Culinary no-no FLASHBACK: The much maligned fruitcake


From one of the very first no-no blogs.

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“Sun-ripened California raisins, delicious pineapple, crunchy Georgia pecans, plump juicy cherries, freshly shelled walnuts and almonds, tangy lemon and orange peel….blended into a rich pound-cake batter…..baked to a golden brown.”

Now to me, that sounds pretty good. It’s from the website of the famous Claxton Bakery in Georgia, known for its fruitcake.

Of course, the fruitcake has become the Rodney Dangerfield of Christmas treats.

‘Fruitcakes make good door stops.’

‘Fruitcakes make good weights on a grandfather clock.’

‘Fruitcakes make good Christmas wreaths.’

‘Fruitcakes make good Curling stones.’

‘There is really only one fruitcake; it’s just been passed around for hundreds of years’ (a line attributed to Johnny Carson that supposedly started the attack on fruitcake).

Then there is this:

Some Great Things About Fruitcake
Patrick G Horneker
October 15, 2005

How many of you really enjoy eating fruitcake? Not many? I didn’t think so. Fruitcake is one of the most versatile foods anyone can (or should I say cannot) consume…and here are some really great things about fruitcake that you may or may not ever have heard about.

 _ Fruitcake can withstand hurricanes, avalanches, blizzards, desert heat and other natural weather phenomenom.

_ You really need tools to cut and serve fruitcake, for instance, a jackhammer,a ginsu knife or a mallet and chisel.

_ Whose recipe for fruitcake is better Betty Crocker’s or Bob Vila’s?

_ One day it is sitting on a plate ready to serve, the next day, it is part ofthe foundation for a new building.

_ Fruitcake is made with a recipe that was handed down for generations…andlooks like it, too.

_ Fruitcake is made with candied fruit, walnuts, our, sugar, and rum. Youcan, of course, substitute cement mix for our and Chicago River waterfor rum, and the fruitcake would still taste the same.

_ Most cakes are served with ice cream or whipped topping. Fruitcake isbest served with antacids and bicarbonate of soda.

_ Fruitcake will one day be an exhibit at the Field Museum.

_ You can learn natural history from a fruitcake.

_ Fruitcake is guaranteed to last through the next millennium.

_ You can pound nails into cement with a fruitcake.

_ You can  fix a street or a parking lot by pouring fruitcake batter into the potholes after the spring thaw.

_ Fruitcakes make very inexpensive paperweights.

_ The only way to make a fruitcake better is to paint a masterpiece on it.

According to Reuters, nearly half of U.S. adults questioned in an online survey said they regift (or resell) holiday presents. Food and drink leads the list at 35 percent, and fruitcakes account for 15 percent of those items.

Why the fruitcake gets little respect is beyond me. Any food that has such great ingredients as sugar, fruit, sugar, nuts, sugar, raisins and sugar can’t be that bad.

I happen to be pro-fruitcake.

There are two kinds of this baked good: dark and light.

Dark fruitcakes are generally made with darker ingredients, such as molasses, brown sugar, prunes, dates, raisins and walnuts. They also may include a wine or a brown liquor such as bourbon or brandy.

Light fruitcakes are made with granulated sugar or corn syrup and contain lighter-colored ingredients such as almonds and golden raisins. provides this history:

As it turns out, fruitcakes have a rather-er, rich history, the earliest ones dating back to Roman times, when a dense mixture of nuts, barley mash and various preserved fruits served as long-term sustenance that did not spoil quickly–perfect for crusaders and hunters out on long voyages. When the dried fruits of the Mediterranean traveled to other parts of Europe, the cake evolved into a tradition during nut harvests: each year, a fruitcake would be made with the nuts of the harvest, which would be then saved and eaten the following year, to kick of the next harvest.

Unfortunately the popularity dwindled a bit when fruitcakes were deemed “sinfully rich” by the government in the early 18th century in Europe, and they were relegated to a special-occasion only cake (this is how it became associated with holidays); luckily, these laws became a little more lax later on in the century, and it became a staple of high tea in England.

While it’s pretty clear that the fruitcake is rich in tradition, we did not fail to notice that there weren’t many stories of it being beloved for its actual taste. In fact there is even evidence to the contrary: Queen Victoria is said to have waited a year to eat a fruitcake she received for her birthday because she felt it showed restraint, moderation and good taste. (Source: What’s Cooking America). Hmm, or perhaps it just wasn’t yummy? contends the fruitcake is the ideal type of cake to send by mail:

1) It keeps well

2) It is impervious to most jostling

3) It stays fresh

It’s quite possible that with so many other goodies in the house like candy, cookies, gingerbread men and the like, the fruitcake gets overlooked.

That’s a shame because I find fruitcakes and stollens to be quite tasty, smeared with butter with a hot cup of tea.

So, if you get a fruitcake as a gift this year, don’t give it away.

And don’t be afraid.

Dig in!


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