The tree is glinting in it’s silver and blue finery. The stockings have been retrieved from storage. We have snipped and unfolded dozens of snowflakes and hung them in an arch between the living and dining rooms. We have had a festive December, indeed. One thing that our Christmas does not include is a fruitcake.
Are you a fruitcake fan? It seems so few people are these days. Growing up there was always fruitcake, often made by my aunt Judy. It was dense and dark and boozy. I made it with her once or twice and it was astonishing to see how much went into it: cups and cups of fruit and nuts, so much so that there was barely room for the spiced batter that held it all together. I never loved it, but each Christmas I like to have just one small piece, a couple mouthfuls, just because it tastes like Christmas.
The recipe here for Cranberry Pecan Loaf has become the closest thing to fruitcake in my household each year. It has the Christmassy zing of orange and it is studded with other ‘mix-ins’ that give it the look and feel of fruitcake, but with a much cleaner, more modern flavour profile. It’s a great balance of sweet, tart, bitter and nutty. As a simple quick bread it mixes up quickly and bakes reliably making it a no-fail nod to the season.
Cranberry Pecan Loaf with Orange
preheat oven to 350°
1 ½ C flour
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
juice of 1 large navel orange (¼ C)
¼ C milk
6 Tbsp butter, room temperature
¾ C packed light brown sugar
1 vanilla bean, scraped, pod discarded
1 C chopped pecans
½ C chopped dried cranberries
½ C white chocolate chips
the zest of 1 large navel orange
Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until pale and well creamed, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla bean seeds. Add the eggs, one at a time until fully incorporated.
In a separate bowl mix the dry ingredients together. Likewise, mix the orange juice and milk together in a measuring cup.
Add the dry ingredients to the butter, sugar and egg mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the wet ingredients.
Stir in the pecans, cranberries, zest and white chocolate chips. Scrap the batter into a greased loaf pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the top is golden.
Cool completely on a wire rack before wrapping. This loaf freezes well once it is completely cool.