Holiday Baking: Return of the Fruitcake

A few years back, I decided to learn how to make fruitcake. It is a holiday classic, and I strongly felt that it should be in my repertoire. I found a clever little recipe on Epicurious that called for only a couple of varieties of dried fruit, and I worked with it until i got it just right. At the request of my counterpart, I chose to give it a rest last year and pulled it from the cookie basket. And I heard about it. So, at the request of those regulars on the cookie lit, I brought it back this year.

My variation of this recipe cuts back significantly on the fruit and leaves out the booze entirely. What you have left is a light, most, golden cake with sweet maple flavor and a handful of compatible fruits - dried fruits instead of the usual candied concoctions.

Here's my take:

1/2 pounds pitted dried cherries, chopped
1/2 pounds dried apricots, chopped
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
6 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon run flavor
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter and flour 10-inch-diameter angel food cake pan, a standard loaf pan, or six mini loaf pans. Toss the chopped dried fruit with 1/2 cup flour in large bowl to coat.

Combine the remaining 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Beat butter and
both sugars in another large bowl until fluffy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, blending well after each addition. Add the rum flavoring, maple syrup, and vanilla. Add flour mixture and beat until just combined. Stir in dried fruit mixture. Using a small soup ladle, spoon the batter into prepared pan, flattening to eliminate air pockets. This technique is particularly useful if you are baking min loaves. Bake until tester inserted near center of cake comes out clean and cake is deep golden brown, about 90 minutes for a full-sized cake, or about 60 minutes for mini loaves.

The original recipe also includes a hard sauce that I omit because it doesn't package well, and I tend to give to families and co-workers. Here is a link to the recipe in Epicurious for you to work with as you like.