Fruitcake has become a staple this time of year. Whether as a traditional treat, or as the butt of some off-color Christmas joke, Fruitcake is as much a part of our holiday culture as reindeer, holly berries and gingerbread men. But where did this dense, seemingly never molding dessert come from? I dug deep and came up with some facts that may surprise you.
- The oldest recipe for fruitcake dates back to the Roman times. Back then the heavy cake was used both as catapult ammunition (imagine that scenario), and a sustainable food for warriors to travel with on long journeys. The nuts and dried fruits were a great source of energy for tired soldiers.
- The recipe eventually made it’s way into Northern Europe. Fruits and nuts were considered a delicacy in the region, so the cakes were served primarily on special occassions such as weddings and Christmas. It is believed this is where the contemporary name “Christmas Cake” came from.
- It is said that the best tasting fruitcake is slightly aged. Typically, the cake is made up to a month before consumption. Fruitcakes can last as long as 3 years, if they are made with the correct preserve incredients (namely booze and preserved fruits). To lengthen the shelf life of the product, wrap the cake in alcohol soaked linen before storage.
- There is an ongoing rumor that fruitcakes are harmful to pets. It turns out that this rumor is somewhat accurate. Raisins, currants, and grapes can be harmful to kidney function in animals. The alcohol in the cake can also lead to seizures and respiratory failure in dogs. Think twice before sharing your fruitcake with your furry friend.
- Since 1913, the mailorder fruitcake business has been booming in the US. Fruitcakes come in all shapes and sizes from round, to ring shaped and from oval to square. Types of fruit and sweeteners also vary from cake to cake. Finding the right cake to fit your holiday needs should not be difficult this time of year.
Do you have any fond (or maybe not-so-fond) fruitcake memories? If so, share them with us!