Photo: Hector Sanchez

   

Fruitcake: it’s a tradition, sure, but it can be wildly divisive. In my family, there are those who love and those who hate, and no one in between. I used to be the latter. Some years ago, however, I realized it was because my loving parents make, well, terrible fruitcake. Once I started to look for different fruitcake recipes, in search of the best fruitcake recipe, things started to change. I think the turning point was the discovery of white fruitcake. As you may know, there’s a very famous recipe, Mrs. Harvey’s White Fruitcake, but many other have followed after. The main difference, I’ve been told, is that Mrs. Harvey’s cake uses an extremely generous amount of vanilla and lemon extracts, while omitting some of the spices that one finds in a more traditional fruitcake. Legend has it that her husband liked pecans more than fruit, which is why she often included a more generous helping of pecans. At any rate, I think the lesson here is to make the fruitcake that you will eat.

 

WATCH: Lemon-Coconut Pound Cake 

Some like to soak their fruitcake in brandy (my mama uses whiskey), others in juice. If you don’t like spice, but you do like lemon, well then, stop putting in the spice, and take a little inspiration from Mrs. Harvey. If you don’t like the weird, plastic-looking fruit that pervades the markets around Christmas, don’t use it! Use crystallized pineapple, or glaze your own cherries. But the thing that turned the tide completely (other than realizing there aren’t any fixed rules about fruitcake) was realizing that folks were starting to experiment with the fruitcake idea, but in new and exciting ways. Case in point are these fruitcake bars, which have nothing to do with the leaden loaves of my childhood. Whip up a batch of these for your next party, and watch fruitcake-haters convert.