Fruitcake is a polarizing holiday tradition. Often, these spiced and fruit-studded treats can be dry and lackluster. However, when given the care and attention they deserve, fruitcakes can be light and bright, and worthy of celebration.
History of Fruitcake
Fruitcakes are an ancient dessert; a recipe for a rudimentary fruit cake dates back as far as ancient Rome, consisting of pine nuts, pomegranate arils, and raisins in a barley mash. Over thousands of years, fruitcakes spread across Europe and the rest of the world, each with their own regional attributes. Spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, cloves, cardamom, and ginger can all be found in a classic fruitcake. Fruitcake was especially popular in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, and was seen as a symbol of wealth and prosperity; sugar, fruit, and spices were expensive ingredients at that time and showed off one’s wealth. Today, there are recipes for fruitcake found all over the world. These sweet treats are enjoyed especially at Christmastime.
What Exactly is Fruitcake?
Typically, fruitcake is made with a thick batter, punctuated with candied fruits, nuts, spices, and alcohol. While most fruitcakes are quite dense, owing to their many fillings, some varieties can be quite light and airy. Swiss gugelhupf, for instance, is a much airier version of the fruitcakes we know in the United States (US). Due to a large quantity of sugar, and often alcohol (both of which act as preservatives), fruitcake can be stored for months under the right conditions. It is this longevity that has made fruitcake the butt of many jokes in the US.
Despite its reputation, we think that fruitcake can be made well and enjoyed by many. While storing fruitcake for months on end might have been advantageous centuries ago, today we find that enjoying fruitcake a day or two after it’s made is really the best way to eat it. Fresh spices, ample amounts of citrus zest, and a light hand with the booze also help to balance out the many competing flavors found in fruitcake. Our recipe uses a mix of dried fruits, spices, and orange juice to keep this Christmas treat bright and festive. Try out the recipe for yourself here.
Feature Image: Flickr user lynn.gardner ( CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 )