Face it. Fruit cake is an American nightmare. Why did we invent fruitcake? Why do we insist that it is Christmas goody platter worthy? Why do we persist in finding a decent recipe for the stodgy brick?
I love the idea of a sweet bread studded with fruit and nuts but just cannot get into fruitcake even when it is chock a block full of toasted pecans. I want a slightly sweet, slightly bready, slightly cakey, baked good studded with a fresher, lighter blend of fruit. I love a warm, wintry spice blend based on cardamom and coriander. I love a loaf that can find a place in the toaster and can be slathered in butter. This loaf fits that description.
This light, tasty Christmas vacation worthy loaf does itself proud on a Christmas buffet table and in your January 2, early morning, back to work toaster. Fruit cake does not enjoy your toaster. More importantly, your toaster does not enjoy fruit cake.
Cherry Almond Winter Loaf
3¼ cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon cardamom
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon mace
½ cup sugar
¾ cup dried cherries, chopped
½ cup dried apricots, chopped
¼ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
1¼ cups sliced almonds, toasted, and divided
1¼ cup milk
4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs + 1 egg yolk (save the white for the glaze)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 large egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons Swedish Pearl Sugar
Toasted sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease the inside of an 8 springform or an 8 x 3 round cake pan. Line pan with parchment paper.
Sift the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Whisk the chopped dried cherries and apricots into the flour mixture.
Melt the butter. Whisk in the milk and 2 eggs plus one egg yolk, and extracts. Pour milk mixture over dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Lightly stir in ½ cup toasted almonds.
Spoon bread into prepared pan and smooth top.
To make the glaze whisk 1 tablespoon sugar into egg white and lightly brush over the top. Sprinkle the top with remaining toasted almonds and Swedish pearl sugar.
Bake for 5 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Let the bread rest for 10 minutes and then tip it out of the pan onto cooling racks. Let cool completely before slicing.