The tree is trimmed and aglow with twinkling lights, evergreen boughs clipped from the pine tree in the yard adorn the hearth, and Christmas baking has begun.
My son and his children have just arrived from out of state to spend Christmas with me.
As I began to ponder what I would write about this week, my son suggested fruitcake. I was a bit taken back. "Fruitcake?" I asked. He replied that no one likes fruitcake and he didn't know why anyone would put all that dried fruit in one cake. That led to a discussion where I pointed out that someone must like fruitcake because they are sold every year. The Collins Street Bakery in Texas is famous for the large numbers it sends out annually.
Then he asked me if I ever had a fruitcake that I liked. Yes, I have. Several years ago, chef John Bennett of Oklahoma City demonstrated several traditional Christmas foods, and he showcased a fruitcake called Bishop's Cake that was very good. His recipe did not contain any citron or citrus peel, just candied fruits and lots of nuts. It had just enough eggs and flour to hold the candied fruit and pecans together and everyone did enjoy it.
Fruitcake has been a punch line for many jokes over the years. The late Johnny Carson quipped that he thought there was only one fruitcake and it was passed around from year to year. But I don't believe the Bishop's Cake would be passed around; you might not even want to share it.
After digging through my files, I have retrieved Chef Bennett's recipe for Bishop's Cake. Maybe you will want to try it this year.
1 cup butter (2 sticks), room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 lb. candied pineapple, cut in bite-sized pieces
4 cups pecans
1 lb. candied cherries, halved
1/2teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons lemon extract
2 tablespoons vanilla
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease and flour an angel cake pan. Set aside.
Cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Dredge pineapple, nuts and candied cherries in flour. Combine the remaining flour (from dredging) with baking powder and salt. Add to creamed mixture with lemon extract and vanilla.
Bake in well-greased and floured angel food pan 30 minutes at 300 degrees. Reduce temperature to 250 degrees and continue baking 1 1/2 hours. Cool, and place in a tin with tight-fitting cover. To serve, cut in very thin slices with sharp knife. Makes one 4-pound cake.
Recipe courtesy of Chef John Bennett.