December 27th Is National Fruitcake Day
What Is Fruitcake?
Fruitcake, also known as Christmas cake, is a dried-fruit-laden dessert cake that is typically enjoyed around Christmas but rarely eaten outside of the holiday season. National Fruitcake Day is an obscure holiday dedicated to this uniquely textured dessert and is celebrated just a couple of days after Christmas on December 27th. This is an appropriate day to dedicate to the consumption of fruitcake because many people receive them around Christmas time.
The advantage of fruitcake as a dessert or gift is that it keeps rather well and can be wrapped up, frozen, and saved for a later date. Most fruitcakes contain alcohol, which is effective at delaying spoilage for some time. The dish's unique longevity is part of what made it so popular ages ago—we'll touch on this in more detail later. Will you take your fruitcake out of the fridge on December 27th and enjoy it in honor of National Fruitcake Day?
Does Fruitcake Have a Bad Reputation?
The poor, forgotten fruitcake has a notorious reputation for being disliked, especially in the United States. Many people report receiving the dessert as an unwanted gift from an extended family member or acquaintance at Christmas time. Frequently cited reasons for fruitcake's unpopularity include its heavy taste and chewy texture.
It is, however, a traditional holiday dish, and traditions tend to continue in spite of their waning popularity. New recipes have emerged that claim to produce lighter, tastier fruitcakes, and there are many variations, so if you try enough of them, you're bound to find one that you like.
Fun Fruitcake Facts
- Queen Victoria did not eat a fruitcake for a year after she received one for her birthday. She thought this showed restraint, which was considered an important virtue in Victorian England.
- In England, fruitcakes were originally called plum cakes. They are also known as Christmas cakes due to their popularity at that time of year.
- One-third of all fruitcakes sold each year in North America are never eaten. They end up in people's freezers and are eventually tossed out.
Fruitcake was actually banned in the early 18th century because it was considered "sinfully" rich. Nowadays, most people seem to avoid it by choice. How ironic!
The History of Fruitcake
You might be surprised to learn that despite its reputation as the butt of so many tired holiday jokes, fruitcake actually has a long and storied history that dates back to centuries before the common era.
Fruitcake first appeared in the Roman Empire in the 8th century BCE. It was originally a concoction that consisted of pine nuts and raisins mixed into a mash of barley. Later on, during the Middle Ages, it became popular to add fruits, honey, and a variety of spices. This development saw the dish begin to more closely resemble its modern-day counterpart.
Fruitcake eventually became a popular food for hunters and warriors to carry on long trips because it kept so well for extended periods of time. Spirits were often added to the mix to further delay its expiration. During the 1400s, the dish became very popular in Britain, especially when dried fruits began to be imported from the Mediterranean.
The Good-Luck Cake
Later, in 16th-century Europe, the fruitcake became known as a harvest symbol and a good luck charm. The nuts of the current season's harvest were baked into fruitcakes that were stored until the following year to be eaten at harvest time. This process was said to ensure good luck for the next year's harvest and became a common tradition. This was how the fruitcake first became associated with celebration.
Today, the fruitcake is popular as a wedding cake in addition to being a traditional holiday staple served around Christmas time. It is usually made with dried or candied fruit combined with nuts and spices and can be soaked in liquor to prevent spoiling. In the United Kingdom, it is popular to decorate fruitcakes with icing.
- Make it two weeks in advance. The video above includes instructions for making a fruitcake. The recipe uses alcohol, but you can substitute juice if you prefer. If you are making it for a special occasion (i.e. Christmas), it must be made at least two weeks ahead of time.
- Bake it in a "non-reactive" pan. The shopping list for fruitcakes is long, and you do need a "non-reactive" pan to cook one. This means stainless steel, glass, plastic, enamel, or clay cookware. Reactive cookware, like aluminum or copper, conducts heat very well but apparently creates a chemical reaction with the food you are cooking. This will spoil the cake by changing its consistency and taste.
Do you like fruitcake?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2012 Sharon Bellissimo