I love to bake holiday sweets but this year, I unfortunately have little time to do it. I used to stay up late baking up to a dozen different kinds of cookies to gift friends and family. Given my current schedule and obligations, late-night baking sessions were not possible for 2010. I decided to revisit an old friend, the fruitcake, and scale it down.
You may not like fruitcakes but give them a second look. They’re great for the holidays because they keep well for a long time. Actually, they get better with age as the dried and preserved fruit soften and develop a slight boozy quality. Plus, fruitcakes allow you to use up bits of ingredients in the cupboard. I had dried fruit from the past 18 months and nuts in the freezer. I supplemented those things with a bag of mixed dried fruit (the one with blueberries, cherries, cranberries, etc.) at Trader Joe’s.
The other thing that’s great about fruitcakes is the use of liquor to infuse the cake with flavor throughout. I chopped up all the solid ingredients and marinated them in Slivovitz, East European plum brandy that my dad gave me years ago.
My original Vietnamese fruitcake recipe called for 1 cup of mei kwei lu chiu (Chinese sorghum and rose petal liquot) or orange-flavored liquor, but I was out. The Slivovitz I used was made by Hungarian producer Zwack, which is widely available in the U.S. It tasted quite nice, like a lighter version of the Chinese liquor but not as aromatic. I could have gotten zwacked on it but had to keep chopping up my nuts and fruit!
From one recipe I got 9 minis – that’s roughly 8 gifts with 1 leftover for you. After aging, wrap each cake in plastic wrap and then parchment paper to ensure that it stays moist. Tie a ribbon around each one and you’ve got a great present. For extra sturdy protection, put the wrapped and ribboned fruitcake into the original disposable baking tin (we washed ours after removing the cakes). That’s what I did before sliding one into the mailbox for Karen, our letter carrier.
Loaf cakes like fruitcakes are perfect for scaling down into minis. They are cute, satisfying, and make a nice statement. You’ve still got time to bake a batch for the weekend gift giving opportunities.
If you’re crammed for time, here are some more easy homemade holiday gifts:
- Tangerine Meringue Kisses
- Chile Garlic Sauce – no canning, just put it into a jar and tell the recipient to refrigerate it
- Thai Sweet Chile Sauce – same as above
- Sriracha Chile Sauce – ditto but will take a few days so gift it for January 1 or Lunar New Year (Tet)
Got last-minute homemade holiday gift ideas? Don't keep them to yourself. Share them below!