I’ve always loved handmade fruitcakes: rich, dark, complex flavors just get better as the weeks of sprinkling with brandy pass. When we first began eating a plant-based diet, I thought that holiday fare might be less than festive, but upon looking closely at my favorite fruitcake recipe, I found that creating a compliant treat was easy—mashed bananas or applesauce create enough moisture to replace the butter, and flax eggs create enough binding to replace hen’s eggs. Voila! Fruitcake is back on the menu!
Vegan Christmas Fruitcake
Yield: One 9″ loaf
(make at Halloween, or 3 weeks before Christmas at the latest)
1 cup golden raisins*
1 cup currants*
1/2 cup dried cranberries*
1/2 cup dried blueberries*
1/2 cup dried Montmorency cherries*
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped*
Zest of one lemon, chopped coarsely
Zest of one orange, chopped coarsely
1/4 cup candied ginger, chopped
1 cup rum (or brandy, bourbon, Grand Marnier, or port)
—Alternative: 3/4 cup strong coffee, orange juice, or apple cider
1 tablespoon molasses
3/4 cup muscovado brown sugar
2.5 ounces pureed banana or 5 ounces applesauce
1 cup unfiltered apple cider or orange juice
4 whole cloves, ground (1/4 teaspoon ground)
6 allspice berries, ground (1/4 teaspoon ground)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 flax eggs **
1.5 cups toasted walnuts, broken (or walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, pine nuts…or a mix)
Brandy or cognac for basting and/or spritzing
Combine fruits, candied ginger and both zests. Add rum and macerate overnight.
Place macerated fruits and any leftover rum in a non-reactive pot with the molasses, brown sugar, banana or applesauce, juice, and spices. Bring mixture to a boil stirring often, then reduce heat and simmer for 7 minutes. Remove from heat and cool until room temperature (This can take over an hour. I pour everything into a lasagna pan for more surface area.).
Batter can be completed up to this point, then covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before completing cake.
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Place a sheet pan of boiling water on a lower shelf in the oven to prevent the fruitcake from cracking too much while baking.
Combine dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder) and sift into fruit mixture. Quickly bring batter together with a large wooden spoon, then stir in flax eggs until completely integrated, then fold in nuts. Spoon into a 9-inch non-stick loaf pan (or 4 nonstick mini pans) and bake for 1-1/2 to 2 hours (Half as much for mini pans). Check for doneness by inserting paring knife into the middle of the cake (or use a probe thermometer until it reaches 210 degrees F). If it comes out clean, it’s done. If not, bake another 10 minutes, and check again.
Remove cake from oven and place on cooling rack or trivet. Baste or spritz top with brandy and allow to cool completely before turning out from pan.
When cake is completely cooled, soak a cheesecloth in the hard liquor of your choice, wrap the cake, then wrap in plastic wrap, then foil. Remove the cheesecloth once a week, soak, and re-wrap.The cake’s flavor will enhance considerably over the next two weeks.
* You can substitute other dried fruits if you’d like—mango, papaya, pineapple, figs, prunes, dates all work wonderfully. You can also add cardamon powder, if you’d like to add a bit of Nordic flair.
** FLAX EGGS: 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal + 5 tablespoons water (1/4 cup+1 tablespoon)—Stir well, rest for 5 minutes or until it jells a bit, add to recipe. (Equals 2 eggs)
Based on Alton Brown’s ‘Free Range Fruitcake’ recipe.