Old fashion fruitcake tends to get a bad wrap due to its tooth-aching inclusion of sweet candied fruits and such. Here’s a game changer that will get your attention and become a requested addition on any table—especially alongside holiday specialty meats and cheeses.
When this moist, easy to assemble Moroccan fruitcake was demonstrated on Martha Bakes recently I knew wanted to give it a try. Helen Goh, baker with London’s Ottolenghi restaurants shows how easy it is to create her big flavored creation. The cake’s complexity is rooted in a combination of plump dried fruits soaked in dark tea and given a jolt with an exotic ras el hanout spice blend.
I love everything about this bread from the jam packed assortment of figs, prunes, apricots, raisins and dates to the big flavors of toasted cumin and coriander seeds, red pepper flakes, turmeric, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, and paprika.
As mentioned, the secret is to soak the dried fruit in advance to fully plump and activate flavors; I prefer a fine Puer tea, but Assam is recommended. You’ll note there is no fat used in this recipe either—and it is not missed.
Admittedly, the first time I tried a rich moist slice early in the morning I was not prepared for the impact. The distinct cumin flavors were front and center—near jarring on my sleepy taste buds.
With that in mind, I set about making the fruitcake again—this time with a modified spice blend that omitted the cumin but retained the red pepper. I also took Goh’s suggestion to add a little whole grained flour and included ½ cup buckwheat flour. (I also swapped out self rising flour for AP flour and baking powder).
Side by side, I preferred the original bread. I missed how beautifully the bright spices and dried fruit mingled together. For personal choices, I’ve kept both options in the recipe below. This truly depends on taste and how you plan to use it.
If you wish, spread thick slices with butter, or toast it first.
2½ cups dried fruit: ½ cup each diced apricots, figs, prunes or dates, raisins or cranberries
1 cup hot strong dark tea, Assam, Puer, etc.
1½ cup AP flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp sea salt
2 tsp ras el hanout (see below)
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
¼ cup milk, approximate, to thin as needed
- Ahead, in medium bowl combine dried fruits, pour hot tea over all. Cover, let stand 2 hours or overnight to plump and absorb tea.
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray with nonstick baking spray and line 8 ½ x 4 ½” loaf pan with parchment with 1 ½ inch overhang.
- In mixing bowl, sift flour and baking powder, add salt, the spice blend, sugar, and combine.
- Stir in the dried fruit and any remaining liquid; add the egg and combine. Stir in milk as need to bind; it should be thick.
- Spoon into baking pan, bake until tester comes out clean, 50-55 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes, turn out on rack to cool.
Slice and spread with salted butter; also good toasted. Store at room temperature well wrapped for 3 days. Serves 6-8
Note: watch for signs of early browning on top as the bread tends to burn easily. Cover with foil as needed to protect the top.
Ras el hanout
Toast 1½ tsp coriander seeds and ¾ tsp cumin seeds and grind with ½ tsp coarse sea salt.
Add ½ tsp each coarse ground black peppercorns and crushed red pepper flakes and grind. Combine mixture with ¼ tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp paprika, ½ tsp turmeric, ½ tsp dry ginger, ½ tsp cardamom. Makes about 2 Tbsp
Modified spice blend: ½ tsp coriander, ¼ tsp each cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, turmeric, and ground red pepper flakes