Fruitcake Bars – A Relatively Easy Family Favorite Treat
Here, after the holidays, as we eat the last of this season’s fruitcake bars, I realized I should get the recipe onto the blog so that family, and others who might be interested, can access it. I didn’t want to risk misplacing it, as happened for several years with our Lekerli recipe (see my blog post of December 6, 2020).
Although fruitcake is, or at least was, very common around the holidays, and I loved it, it was complex and tedious to make, wrap, and cure over weeks with rum or brandy or bourbon. Worse yet, it wasn’t very well liked by many people, such that it suffered from the joke about there being only one actual loaf of fruitcake in the world and it kept being re-gifted and passed around.
Many years ago on short notice just before Christmas I was asked to make a holiday food item for my wife’s church choir pot-luck brunch. Traditional fruitcake was out of the question because of the time needed to make and age it. The choir event was the next day. I worked with what we had in the kitchen and threw together a heavy, fruit and nut-packed batter and baked it in a sheet cake pan. I cut the cake into bars, sprinkled them with bourbon and arranged them on a platter, and off they went to church. The approach used several of the tricks of making classical fruitcake that I had learned from my mother as well as numerous shortcuts. Finally, and subversively, I used liquor in it for a church that then still frowned on drinking. The bars were a hit. Ever since, and with a few modifications to the recipe, my wife or I have made our Fruitcake Bars almost every year. There are extended family members and several friends who wait eagerly for this annual Christmas treat.In a pan on the stove, heat together to moisten the fruit, then set aside:
1 1/2 cups golden (“sultana”) raisins
1 1/2 cups black raisins (Monukka, Muscat or “large green” if available)
1/2 cup bourbon or rum
In a large bowl cream together by hand:
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
Add and mix in well:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (fresh grated is best)
Add and mix in well, using a wooden spoon:
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped or broken pecans
1/2 cup candied cherries, cut up
1/2 cup candied pineapple pieces
1/2 cup candied citron
1/2 cup candied orange rind
1/2 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pitted prunes, coarsely chopped
The prepared raisins
Grease a 9x13 inch pan or 2 8-inch square pans. With wet hands, press the dough into the pan(s). Bang the pan(s) on a hard surface several times to force out bubbles.
Heat oven to 315 degrees and place a pan containing boiling water on the lower shelf. Bake the fruitcake for about 45 minutes, or until the center springs back when you push on it with your finger.
Cool cake in the pan overnight with a clean towel covering it. With a sharp knife, cut cake into 1-inch squares or 1/2 by 1 1/2 inch rectangles.
Store in tightly covered tins lined with bourbon or rum-soaked paper towels. Place more soaked paper towels between layers of bars and on top. Store at room temperature. After a few days, sprinkle with 1-2 tablespoons bourbon or rum, and repeat this several days apart until towel stays slightly moist. The fruitcake bars keep well for weeks.
Note, if avoiding the use of liquor to wrap the bars (that in the raisins will have cooked off during baking), store the container with the bars in the refrigerator.