Liquor-infused baked goods for your holiday gathering
Fruitcake. A polarizing food. Much like eggnog, I find that fruitcake is a subject that most people don’t want to talk about. In general when you mention eating fruitcake you are on the receiving end of scrunched up faces and gagging sounds of some people who have had a really bad experience with this much maligned baked good. This does not have to be the case.
Traditionally made with rum and dried fruits, fruitcake can be a good staple for the holiday season because its flavors are a good accompaniment to so many meals. The booze keeps the cake fresh for a long time (hence so many shipping options for the cake when bought commercially). Recipes abound on the internet, including foodtv.com and epicurious.net, not to mention chef Roland Meisner’s recipe that has been a staple at the White House for many years.
I would be remiss in this commentary about boozy fruitcake delights if I did not mention that new Tennessee classic: the Jack Daniels fruitcake. It’s more Jack than cake, so if you’re not prepared, you don’t need to finish the cake alone and drive home.
An alternative to fruitcake, rumballs are also popular this time of year. With similar flavors and the same staying power as the cake (dough that is storable in the fridge for a week up to a month and then even freezable in most cases), it is a great option for the perpetual party host/hostess. Chances are, though, that this is a baked good you’ll be making yourself, so if you need convenience, stick with the pre-fab fruitcake option.
If rum is not your liquor of choice, brandy and bourbon are great alternatives that can be infused into many desserts. (There is also a Booze Balls recipe on foodtv.com). Like the fruitcakes, the traditional pairing with booze is some kind of fruit. Apples with a bourbon glaze or brandy-soaked pears are great finishes to savory meals like pork chops or beef roasts with oven-roasted root vegetables. Custards, ice cream, cheesecakes and pound cakes round out and make a complete dessert, and the booze-soaked fruits are also a nice “adult” side dish to the kiddy dessert cookies.
And then there is the most recognizable of the booze-drenched desserts…tiramisu. While the traditional Italian recipe has no liquor, most recipes you find today will contain rum, coffee, cocoa, ladyfingers and custard. Many restaurants will claim to make an excellent tiramisu, but it is a difficult dessert to make well due to trying to strike the right balance of alcohol with the delicate ladyfingers and creamy custard.
There are many “out there” combinations of liquors and baked goods as well. Though not necessarily created for the holiday season, they are nonetheless festive…and why shouldn’t they be? Fruitcakes don’t corner the market on booze-infused flavor. As I was researching this column, I found many that I would like to try.
Margaritas, anyone? Try a strawberry margarita cupcake or margarita lime cake. Citrus is your thing? Try a mojito cupcake or a limoncello cake. Amaretto and coffee flavors pair well together in a cake, as does dark chocolate with red wine or chocolate ganache frosting with raspberry Chambourd liqueur.
And when in doubt (or as a bonus), go for reinforcements with the toddy. This concoction of liquor, hot water, honey or syrup, and bitters or lemon is said to cure the common cold—but will also make any dessert a little more merry.
The Classic Hot Toddy
- 1 1/2 oz. brown liquor such as brandy, whiskey or rum
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/2 oz. lemon juice
- 1 cup hot water
- Lemon wedge, cinnamon stick and star anise, for garnish (optional)
Combine the first four ingredients into the bottom of a warmed mug. If desired, garnish with the lemon, cinnamon stick or star anise.