Tu B’Shevat is becoming a very interesting culinary holiday because it is not bound by the time-honored traditions that Passover or Rosh Hashanah are. No Aunt Rivka’s bland kugel, not Uncle Sam’s dry brisket. With Tu B’Shevat seders and the focus on tree fruits and dried fruits, Tu B’Shevat has some emerging trends that are fun to explore and still have time for you to put your own stamp on them. One of these new traditions is actually quite old…the humble fruitcake, now often called the “Tu B’Shevat Cake”.
Fruitcake gets a really bad rap in the U.S. but in the U.K. it is a much favored cake, eaten ritually by Christians at Christmas and at all British weddings as the wedding cake (all but mine). I really didn’t develop much taste for fruitcake until my mother started making it about five years ago. This is her cake you see in the pictures.
Fruitcake is something that really demands to be customized to suit your own taste. My mother’s fruitcake started with a recipe found in Crabtree & Evelyn’s Cookbook (non-kosher) but is a shadow of it’s former self as she has spent the last five years customizing it and tweaking it to her own taste (more fruits, less cake and nuts). She serves it with Brandy Butter (also called Hard Sauce) as is the British tradition. We just slather the brandy butter on with a knife, but for company I recommend putting it in a piping bag or at least use an ice cream scooper to make it pretty. It tastes like the most wonderful icing so it’s important to remember you are eating pure butter!
Here are some tips and recipes to get you started on customizing a Tu B’Shevat Cake for yourself.
- Read several recipes both for fruitcake and Christmas Pudding to understand the areas you can customize
- Be open to customizing a treyf recipe for the widest variety of recipe options
- Feel free to substitute the dry fruits and nuts for the dry fruits and nuts you prefer
- Increase or decrease the fruits and nuts as you prefer
- Substitue suet for vegetable shortening
- Explore steaming instead of baking to keep the cake moist
- Make weeks ahead of time, store in the refrigerator, and douse with Brandy repeatedly
I should have taken a picture of a slice with the brandy butter on top…but I ate it.