Fruitcake gets no respect, at last as a rule. Actually I was fairly fond of the kind my old Kentucky grandma used to make but I never tried to do one myself. However, I came across a really neat recipe in a reproduced old cookbook of traditional Irish recipes. I didn’t get “a round tuit” this year but I have made it a number of times and it is usually well received, a different and unique take on the fruitcake tradition. It is called Barm Brack or “Spotted Cake”
Here is the basic recipe: Following that I’ll talk about some variations I have used.
Source: Winfred Abbe, County Offaly (C: 1900) A simplified version of the traditional yeasted Barm Brack.
The following recipe makes three loaves for 8x4x3 pans.
*1 cup sultanas (blond raisins)
*3 cups raisins
2 1/2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
3 cups black tea (or 1 1/2 cups tea and 1 1/2 cups Irish Whiskey)
Soak fruit and sugar in tea overnight. (use large mixing bowl, cover with a tea towel.)
The next day add alternately: (Mix dry ingredients and add alternately with beaten eggs)
4 cups flour
3 beaten eggs
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp assorted spices to taste
Pour into greased bread pans and bake for 1 1/2 hours at 300o.
When cool, brush with honey to give it a fine glaze.
And some variations:
I like to mix up the fruit or add a few more things. Chopped dates work very well and even some of the dried fruits such as cranberries, blueberries, strawberries etc. but be sure they are cut fine–about 1/4″ size. You can even use some of the more traditional citron but don’t go overboard! In lieu of Irish Whiskey, rum gives a good flavor and even Kahlua or other coffee liqueur. Hmm, probably Irish Cream too!
For gifting, I liked to make it around Thanksgiving and then let the loaves ‘cure’ for a couple of weeks. If you live in a colder climate and have a safe place, you can store them outside or else in the fridge. I wrap them in cling wrap and then foil over that and they will keep for some time. You do have to watch for mold, especially if they are not at near refrigerator temps but kept cool they stay fresh for several weeks. Maybe the alcohol preserves?!
A drizzle of “white sauce” or a light vanilla frosting makes a good topping and it is yummy lightly toasted with coffee or tea for breakfast or brunch. And yes, the absence of any form of shorting is correct and intended! I have also made it using “egg beaters” and with stevia or other artificial sweetener for diabetic friends and family. Just be sure to use one intended for cooking. With those changes it is pretty healthy and not super high-calorie. Happy cooking and feasting!