I have a bit of a weakness for glacé cherries. I can’t resist their retro charm and they look suitably festive in this traditional Christmas Loaf.Jump to Recipe
Baked in very small loaf pans, Christmas Loaf is a quick and easy baked gift to give. Out of all my seasonal bread recipes, baking this delicious holiday bread is the one that resolves my inner Christmas spirit.
I talk often about my Mom's mom, my Grandmother Anna. She is mentioned here on Not Entirely Average a whole bunch. But I almost never mention my Dad's mom, my Grandmother Helen. Both women are heroes of mine. Both have since passed and not a minute goes by that I am not missing them like crazy. My Dad's mom, Grandma Helen, was not too much of a cook. That is to say, she cooked, just not fancy. Nothing ostentatious. Beef recipes main dish, potatoes almost always a side, and a salad or frozen vegetables to green up the plates.
The story of Christmas Loaf in my lifetime...
I always liked eating dinner at Grandma's because she let me have anything I wanted. Bacon, chocolate milk, Pepsi…everything I wasn't allowed to eat freely at home, Grandma always managed to have on hand for my visits. And, her food was just a good hearty sort. The one thing she did do that was special was around Christmastime. Along with my grandfather, they baked. They were a two person baking operation with tremendous results. Funny enough, they only baked one thing. Stollen Loaf, otherwise known as Christmas Loaf or Yuletide Bread.
Okay, so anything resembling fruit cake is a standing joke, and I am prepared for the Christmas Loaf cake jokes, so bring them on. Every year, it's like playing hot potato with the proverbial Christmas fruit loaf. It could well be a 100 year old relic because it's been passed so many times, and it appears to get heavier in weight and denser by the day. And yes, this is absolutely a fruit cake…of sorts. But, it's a soft sweet crumbly crumb, and mainly a nutmeat and fruit cake. It is my grandparents recipe for Christmas Loaf.
My Grandfather baked up MANY for the holidays. Some he would soak in Brandy for a couple of months until they were dense and fragrant. Others he would bake up in smallish loaf pans and gift to neighbors. Our house always received two unsoaked loaves. My Mom basically taught me how to enjoy this cake. I watched her spread soft salted sweet cream butter atop a fresh slice. Then, she'd start the kettle…
Get My Recipes For These Thoughtful (but sooo easy!) Cookies, Bars, and Cakes Just By Clicking On Each Highlighted Link Below
Date & Nut Loaf (post in progress!)
I include individually wrapped mini loaves of this beautiful nut bread decked with sweet candied fruits along with my Christmas cookies. Who doesn't want a food gift for Christmas?
I enjoy both baking and eating so many seasonal varieties of holiday breads and cakes. Banana Bread, Pumpkin Bread made with homemade pumpkin puree, Apple Quick Bread, Cranberry Orange cake…many of these I offer, as my Grandparents did, as a Christmas gift. Christmas Loaf is not only a make-ahead gift, but also one of my Christmas day recipes. I place a loaf into the oven in the morning right after I start a pot of coffee brewing.
French Toast using Christmas Loaf? UH HUH!
Once the bread is baked and out of the oven, I allow it to cool slightly. I slice it thick like Texas toast and submerge the slices in well beaten eggs and cream and begin a Christmas morning French toast using the Christmas Loaf as my bread. Wanna talk EXCELLENT? I have enjoyed a soaked cake very much, cut into 1 inch chunks and served with a good vanilla ice cream. But, I am less a Brandy person, and way more a hot tea or coffee and buttered Christmas Loaf slice kinda gal.
The cakes really couldn’t be easier to make – all the ingredients are mixed in one bowl so it takes only a matter of minutes to put together. Perfect for this time of year when we are all so busy!
Christmas bread has a long history. The earliest recipe from ancient Rome lists pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, and raisins that were mixed into a barley mash. In the Middle Ages, honey, spices, and preserved fruits were added. Fruitcakes soon proliferated all over Europe. Recipes varied greatly in different countries throughout the ages, depending on the available ingredients as well as (in some instances) church regulations forbidding the use of butter, regarding the observance of fast. Pope Innocent VIII (1432–1492) finally granted the use of butter, in a written permission known as the ‘Butter Letter' or Butterbrief in 1490, giving permission to Saxony to use milk and butter in the Stollen fruitcakes.
This with a cup of piping hot tea will be a warming treat after a brisk walk down to the docks in the chilly December air.
I believe my Grandfather to have adopted this method from his mom. Her name was Lizzie Sandt, my Great Grandmother. She was of heavy German decent, her own mother's maiden name of Dreisbach dating back in the America since well before the Revolutionary War. My Great Grandmother Lizzie grew up in Sandt Pennsylvania. Yes, they were the Sandt's living in the village of Sandt, a place founded by the family a hundred years before. I had heard stories growing up that my Great Grandmother and her mom spoke only German to one another.
Heritage, family, tradition, and keen palettes....
I imagine that this Stollen fruitcake or method for candied fruit bread was theirs. And even though I have no real way of knowing, somehow, I just do. I have eaten it my entire adult life, not caring for it much as a kid, but it was ALWAYS there. I never did quite understand all of the fruitcake jokes. A recipe for Christmas bread is clearly a very traditional thing. C'mon guys, the Middle Ages? Yeah, it's old, it's traditional…for me though, it's just Grandma and Grandpa's Christmas Bread Loaf.
All images and text ©Jenny DeRemer for Not Entirely Average, LLC
Did you know that it’s super easy to print out a version of a half recipe or even a double recipe on Not Entirely Average? Hover over the serving size (highlighted in blue, it says 24 on this recipe) and then slide the the white line to the left to make less or to the right to make more. This "calculator" allows you to play until you get the number of servings you want. Easy.
Ingredients for Christmas Loaf
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- 2 cups sugar
- 6 large eggs
- 2 cups flour
- 1 pound candied cherries
- 1 pound pecans rough chopped
- Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter and flour two loaf pans and set aside.
- Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Measure the flour unsifted. Reserve 1/2 cup flour to mix with the cherries and the nuts. Sift the remaining flour into the butter sugar mixture and beat very well. Add the floured nutmeats and candied fruits and stir to combine.
- Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared loaf pans.
- Bake for 45 minutes, however, and because ovens vary widely, begin testing for doneness at 35 minutes by inserting a toothpick and pulling it out clean.
- Once the loaves are baked, turn out onto wire cooling racks to cool completely.
- Serve with softened sweet cream butter and hot coffee or tea.