When Pearl told me about this recipe, I was a little skeptical: Orange slice candy in a cake? You may ask yourself the same question, but after making and eating this version of a holiday fruitcake, I am happy to recommend it.
I still prefer my Four in One Fruitcake, but Helen’s Orange Fruitcake is an excellent alternative for people who don’t like traditional fruitcake with lots of nuts and candied fruits. As one wit wrote, “It is a good fruitcake for people who don’t want any fruit in their fruitcake.” Of course, it does have dates, which are fruits.
We liked the cake, but seemed a little dry to me. I wanted to make sure that I had not overbaked the smaller cakes, so I shared samples with three of our neighbors. They all said they thought it was delicious. After trying the cake I gave her, Pearl called to say that it was exactly like it was supposed to be.
If I can make it on the first try, so can you. Here how to do it.
For the cake:
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
4 cups all-purpose flour plus a little to help mix the fruit
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 lb. dates
1 lb. orange slices
1 cup flaked coconut
2 cups chopped walnuts or pecans
For the glaze:
1 cup orange juice (fresh or from frozen concentrate)
1 lb. powdered sugar (2 to 3 cups)
Cream the butter and shortening with the sugar in a medium mixing bowl, then incorporate the eggs one at a time and stir in the buttermilk. Sift the flour and baking soda by cupfuls into the sugar and egg mixture to make a rather thick batter.
Preheat the oven to 225º and grease and flour three five by seven-inch loaf pans or more smaller loaf pans that will hold a total of about three and a half quarts of batter.
Chop the dates and nuts and orange slices fine. Put them in a large mixing bowl along with the flake coconut. Sprinkle with a little flour and mix to blend the ingredients evenly. Pour the batter over the fruits, candy and nuts and mix with your hands to blend all the ingredients.
Distribute the batter evenly into the three prepared pans and bake for three hours at 225º. If using smaller loaf pans, reduce the baking time and test for doneness with a toothpick inserted into the center of the smaller cakes after two hours. If the toothpick comes out clean, the cakes are done.
Shortly before the cakes are ready to come from the oven, make the glaze by mixing the orange juice and powdered sugar.
Take the cakes from the oven and allow them to cool slightly for five minutes. Pour the glaze evenly over the hot cakes and leave them in the pans until completely cool. Remove the cakes from the pans, wrap them with plastic film and refrigerate them for at least three days before serving.
NOTES: Pearl says that this is a very sweet but very good cake. Cut thin slices for serving. It is an old family recipe from her neighbor Helen.
You may need to add a little more buttermilk to get the batter to the right consistency. It should be thick but fluid enough to spread out over the dry ingredients as you scrape it into the bowl.
If you bought shredded rather than flaked coconut by mistake, don’t panic. Shredded coconut works just fine.
This cake continues to improve for at least two weeks. The last few slices we ate were delicious.