Recipe: Healthy Christmas Cake

BY Paulette Millis TIMEDecember 19, 2014 PRINT

It is easy to make natural, uncooked or cooked fruit cakes for the holidays.  First, stock up on dried fruits that have not been sulfured and sugared.  Some health food stores carry unsulfured and unsweetened fruits such as dates, apricots, apples, cherries, blueberries, cranberries, figs, raisins, currants, pineapple, papaya and mango. Sulfites are preservatives, which you’ll often find in salad bars as well, and many people are allergic to them, particularly asthmatics, who may have a severe reaction if exposed to the sulfites.

Sugar sweetened dried fruits are unhealthy and unnecessary, as the dried fruit is already very sweet but you could add natural sweeteners to the cake if desired as well. Try agave syrup, brown rice syrup or blackstrap molasses instead of the sugar called for in a recipe.

Use whole grain flours such as whole wheat pastry flour, buckwheat (for gluten free), kamut or spelt, to name a few. Substitute coconut butter for the unhealthy fat and try organic vanilla and  organic eggs for the healthiest cake choices.

The recipe below is for a natural fruit cake. Another option is to make a special torte called Vinartarta, with whole grain flour, prunes and honey. A version of this can be found in Cook Your Way to Health.  The original recipe, which contained white flour and sugar, was given to me by someone from Iceland, and it has been a yearly treat for my family. Eat Away Illness has information about sugar and using natural sweeteners, and all of the recipes use whole, natural foods.

Homemade fruit cake (Shutterstock*)
Homemade fruit cake (Shutterstock*)

Natural Fruit Cake 

2 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour (use buckwheat flour and 2 ½ tbsps. guar gum for gluten free)
1 tsp. baking powder (gluten free is available)
½ tsp. celtic salt
3 cups of chopped unsulfured fruit:
currants (soaked and drained), raisins (soaked and drained), dried apricots, dried pineapple chunks, dried ginger pieces, chopped prunes)  
1 ½ cups slivered almonds
1 cup unsalted butter
½ cup honey
5 eggs
1 large organic lemon
2 tbsp. Scotch whiskey (omit if desired)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Scotch or wine for soaking cheesecloth (may be diluted with water)

Mix flour with baking powder and salt in a bowl.  In a larger bowl, combine the 3 cups of chopped dried fruit and almonds. Add the flour mixture to the fruit, mix well and set aside. Cream butter with honey, then beat in the eggs one at a time.   Pare the lemon and chop up the rind. Squeeze the juice from the lemon and combine with the chopped rind in a saucepan and simmer until the rind is soft. Add the lemon juice and rind, whiskey if using, and vanilla to the butter mixture, then stir into the flour fruit mixture.
Spoon the cake batter into a greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan that has been lined with greased brown paper. Bake at 275°F for at least 2 hours, until the top is lightly browned. Cool thoroughly. Remove paper, then wrap the cake in cheesecloth (or any absorbent cloth) soaked in Scotch whiskey or wine. Wrap tightly in aluminum foil or a plastic bag and allow to mature in the refrigerator. The cloth may be periodically re-soaked as it dries out. The cake should age for at least 2 weeks, and will keep for up to 2 months.

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*Images of “fruit cakes” via Shutterstock

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