On the sixth day of our 12 Days of Christmas Desserts,
we are featuring Fruitcake!
Fruitcake from Manderfield's Home Bakery
Ah, fruitcake. Perhaps one of the most polarizing holiday desserts, you either love it or loathe it. Somehow throughout the fruitcake’s long history, it became the running joke of the holiday season. But it remains one of the most traditional holiday desserts to this day.
Fruitcake is a cake made with chopped candied fruit and/or dried fruit, nuts, and spices. It’s often known for its density, rich flavors and its ability to keep fresh for a long time. While most American mass-produced fruit cakes are alcohol-free, traditional recipes are saturated with liqueurs or brandy.
Fruitcake from Hill Top Bakery
The oldest reference to fruitcake dates back to Roman times. The recipe included pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, and raisins that were mixed into a barley mash. Honey, spices, and preserved fruits were added during the Middle Ages. During the 15th century, the British began their love affair with fruitcake when dried fruits from the Mediterranean first arrived. In seventeenth century Europe, a ceremonial type of fruitcake was baked at the end of the nut harvest, saved and eaten the next year to celebrate the beginning of the next harvest. Just a century later, fruitcake was outlawed entirely throughout Continental Europe as they were considered to be “sinfully rich.”
Fruitcake from Clasen's European Bakery
Once fruitcake was reinstated, became extremely popular. A Victorian teatime would not have been complete without the addition of the fruitcake. During this time, it was also the custom in England for unmarried wedding guests to put a slice of fruitcake under their pillow at night so they will dream of the person they will marry.
Starting in the 16th century, sugar from the American Colonies (and the discovery that high concentrations of sugar could preserve fruits) created an excess of candied fruit, thus making fruit cakes more affordable and popular. Nuts were introduced into the formula, probably because America's foremost fruitcake makers—Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas, and Claxton Bakery of Claxton, Georgia—were located in rural Southern communities with a surplus of cheap nuts.
Fruitcake from O&H Danish Bakery
So how did such a popular dessert suddenly fall out of favor? Maybe attribute the introduction of mass produced, mail-order fruitcakes in 1913 to its demise. Other point to The Tonight Show host Johnny Carson, who would joke that there really is only one fruitcake in the world, passed from family to family. Whatever the reason, fruitcake became the butt of many holiday jokes. It became so bad that the Colorado town of Manitou Springs hosted the Great Fruitcake Toss where people take their recycled fruitcakes and compete to see how far they can be launched. This tradition started in 1995 continues today.
Today the fruitcake is making a comeback with bakeries experimenting with traditional recipes to appeal to the younger generations. It just goes to show, you can’t keep the fruitcake down. So this Christmas season, give the fruitcake a chance to become your favorite holiday dessert!
Fruitcake from Neat-O's Bake Shoppe
Fun fruitcake facts:
· December 27th is National Fruitcake Day
· A pineapple fruitcake was brought along on the Apollo 11 space mission in 1969. Unfortunately, it was not consumed by the astronauts onboard and is currently on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
Find Fruitcake at one of these WBA member bakeries:
Clasen's European Bakery
Hill Top Bakery
Manderfield's Home Bakery
Neat-O's Bake Shoppe
O&H Danish Bakery
To find a WBA Member bakery near you, click here.
Day 5 - Decadent Cheesecake
Day 7 - Holiday Pies