Mele Kalikimaka. The holiday phrase goes well with a slice of Tropical Fruitcake. This Food.com user has created an island-inspired variation of fruitcake. The recipe contains mix-ins inspired by the islands, like macadamia nuts, candied ginger, and rum.
Cocoa can be a great way to redeem this often-maligned dessert. Food Network’s Nigella Lawson combines orange zest, cocoa powder, coffee liqueur, and ground almonds to create an ultra-rich Chocolate Fruitcake. For an added bling effect, you can garnish the loaf with chocolate-covered espresso beans and edible gold dust.
One of these varieties is bound to turn initial grimaces into satisfied smiles. You might even have a couple guests ask, “Hey, where did you find this recipe?” We won’t reveal your secret!