Holiday fruitcake… there seem to be two camps: those that love it… and those that love to hate it! Ok, maybe there’s a third camp too: those who’ve never tasted it. Which camp are you in?
This year I thought, hey why not make this already semi “controversial” dessert even stranger — raw, vegan, fruit-sweetened, gluten-free, refined sugar-free, flourless, oil-free… and even without the signature chemical cherries!
Just kidding — this wasn’t an attempt to make a strange dessert. Just wanted some fruitcake, and this delish caramel drizzled version is what happened.
Ok, you might say I killed the fruitcake by omitting the cherries. Glace cherries are after all a huge part of the appeal of a traditional fruitcake, but for me including them wasn’t a debatable point — sulphites (abundant in the commercial varieties) and I just don’t get along. Not negotiable. You know what though? Honestly, it turns out fruitcake doesn’t need them. And in fact there are so many traditional ways to make this dessert around the world and many don’t involve cherries at all. Instead, those recipes play up the other flavors.
Here’s the trick anyhow: if you strip down glace cherries to their main flavor (you’ll have to “strip” far to get past all the glucose, fructose, colors, preservatives, artificial flavors, etc…), it’s really just almond extract (for the red ones) and peppermint extract (for the green ones). And since this particular fruitcake recipe incorporates almond extract anyhow, that flavor is covered.
That said, if you must include them (because I imagine for some it would be a holiday must — I get it, trust me!), then just fold some into the cake “batter” near the end.
And on that note, almond and peppermint flavors in one cake already filled with all kinds of other strong accents, like marmalade, coffee liqueur, all kinds of spices… to be honest I’m not surprised that fruitcake falls into the dreaded holiday treats category for some people — that’s a lot of strong flavors in one little cake.
For me, I’ve never been in either “camp” — sometimes fruitcake just needs to happen. And if it’s going to happen, I think the focus should be on the delicious medley of fruits and nuts. Depending on the country, different flavors are often accented in fruitcake. The blend of ingredients I chose here is what worked for me this time around, though once you make it you’ll see that there are many ways to customize this recipe (for example trying different nuts or dried fruit combinations). A drizzle of caramel sauce and a sprinkle of powdered coconut milk for a snowy effect and I’m a happy camper.
The caramel drizzle is of course optional — I included a photo up top without it so you can see what it’s like. But in my world, there’s almost nothing caramel can’t improve, and if obtaining said caramel consists of buying a bottle of date syrup (aka zero refined sugars, zero dairy, and zero effort) and drizzling it on, I’m there.
So while not exactly your typical fruitcake… what you end up with here is a delicious, moist, fruit-sweetened cake filled with the flavors of dried fruits and nutty accents.
P.S. I mentioned up top I used dried coconut milk powder for the “snowy” dusting effect. It’s my signature go-to choice to substitute out the powdered sugar on holiday treats (and it’s delicious!). Just a note that some varieties out there have dairy added in for some reason, so check the ingredients carefully. I recommend going with something like this brand or this one.Print
A raw vegan, gluten-free, and refined sugar-free twist on a holiday classic. This wholesome no-bake fruitcake is moist, sticky, and sweet, and full of flavor.
- 1 cup pitted dates, soaked in hot water for at least 1 hour, then strained (discard the water)
- 2 cups raisins
- 1 ¾ cups almond meal*
- ¼ cup hazelnut meal*
- ¼ cup brazil nut meal*
- ½ cup fruit-sweetened orange marmalade (I used St. Dalfour)
- ½ cup diced dried prunes
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp allspice
- ½ tsp almond extract
- dried coconut milk powder for dusting, date syrup (or coconut syrup) for caramel sauce drizzle, extra pine nuts for garnish
- Process all cake ingredients together in a food processor into a sticky uniform mixture (it should have a bit of a crumb to it — careful not to over-process into a paste).
- Line a small bread loaf (or a dish of a similar size — the one I used here is roughly 4″ x 6″) with parchment paper. Transfer the prepared cake mixture into the pan and press down with the back of a spoon so that it molds to the shape of the pan. Cover with another piece of parchment paper and press down some more with a flat-bottomed object (like another container) to compact the cake into the pan as much as possible.
- Freeze overnight (or for at least 6 hours) to set.
- When ready to serve, remove from pan, dust with coconut milk, drizzle with caramel syrup, and garnish to your liking. Thaw out on the counter slightly (10 mins or so), slice and serve. Store leftovers in the freezer.
*If you can’t find nut meal for sale at the shops (usually can be found in bulk food shops, health food stores or aisles, or sometimes in the regular baking section), you can make your own nut meal by grinding nuts down in the food processor to a very fine consistency. Just be careful not to over-process the nuts into a nut butter! :) On average 1 cup of nuts grinds down to about ¼ cup meal. You can also substitute other nuts if almonds, hazelnuts, or brazil nuts aren’t available, for example (I just chose those for their flavor, and because that’s what was accessible, but other flavorful nuts like pecans or pistachios, for example, would work well too). Note: if you need more assistance with making your own nut flours, there’s a detailed chapter on the subject in my book Unconventional Treats with further information.