Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Brief History of the Holiday Fruitcake

The ubiquitous holiday fruitcake- love it or hate it, one thing is for sure: this traditional holiday staple has become the stuff of legend and lore.  

In this article, we’ll explore the surprising history of the Fruitcake and share our favorite holiday fruitcake recipe with you- give it a try and you just might change the way you feel about fruitcake!

A Brief History of the Fruitcake

The first documented recipe for fruitcake dates back to Roman times.  The high calorie content and long shelf-life made it the perfect choice for sustaining warriors on long journeys.

The fruitcake came to be regarded as a delicacy when it first made its appearance in Northern Europe, where the scarcity of fruits and nuts reserved the treat for special occasions .     

Many people agree that correctly aging a fruitcake will greatly enhance it’s flavor.  Traditionally, fruitcakes are prepared up to a month in advance and preserved by the periodic addition of rum or other “potent potables”.

Managed this way, a fruitcake can remain edible for many years.  The oldest known fruitcake was baked in 1878 and is kept and maintained as an heirloom by a family in Michigan.

The first mailorder fruitcake hit the market in 1913, and the rest is history.  Each year, nearly 2 million fruitcakes are shipped across the nation by well meaning friends and family hoping to preserve this venerable holiday tradition.

Unfortunately, most fruitcakes that hit our tables during the holidays bear little resemblance to the delicacy our ancestors enjoyed.  

Saturated in high-fructose corn syrup and extruded onto conveyor belt ovens, Perhaps the once-noble fruitcake owes its recently maligned reputation more to mass-market factory production techniques than to its own humble nature.

If you’ve never tasted a real homemade fruitcake, you may be missing out!  Try our favorite holiday fruitcake recipe, and you just might find a new holiday tradition of your own!

Our Favorite Simple Homemade Fruitcake Recipe

What you’ll need:

  • 3 cups whole candied cherries
  • 3 cups candied pineapple, diced
  • 1 pound shelled walnuts
  • 10 ounces golden raisins
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

How it’s made:

  • Combine the cherries, pineapple, walnuts and raisins in a large bowl and set aside.
  • Cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy in another large bowl. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
  • Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture and mix well. Pour over fruit mixture and stir to coat.
  • Transfer to a greased and floured 10 inch tube pan.
  • Bake at 300° for 2 hours or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
  • Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Wrap tightly and store in a cool place.
  • Slice with a serrated knife; bring to room temperature before serving. 
Yields 16 servings.  For the grownups, kick it up a notch or two by drizzling with Rum or Brandy.

Do love or do you hate holiday fruitcakes?  Have a favorite holiday recipe, or an improvement on ours?  Comment below, and tell us about it!  

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