Now HERE’s a real contribution to the gluten-free dessert recipe collection: a delicious, no wheat or soy in it, rich fruitcake that I would wager you could not recognize as gluten-free. Not eating wheat or soy (and a few other foods) has made a real difference to the health of one of our family members. Naturally, when the holidays rolled around, I googled the title of this blog entry. After perusing several of the results, I was not finding a convincing answer to my question. So I thought, OK, I will do this myself, I will come up with my own gluten-free fruitcake.
Digressing for a moment here, I want to brag up a set of cookbooks that I still go back to, especially when I want to cook something truly mid-twentieth-centurish. When she got married back in the late 1960’s, my sister was offered this set of books and she did not want them. So I leaped into the fray and obtained them from my mother. Fifty years later, they are frayed and stained, but they are cherished. I refer to the five volume set Favorite Recipes of America. They are signed by Mary Ann Richards, Staff Home Economist, and the set is dated 1968. She says “These recipes were selected from my files of more than 100,000 favorite recipes to represent the desserts that Americans like best. Many outstanding recipes are from winners of Blue Ribbons at fairs, officer’s wives, and home economics teachers.” Indeed, each recipe is signed and the position of the contributer identified. Some people would find these recipes to be out of step with modern nutritional wisdom, as they are. However, I am unwilling to give up occasional comfort foods and reminders of my culinary past, because they have become traditional. If you ever get a chance to see or own this set of cookbooks, I recommend you do. They are fascinating and an important part of the culinary history of this country.
So, back from the digression, the basic recipe approach with which I started was a blue ribbon prize-winning recipe from a Lucile Heckman, La Verne, California, Los Angeles County Fair. The recipe can be found on p. 48 of the Desserts volume of Favorite Recipes of America. Lucile tells us that she began developing the recipe while living as a missionary in Nigeria, and that since she lived 400 miles from the nearest store it was necessary to make substitutions and to candy the fruits in her own kitchen. I have made this fruitcake at least five times in my life; it is quite good. In addition, I was inspired by the personal comments in the recipe to raid my own pantry and see if I could just make the fruitcake from what I had on hand, no trips to the store. The recipe that you see below, then is significantly modified from Lucile Heckman’s recipe. Most significantly, I replaced the flour, salt and baking powder in her recipe with something I have bragged about before in this blog—Bob’s Wheat-Free Biscuit and Baking Mix.
1/2 c. soft shortening
1 c. brown sugar
2 1/2 eggs
1 1/2 c. Bob’s Wheat Free Biscuit and Baking Mix
3/4 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. cloves
1/2 c. orange juice
1/2 lb. lemon peel
1/2 lb. candied red cherries
1/3 lb. candied pineapple + 2 dried apricots
1/2 c. dark + golden raisins
1/2 lb. candied green cherries
1/4 lb. each walnuts, almonds, pecans
1 c. moist shredded coconut
Cream shortening and sugar thoroughly; add eggs, one at a time, and beat well. Stir the spices into the biscuit mix and add in three parts alternately the biscuit mix and the orange juice to the egg mixture. Stir in the fruit, coconut and nuts. Pack into a greased tube pan (I used an old angelfood cake pan with removable bottom). Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Test with a straw. Cool, cut and enjoy, or cut into blocks, wrap and store.
Later this evening came the true test. The fruitcake was cut into slices and served with eggnog sprinkled with nutmeg. I couldn’t tell the difference from the other fruitcakes I had made from this recipe. Maybe it is the fact that being loaded with fruit and nuts, those flavors overwhelm any differences in the flavor of the flour filler. But whatever, here is the photo, we are satisfied, we have our fruitcake.