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Friendship Fruit Cake

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I posted the recipe for the friendship fruitcake starter yesterday, and although the holidays are still far in the distance, I wanted to post the full recipe for the fruitcakes now to help you decide whether or not you want to embark upon this fruitcake adventure, because the decision will need to be made fairly soon.  The starter takes three weeks to make, and the cake itself takes a month.  So I figured you’d need a better description of the resulting cake and photos to help you understand why you should bother with any cake that is going to take this long to make.

After you have your starter ready, you will add peaches, pineapple, and maraschino cherries to it over time, along with copious amounts of sugar.  Your fruit will become essentially candied in it’s own sugary juices, giving you the most flavorful candied fruit you could ever add to fruitcake.  This fruit beats the stems off store-bought candied fruit.  It is just sooo….fruity.  Usually when I taste a candied cherry, it doesn’t taste like much except sweet.  This candied fruit is sweet, but has so much flavor!

The actual time you will spend working on the starter and the fruit is maybe a minute a day, and totally worth the result.  And if the fruit itself wasn’t enough, the recipe for the cake itself is outstanding.  I have two versions available, but both are moist and delicious, and studded with this magical fruit, nuts, and shredded coconut.  Absolutely fantastic and nothing like the fruit cake you last turned your nose up at.

Now, let’s talk about the batter that surrounds the fruit, nuts, and coconut.  Usually, friendship fruit cake is made with a cake mix.  Two of them, to be exact.  When I made this cake last year on Christmas eve, I only had one mix, and of course every grocery store was closed, and I couldn’t find a single convenience store that sold cake mixes.  Rather than let the lack of a second mix defeat me, I decided to halve the recipe for the cake (what I now call the “easy version” although technically it’s the “original version”) and use half the fruit for it, then make a batter from scratch to mix the remaining fruit into.

To tell you the truth, I really can not pick a favorite.  I love, love, love them both.  In fact, I actually would recommend you do the same as me, halving both recipes and using half the fruit in both to see if you can pick one.  (Just be very careful to halve everything–this can get tricky if you don’t physically write down the new measurements before starting.)  They are so different and both so good in their own way.

The cake mix cake is very moist, and very sweet with a great cake mix flavor.  I’d say the cake mix version has more of a holiday feel than the other, because it is sweeter.  The cream cheese cake is less sweet, the slight tang of the cream cheese pairing nicely with the sweet, candied fruit.  It tastes more “real,” for lack of a better word, more home made.  It seems more of like a cake to enjoy with tea, and this would be a great version to make throughout the year.  I keep wanting to pick the cream cheese one as my favorite, until I remember how nice the cake mix one was, so I have given up.  I leave the decision entirely up to you, but either way, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Friendship Fruit Cake

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

Day 1
In a large glass bowl, combine:

  • 1 pint friendship fruit starter
  • 1 (16 oz) can sliced peaches with juice, each slice cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 ½ cups granulated sugar

Stir every day for ten days.  When not stirring mixture, keep it covered with a splatter guard, paper towel, foil, or a loose lid. Let sit at room temperature. Do not refrigerate it or cover it airtight. A pan of water underneath the jar or bowl will keep the ants out, but I had no problem with bugs since I made mine in the winter.

Day 10
Add:

  • 1 (16 oz) can chunk pineapple with juice, each chunk cut in half
  • ½ cup granulated sugar

Stir every day for ten days.

Day 20
Add:

  • 2 (10 oz) jars maraschino cherries, drained, and each cherry cut in half
  • 2 ½ cups granulated sugar

Stir every day for the final ten days.

Day 30
Drain fruit and reserve it and the liquid.  Pour the liquid into three glass pint jars.  Save one for yourself for your next fruit cake, and give two to friends, along with a copy of this recipe.  Cake must be started within 3 days after receiving the starter or you should freeze the starter to use at a later date. Do not use plastic or metal containers to store liquid.

~To make the cake~

Easy version

2 (18.25 oz) yellow or butter recipe golden cake mixes
2 (3.5 oz) boxes instant vanilla pudding mix
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
8 eggs
2 cup raisins (golden or regular, or a combination)
2 cups chopped nuts
2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
Reserved fruit

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour two 12-cup Bundt pans or four large loaf pans. In a very large bowl, combine cake mix, pudding mix, oil and eggs.  Stir in the raisins, nuts and coconut, and the reserved fruit from the starter. Stir until all ingredients are well combined. The batter will be stiff. Spread batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake for 60-75 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Sit on wire racks and wait ten minutes before turning them out onto the racks to cool completely.  I spray my cakes thoroughly with water while cooling to help make them more moist—the water absorbs and does not change the flavor.  Store in an airtight container or wrap in plastic wrap.  Serve at room temperature.

Cream Cheese Version
5 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup vegetable oil
8 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups golden raisins
2 cups chopped nuts
2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
Reserved fruit

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease and flour two 12-cup Bundt pans or 4 large loaf pans; set aside.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.  In a separate large bowl, cream together the butter, cream cheese, and sugar.  Beat in the oil. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract until incorporated.  Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients; the batter will be thick. When barely any streaks remain, mix in the raisins, nuts and coconut, and the reserved fruit from the starter stirring well.  Scrape batter into the prepared pans, smoothing the tops.  Place the cakes in the oven and bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.

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Friendship Fruitcake Starter

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Yes, I know it isn’t even Halloween yet and you’re thinking I’m crazy for posting such an obvious December holiday-related recipe, but bear with me, I have good reason for posting this early. 

Many of us have heard of and possibly been gifted (AKA cursed) with friendship bread starter. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can either click here to find out more, or just pretend you never heard about it and maybe you can live out the rest of your life in friendship bread-less bliss. OK, I have to admit that friendship bread is delicious, but it never dies and once the starter infiltrates your circle of friends, you practically have to start shooting people to get them to stop pushing it off on you.

(Forgive me, I still suffer post-traumatic friendship bread disorder, despite my temporary reconciliation with the starter.)

Well, friendship fruitcake starter is a whole different ball of wax. This starter is not the same flour/sugar/milk mixture that is aged and fed like a sourdough, nor is it as widespread, at least not in my neck of the woods. This starter is a thick, red, fruity syrup that you use to candy real, non-dried fruit, and you have enough leftover after making your cakes that you can either pass it on to two other friends, or keep all three jars for yourself and freeze them to use throughout the year.

The kind of fruitcake you get from this starter is also unique. It is not the typical disgusting sickeningly-sweet brick you find in grocery stores.  In fact, I can tell you flat out that this is not only the only good fruitcake I have ever had in my life, it is actually so good that I would eat it any time of year, not just because it’s a holiday tradition.  Seriously, you’ve never had a non-alcoholic* fruitcake that tasted this good, and maybe not even one that has been completely doused with alcohol could be better than this.

*Brandy is used in this initial starter recipe, but since you are using it to candy fruit, and not adding the liquid itself to the cake, you will put very little alcohol into the cake because of it, and the amount you put in will bake out.  Also, once you make this starter, you never again have to add brandy to the future starters that come from this batch, so the percentage of alcohol will become nill after several batches.

If you don’t already have one of these starters in your freezer, and you would like to try this fruitcake for yourself, you will need to plan ahead and make the starter fairly soon, which is why I’m sharing the recipe for it now rather than after Thanksgiving.  The starter takes three weeks to make, and the fruitcake takes another month.  If you want to make small loaves as gifts before Christmas, start your starter now-within the next week or so.  If you want to have your fruitcake ready on Christmas day, start by November 4 or 5 at the very latest.  I guarantee you that you will have some very impressed people when you give them this fruitcake or at your party where you serve it, and many disappointed that you only have two starters to share.

I believe it will most likely take further persuasion on my part to convince you that this fruitcake is worth your time, so I will be following this recipe tomorrow with the two recipes I have for the cake itself, one using a mix, and one that I created from scratch.

*A big thank you to my friend Cheryl in Florida for passing the starter recipe and instructions on to me since she couldn’t give me one of her starters in person.*

Friendship Fruit Cake Starter

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 (20 oz) can pineapple chunks, drained
1 (16 oz) can apricots, drained
1 (16 oz) can sliced peaches, drained
1 (10 oz) jar maraschino cherries, drained
1 1/4 cups brandy
1 1/4 cups sugar

Combine ingredients in a large glass jar or bowl and stir well.

Store at room temperature, covered with a lid or plastic wrap, for three weeks, stirring at least twice a week. Mixture will become more and more red as time passes.  This is what mine looked like on day 21:

Drain fruit and reserve the liquid. You should have two cups of liquid, and this is your starter.  It won’t look as red or thick as the photos above because those are photos of the starter you get after you use this initial starter to candy your fruit when you actually start making the cake.  The 2 cups of liquid you have now will all be used for candying fruit.

You can save the sweetened, brandied fruit for another use (topping on ice cream, turn it into jelly, etc.) or discard.

I added some cinnamon and instant pectin (it needed quite a lot, 1/2 cup if I remember correctly) to mine after pureeing in a food processor to make a brandied holiday fruit jam.  It wasn’t sweet enough, so I’d suggest adding your sweetener of choice if you go this route.

***

Wow, guys!  Thirty people signed up for the cookie swap as soon as it was open for business. I’m kinda scared of your enthusiasm, and excited by it at the same time. :D Rock on!

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