First-Class Fruitcake
Photo/Jeff Harris

You’re to be forgiven if you think of fruitcake as a punch line rather than a culinary treat. We’ve all encountered that stale doorstop of a cake embedded with iridescent fruit that inspired the old joke: There’s only one fruitcake on Earth and people endlessly regift it to each other.

Prepare to rethink this holiday tradition/terror. Today, there’s an extremely refined version that even fruitcake haters will love. Robin McKay, a professional chef in New York’s Hudson Valley, firstattempted a fruitcake for her British boyfriend, himself a fruitcake connoisseur, and ended up taking it to a level that even Americans will appreciate. It’s 100 percent natural. No preservatives of any kind. Not a single radioactive looking candied red or green cherry. The result is a dense flavor bomb, each slice containing a cornucopia of organic currants, flame raisins, figs, apricots, dates, roasted almonds, hazelnuts, as well as candied orange and lemon peel that McKay cures herself.

There are also eggs from local pastured hens, molasses, cane sugar and small-batch craft brandy—a cup of it in every cake. McKay says the fruitcake will keep fresh on your kitchen counter for one to three months. However, the chef recommends watering it occasionally with your own brandy or Bourbon. (You won’t get any complaints here.)

The six-inch cake that weighs in at almost three pounds costs $50—it’s also available in a set of three 1-pound cakes for $56. And no less an authority than Ruth Reichl, the food critic and bestselling author, described McKay’s as “the fruitcake you’ve always longed for.” But a loyal customer came up with this tagline that just might serve as the ultimate compliment when it comes to this beleaguered holiday treat: “The fruitcake you don’t have to regift.”