Christmas Series | Fruitcake
December 20, 2020
Welcome to my 12 days of Christmas Foods! Each day I make a different Christmas recipe. I'll share which recipe I used, a little history about the recipe, the steps involved in making it, and, of course, delicious pictures. On day 1, I made gingerbread and on day 2, I made aged eggnog. Day 3 was roasted chestnuts. Day 4 was Christmas fudge, and day 5 was Mincemeat Pie. Day 6 was Chocolate-covered Pretzels.
On the seventh day of Christmas foods, I made the fruitcake recipe from King Arthur Baking. I’ve only ever had one bite of fruitcake. It was a fruitcake from the famous Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, TX which is not too far from where I live. I have to say it was pretty good considering all of hatred spread about fruitcake today. Let's learn about the history of fruitcake!
History Lesson: Fruitcakes date all the way back to the Roman times. The recipe included pine nuts, raisins, and pomegranate seeds. During the Middle Ages, honey, spices, and other dried fruits were added. Hunters and soldiers were known to carry fruitcake around with them while on long journeys. The stuff lasts forever!
In the 1400s, the British were introduced to fruitcake when dried fruits from the Mediterranean showed up. During the 1700s, Europeans were eating fruitcake that was a year old! After a nut harvest, they would make a fruitcake and eat it in the following year in hopes that it would bring another successful harvest.
In the early 1800s, fruitcake, also known as plum cakes, were banned for being “sinfully rich.” Seems like fruitcake and mincemeat pies have something in common! Speaking of which, did you know that at one point, fruitcake contained meat too?
Between the years 1837 and 1901, fruitcake was booming. A tea time in England would not be complete without the beloved fruitcake.
Eventually British colonists would bring fruitcake over to America. Since you didn’t need fresh fruit to make it, it really took off in areas that didn’t have access to fresh fruit. In 1913, Collin Street Bakery began to ship their famous fruitcakes in classic tins to all of the world.
During my research, I ran into so many different stories of fruitcakes from all over the world and during a wide range of times. Egyptians placing fruitcake on loved ones’ tombs. Single girls in England putting fruitcake under their pillows in hopes to dream of their future lover. Queen Elizabeth waiting an entire year to eat her wedding fruitcake to show her restraint. Actually, many British royals serve fruitcake at their weddings! In 1969, fruitcake was taken to the moon on Apollo 11. You can still see the fruitcake in person at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
It seems in more recent years that the joke of the fruitcake began. It doesn’t really make sense though because it seems as if fruitcake has been held near and dear to the heart for so many throughout the years. In the 1960s, Johnny Carson from The Tonight Show joked, “The worst gift is fruitcake. There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other.”
Why fruitcake is a Christmas tradition is a mystery. It’s possible that it became a holiday food because poor English Christmas carolers were served fruitcake for their singing.
Today, people laugh about gifting fruitcake, but why?? It’s really not that bad, I promise. Try it for yourself!
You can find my sources and read more about fruitcake on whatscookingamerica.com, howstuffworks.com, and redbookmag.com.
Let's talk about the recipe! I got this fruitcake recipe from King Arthur Baking. I decided to go with a recipe that didn't call for green cherries. I'm just not sure I can trust a green cherry yet. It begins by soaking all of the dried fruits (pineapple, raisins, apricots, dates, cherries, and crystallized ginger) in rum or brandy overnight. If you don't have that much time you can also heat it up for a minute in the microwave and let it sit for one hour.
The batter for this recipe is pretty basic- sugar, butter, flour, eggs, and spices. Black cocoa, corn syrup, cranberry juice, and walnuts are stirred in at the end. Then this loaf bakes FOREVER. I used a standard 9' x 5', and it took over 2 hours in the oven!
See you all again tomorrow for day 8. Happy Baking!
December 20, 2020 by Laura Bullock