by Kym Byrnes
Sure there’s Christmas and Hanukah and New Year’s Eve to look forward to in December but let’s not forget what we’re all most excited about – December is National Fruitcake Month! Each year I wonder what fruitcake actually is and if it’s as bad as its reputation suggests. Enjoy a few fun facts about the fruity, nutty, dense bread-like sweet treat and then if you want to taste one for yourself, or gift it to someone, head to Baugher’s where they typically stock them during the holiday.
- Fruitcake is old. According to an article in Smithsonian Magazine, Fruitcake 101: A Concise, Cultural History of this Loved and Loathed Loaf, ancient Romans had what seems to be an early version of fruitcake – a mishmash of barley, pomegranate seeds, nuts and raisins in a sort of energy bar consistency. But the article goes on to say that the modern fruitcake dates back to the Middle Ages as dried fruits were more available and fruited breads became popular in European cuisine. In the 18th and 19th centuries, fruitcakes became an indulgence, often associated with wedding and holiday specialties. But how it came to be associated with the Christmas season remains unclear.
- Folks in Manitou Springs, Colorado have an interesting way to deal with fruitcakes that no one wants: simply toss it. Literally, they toss it, as far as they can. The annual event, scheduled for Jan. 25, 2020 includes activities like “old fashioned games of tossing fruitcakes, costume competitions, libations and a fruitcake bake off.” According to the town’s website, the event started in 1996 with locals throwing fruitcakes in the park, and has evolved into a much bigger community event.
- A simple Google search will reveal that there are countless variations and recipes for this dessert that we love to hate. But in general, one can expect to find any and all of the following ingredients in the very dense and heavy confection: candied fruit, dried fruit, fruit rind, nuts, spices and some sort of liquor or brandy. Foods covered in liqueurs and sugar will have a longer shelf life, which makes them particularly good for, say, sending through the mail over the holidays.
- Why does fruitcake get such a bad rap? I mean, it’s a dessert and it represents Christmas, so how bad can it be? According to a Huffington Post article titled Fruitcake: Why it Tastes So Bad, there are several reasons to turn your nose up at it, including that its brightly colored dried fruit pieces look very unappetizing; it looks pockmarked and diseased; it’s just too dense to be considered a cake; and most of all because it’s aged, yes aged as in old – fine for wines, bad for cake.
- Fruitcake went mainstream on The Tonight Show in 2000. The show’s host Jay Leno invited Marie Rudisill, author of the book Fruitcake, to be a guest on the show. On that episode, Rudisill showed Jay Leno and Mel Gibson how to make fruitcakes. A spirited woman who was known to be very frank, and even use profanity at times, Rudisill became known as the “Fruitcake Lady” and returned to the show several times.