National Fruitcake Day
Fruitcakes–we’ve all seen them at grandma’s house or in movies. This heavy, dark cake looks like it has gone through seven stages of baking. It sounds like your fist hitting a wooden table as you place it on a surface. But there’s a day for it. This day is National Fruitcake Day. It’s a celebration of the cake we all associate with bricks.
Although we don’t know who the original creator of fruitcake is, historians believe fruitcakes were invented in Rome over 2,000 years ago. Historians believe that the oldest recipe for fruitcakes is from ancient Rome. It lists pomegranate seeds and pine nuts that were added to a barley mash. There are also records from the Middle Ages that show that the original recipe was modified with honey, spices and preserved fruits.
In the 16th century, the American Colonies sugar and the discovery of high sugar concentrations in fruits made them more affordable. This led to fruit cakes becoming more popular all over the globe. Fruitcakes from the Roman period are very different today. They can be iced or made gluten-free, lactose free, diabetic, alcoholic or just plain old.
Many European countries have a fascinating history with fruitcakes. Fruitcakes made in Europe were forbidden from being produced after they had too much butter or sugar. Because they were unhealthy, these ingredients were banned. These cakes became popular at European weddings of high-class Europeans after they were made again.
The shelf life of fruitcakes is amazing. They can be kept on shelves for years without becoming ill. Jay Leno tried a piece from a Michigan family’s 1878 fruitcake as an heirloom in an episode of The Tonight Show in 2003. The fruitcake has been ridiculed by American culture for years. This is a common theme in movies and television. The fruitcake will often fall on someone’s body, and they will complain that it is as hard as bricks.
It is the way that fruitcakes are cooked that they can be eaten for so long. Fruits and nuts are usually dried and then soaked with a sugar substance. This allows them to stay on the shelf without any preservatives. Some recipes use alcohol or a alcohol-soaked storage cloth to prevent harmful bacteria from spoiling the product.
The fruit is preserved in concentrated rum for several months in the Caribbean. This gives it an alcoholic taste and extends its shelf life. Some brands have an expiration date of twenty-five year after the date of production!
Fruitcakes are not only a popular holiday dessert but also a common reference in pop culture. They are often the focus of inspirational life quotes such as this one by A. Lee Martinez: “Reality looks like a fruitcake. Pretty enough to look at, but with all kinds of things just below the surface.”
Jimmy Buffett even named one of his songs after the dessert. Truman Capote, who is best known for his book In Cold Blood discussed the dessert in his short story, “A Christmas Memory.”
It is simple to celebrate this day. Make fruitcake with all the family. After the fruitcake has been baked, you can serve it to your family and maybe even curl up on the couch for a holiday movie.
You can also celebrate by baking fruitcakes from all over the globe! These are some international variations:
In some cities, fruitcakes are also celebrated (or shared disapproval) in the United States by throwing them in slingshots and winning a prize for the highest flying!
Although fruitcake started out humblely, it becomes more popular over time, sometimes not in the way you would expect.