Yes, Virginia, a holiday fruitcake really can be moist and delicious.

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One of the best parts of the holiday season is the uninhibited joy we get from spending time in the kitchen creating delicious desserts, breads, and other treats. Whether we gift a tin of cookies to a friend, bake a cake for an office party, or simply enjoy a slice of Christmas bread cake with family on a lazy weekend morning, the time and energy spent baking goods at Christmas time is a pleasurable labor of love for those who enjoy cooking. Every baker has a collection of recipes he/she turns to as soon as cans of pumpkin and bags of cranberries appear in the grocery store.

As much as we all like to try new recipes, Southern bakers know that, during the holiday season, adults and children alike might revolt if we don’t make Grandma’s gingersnap cookies and Aunt Sadie’s Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake. Sweet breads are welcome at the holiday celebrations as well. Recipes for easy coffee cakes and cinnamon rolls are ideal for novice bakers. If you have already baked and frozen the family favorites, however, and have time to experiment with something a little more complicated, try a Christmas Stollen, the traditional German Christmas treat of yeast bread stuffed with boozy fruit and marzipan.

This dense, buttery, fruitcake is packed with brandy-soaked fruit, like raisins and citrus peel, and may even include marzipan and nuts. Most stollens are made in a solid oval shape, but the recipe from the December, 1976, issue of Southern Livinginstructs the baker to shape it into a “fancier” round ring. A recipe for a stolen is definitely one you need to read through and study before attempting; some variations of Christmas Stollen may take up to 48 hours to make, much of that time being hands-off and letting the fruit soak, the dough rest, etc., plus an extra 24 hours to let the finished product “rest” and absorb all the flavors. But the end product is certainly worth the effort. This shortened version can be made weeks in advance, which allows the flavors to deepen and the cake to soften, making this an ideal cake to make and take to all your holiday dinners.

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Set aside some time this holiday season and make a Christmas Stollen – you may find yourself adding a new classic to your collection of favorite heirloom recipes.

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