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Don’t forsake fruitcake, even if you think you hate it

Taste test » Lovers and haters weigh in on Salt Lake City fruitcakes.

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Taste and texture » This entry had a more "cakelike" texture "sort of like zucchini bread with chunks." But several tasters also found it "too sweet" and a bit "crumbly" — likely due to the whole-wheat flour. (The light version, eaten separate from the test, was not crumbly.)

Fruitcake lovers also said » "It doesn’t taste like the icky fruitcake I remember." "I’m surprised, I actually kind of like it." And "I’m a fruitcake virgin and while I haven’t found love, I’d give it a second try."

At a glance

Finding fruitcake

Mrs. Backer’s Pastry Shop » Sells light and dark fruitcake, the latter made with whole-wheat flour. Both are available for $16 per pound, with most loaves averaging 1 ¼ pounds. Open Tuesday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit mrsbackers.com.

Schmidt’s Pastry Cottage » Sells a dark fruitcake with fruit that’s been soaked in rum and brandy. Sells for $16 per pound, with most loaves averaging 1 ¼ pounds. Three locations: 609 E. 2100 South, Salt Lake City, 801-487-3500; 5664 S. Redwood Road, Taylorsville, 801-967-9760; and 1133 W. South Jordan Parkway, South Jordan, 801-280-7200. Also available inside The Store, 2050 E. 6200 South, 801-274-7150. Visit schmidtspastry.net

Gisela’s Deluxe Fruitcake

“I never could understand all of the jokes about fruitcake,” writes Rick Rodgers in his “Christmas 101” cookbook, “because when I was growing up, I only ate [Aunt] Gisela’s deluxe version, which wasn’t made with the weird colored cherries and artificial booze flavor of commercial brands.”

6 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 ½ teaspoons salt

¾ teaspoon ground cloves

¾ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups packed light brown sugar

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup store-bought applesauce

¼ cup Cognac or brandy, plus another ¼ cup for brushing*

¼ cup dark rum, plus another ¼cup for brushing*

3 cups coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts

1 ½ cups (12 ounces) coarsely chopped glacéed (candied) oranges

2 cups (10 ounces) dark raisins

2 cups (10 ounces) golden raisins

1 cup (8 ounces) coarsely chopped pitted prunes

1 cup (6 ounces) coarsely chopped candied pineapple

1 cup (14 ounces) dried cranberries

Position the racks in the center and bottom third of the oven and preheat to 300 degrees. Lightly butter and flour five 8 ½-by-3 ¾-by-2 ½-inch disposable aluminum-foil loaf pans. Line the bottom of each pan with wax paper.

Sift flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cloves and nutmeg through a wire strainer into a medium bowl.

In a very large bowl, using a hand-held electric mixer at high speed, beat the butter until creamy, about 1 minute. Add brown sugar and beat until light in texture and color, about 2 minutes. One at a time, beat in eggs. Beat in applesauce, ¼ cup Cognac and ¼ cup rum. Using a wooden spoon, gradually stir in flour mixture to make a stiff batter.

In a medium bowl, mix pecans, glacéed oranges, raisins, golden raisins, prunes, pineapple and dried cranberries. (Mixing the fruits first distributes them more evenly throughout the batter.) Stir fruits into the batter until well distributed. Spread batter evenly into the prepared pans, smoothing the tops. Place pans on baking sheets (this makes them easier to get in and out of the oven).

Bake 45 minutes. Switch the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back. Bake just until a wooden skewer inserted in the center of cakes come out clean, about 30 to 40 minutes. Don’t overbake or the cakes will be dry.

Remove from oven and cool in the pans on wire racks for 10 minutes.

Invert cakes onto the racks and peel off wax paper. In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup brandy and ¼ cup rum. Brush the mixture all over the cakes. Set cakes right side up and cool completely.

Wrap each cake in plastic wrap and then aluminum, foil.

The fruitcake must age at least 24 hours before slicing. This allows the flavor to mellow and the fruit and applesauce to give off some moisture into the cake.

For longer aging, store in the refrigerator.

If you like a spirited cake, unwrap the cakes about once a week and brush them with a combination of brandy and rum, allowing 2 tablespoons per cake. Rewrap and continue aging for up to two months.

*Substitute apple juice for the Cognac and dark rum. You also can add ½ teaspoon each brandy or rum extract, or leave them out.

Servings » 5 loaves

Source: “Christmas 101” by Rick Rodgers

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The haters said » "It was better than expected, but that’s not saying much. How this became a Christmas tradition is beyond me." And "This does not inspire me to eat fruitcake in the future."

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