This post was created in partnership with Nuts.com
I have a whole lot of cozy fall and holiday recipe ideas bouncing around in my mind, even though it’s still warm out and even though we are still enjoying the sweetest of summer tomatoes daily (I swear the yellow cherry tomatoes truly taste like candy this year). This transitional time is always exciting to me – all the fall produce brings back so many new or forgotten possibilities. I think autumn is much more of vegetable territory than summer – all the stone fruit and berries come in a quick, bright and happy flash, and before we know it, we are left with squash, roots, and sturdy winter greens. But there are still a few sweet gems like apples, pears, figs (fig recipe hopefully coming next week), and grapes to grace our fall cobblers, salads and such, and I plan to take full advantage of them this fall.
If you’ve been sticking around this space for a while or have my cookbook, you might know about my love for Concord grapes. I can never resist them at the store or market, being completely mesmerized by the stunning, cloudy berries. Their flavor is lovely too – deep and concentrated, much like the color. The main issue with Concord grapes lies in their prominent seeds. There is no way around them, so I usually end up making juice or compote with Concords – anything where the seeds can be strained out. I did so for this fruit and nut cake, where a myriad of dried fruit is gently cooked in Concord grape juice to soften the fruit’s skin and infuse them with the grape flavor. It’s worth mentioning here that, in the absence of Concord grapes, you can use all kinds of fruit juice for this cake – regular grapes, oranges or even apples would make for a fine juice substitute.
This cake is dense and punctuated by comforting flavors of toasted nuts, along with aromatic sweetness from dried fruit and Concord grape juice. A small slice goes a long way. There is no added sugar, as the dried fruit and grape juice bring plenty of sweet to the plate.
This is the kind of cake that can serve many purposes. It would make for a perfect edible holiday present, whether brought whole to a festive potluck, or divided into smaller, rectangular cakes, wrapped, tied with a ribbon and gifted. Little squares of this cake would also make a nice addition to a fancy cheese plate, if you’re into that kind of thing. Or it can simply be enjoyed as a dessert at home – it keeps well refrigerated for a good amount of time, and a slice makes for a good component to a kid’s school lunch (or adult’s work snack!). You can get crazy with the decorating like I did here, or not decorate it at all, depending on the occasion.
I’ve been shopping on nuts.com for years (since the days when they were still called nuts online) and was thrilled to collaborate on a post with them. All the dried fruit and nuts in this cake came from their online store, which made for extra-delicious results, because their products are consistently fresh and delicious. If you aren’t familiar with nuts.com, they are a family-owned, premium bulk nut and dried fruit supplier, and so much more than that, really. The business has been in the family for three generations now, starting with a stand at a farmer’s market back in 1929, and they’ve built up an amazingly extensive catalogue of natural bulk foods. In addition to nuts/dried fruit, they carry grains, beans, flours, teas, snacks, superfood powders, spices, and more. I feel like a kid in a candy store when I’m on their website. Their dried fruit are the juiciest I’ve ever gotten anywhere, and both Paloma and I are hooked on their dried mango. They also freshly roast their nuts the same day they are shipped out to customers, which is just so cool.
The best news is that Nuts.com has a great offer for GK readers – follow this link and choose four free gifts (like chia seeds, goji berries, hemp protein powder, habanero pistachios and more) to receive together with an order of $25 or more. Enjoy :)
- 4 cups mixed dried fruit - figs, prunes, apricots, raisins - chopped (no need to chop raisins)
- 4 Medjool dates or 6-8 regular dates - pitted and chopped
- 1½ cups freshly squeezed Concord grape juice or other fruit juice - hot
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- other spices such as ground cardamom, cloves and allspice - to taste (optional)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (optional)
- 1¼ cup toasted almonds - ground
- ½ cup toasted hazelnuts - chopped
- ½ cup toasted pecans or walnuts - chopped
- neutral coconut oil or other vegetable oil for oiling parchment paper
- pumpkin seeds
- dried apricots
- dried lemon slices
- dried cantaloupe
- dried mango
- Preheat oven to 300° F (150° C).
- Place 1½ cup of mixed dried fruit and all the dates into a medium bowl. Pour hot Concord grape/fruit juice over them, cover and let soak for 15 minutes. Place the remaining 2½ cups of dried fruit into a medium saucepan and set aside.
- Drain the soaked fruit into a strainer, over the saucepan with the dried fruit, pouring the soaking juice into the saucepan. Bring contents of the saucepan to a boil over high heat, adjust the heat to a simmer and cook until most of the juice is absorbed, about 8-12 minutes.
- Transfer the cooked fruit into a food processor, add spices and vanilla extract, if using, and blend until smooth. Transfer into a large bowl, add ground almonds and mix to combine. Stir in soaked fruit, chopped hazelnuts and pecans/walnuts, mixing well.
- Line a 10" cake pan with well-oiled parchment paper and press the fruit-nut mixture into the pan, evening it out with a spoon. Optionally, decorate with nuts and dried fruit to your liking.
- Bake for 1 hour, until firm. Let cool completely before slicing. The cake stores very well refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to 2 weeks.
2. If you don't have a juicer for juicing grapes, blend them in a blender and strain through a fine mesh strainer to get rid of any seeds and skins.