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Love it or hate it, fruitcake synonymous with holidays

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News Worthington, 56187
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Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON — Ask people what they think about fruitcake, and you’ll get a myriad of responses. Some people like it, while others would rather use it as a door stop. Still others make a tradition out of gifting the fruitcake received last Christmas to some poor, unsuspecting relative this Christmas.

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Now, that’s not to say you should beware of all fruitcakes — at least not the fruited bread kind (some people might say they know a few fruitcakes, or freely admit they are one). After all, there are plenty of people who happen to enjoy fruitcake — they even bake it each year for Christmas.

“It’s got such a bad reputation,” said Worthington’s Cathy Buxengard, who recalled hearing stories about uses for fruitcake once on WCCO radio’s Boone & Erickson program.

“They came up with all these things — a door stop, a boat anchor,” she said. “It was just kind of a big joke. I just don’t know where it got that bad reputation.”

Still, when Buxengard was a child, she, too, thought “Oh yuck,” when she saw fruitcake offered up at holiday gatherings.

Then, about 25 years ago, her dad tried a fruitcake recipe offered on the back of a Dixie Fruitcake Mix box. There was a dark version and a light version, and he made the dark version with extra spices and molasses.

“After Dad made this one, we all thought (fruitcake) was really good — especially homemade fruitcake,” Buxengard said.

And thus, a family tradition was born.

Today, Buxengard makes the light version — the recipe yielding one five-pound fruitcake.

“We make it every year for Christmas,” she said, adding that it’s too much for her and husband Bill to eat alone.

She shares the cake with her mom and a couple of neighbors.

“I make it in a 10-inch tube pan,” she said, adding that it’s cut into fourths for sharing.

Like many fruitcake recipes, the one Buxengard uses calls for alcohol — either rum or brandy.

According to online encyclopedia Wikipedia, “Wrapping the cake in alcohol-soaked linen before storing is one method of lengthening its shelf life.”

The site also states that a fruitcake baked in 1878 in Michigan was passed along as a family heirloom and was sampled by Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show” in 2003.

Buxengard said pouring rum over her fruitcake right after it’s removed from the oven makes it taste good.

“The first day we made it … we just had to try it,” she said. “We could tell that the flavors hadn’t quite mingled in yet. The next day, it tasted a lot better.”

Joyce Ebbers uses a fruitcake recipe passed down from her mother-in-law, and it’s a tradition she keeps up each year around this time.

“We’ve been making it for probably 35 years,” she said of the recipe, adding “We’re not real fond of fruitcake other than this particular one.

“It’s just different — it has Brazil nuts, pecans, dates, maraschino cherries, walnuts,” she said.

While the fruitcake has its admirers in the family, Ebbers said not everyone is keen on the fruit and nut-filled bread.

“Most of the fruitcakes, other than this one, use more dried citrus fruits and raisins, and some of them use liquor,” she said. “I’ve just never liked the taste of fruitcake before Ray’s mother made this one.”

Ebbers typically makes a batch using smaller loaf pans so she can give the tasty treat away as holiday gifts.

“When I take it to parties, it’s usually gone,” she added.

Debbie Thompson, of rural Worthington, received her recipe for fruitcake after her husband Dick brought one home as a gift one year.

“(It) was awesome … the only fruit in it was cherries, and I loved it so much I asked for the recipe,” she said. “I only made it once as it cost a fortune, but it was so good.”

Numerous countries around the world have their own version of fruitcake, from Stollen in Germany to Christmas Cake in Japan and Canada, and Panettone in Italy.

Dixie Fruitcake

From Cathy Buxengard

1 pound fruit peel mix

1½ cups chopped pecans

½ cup seedless golden raisins

2¼ cups flour

1½ cups sugar

1 cup shortening or butter

5 eggs

½ cup orange juice or milk

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

1 4-ounce package Glace cherries

1 4-ounce package Glace pineapple wedges

1 ounce rum or brandy

Grease and paper line a 10-inch tube pan. Cream shortening and sugar, add unbeaten eggs slowly, mixing well. Add fruit peel mix, raisins, nuts and orange juice.

Fold in dry ingredients and mix well. Place in pan. Garnish with glace cherries and pineapple. Bake at 275 degrees for 3 hours or until done. While still hot, pour rum or brandy over.

For dark cake: add ¼ c. dark molasses, ½ tsp. each of mace, allspice, cinnamon, and use 1 c. raisins.

Cherry Fruitcake

From Debbie Thompson

1½ cups sifted flour

1½ cups sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 packages (7¼ ounces each) pitted dates

1 pound dried candied pineapple

2 jars (16 ounces each) red maraschino cherries

18 ounces pecan halves (about 5½ cups)

6 eggs

1/3 cup orange juice

½ cup light corn syrup

Grease two, 9- by 5- by 3-inch loaf pans (Debbie uses several mini pans as it makes wonderful gifts).

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a very large mixing bowl, add fruits and pecans and toss until coated. Beat eggs and juice thoroughly, pour over fruit mixture stir until combined. Pour into prepared pans and pack tightly. Bake in 300 degree oven for 1¾ hours or until toothpick comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool in pans for 15 minutes then remove from pan and brush with corn syrup while still warm.

You may substitute green candied cherries for half of the maraschino cherries; and also substitute walnuts for the pecans.

Ebbers Fruitcake

From Joyce Ebbers

1 pound whole pitted dates

1 pound Brazil nuts

1 pound walnuts

Two 10-ounce jars maraschino cherries

1½ cups sugar

4 eggs

2½ cups flour sifted with 1 teaspoon baking powder

Beat the eggs for three minutes with an electric mixer. Add sugar and beat one minute. Add the cherry juice and beat until well mixed. Add remaining ingredients in the order listed. Pour into two bread pans coated with cooking spray and top with pecan halves. Bake at 275 degrees for one and a half hours or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

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Julie Buntjer
Julie Buntjer joined the Daily Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington and graduate of Worthington High School, then-Worthington Community College and South Dakota State University, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. At the Daily Globe, Julie covers the agricultural beat, as well as Nobles County government, watersheds, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework (cross-stitch and hardanger embroidery), reading, travel, fishing and spending time with family. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at www.farmbleat.areavoices.com.
(507) 376-7330
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