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A slice of traditional fruitcake
A slice of traditional fruitcake

Fruitcake is a heavy cake made of dried or candied fruits and nuts that are soaked in brandy or rum, often used in the celebration of weddings and Christmas.



The earliest recipe from ancient Rome lists pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, and raisins that were mixed into barley mash.

In the Middle Ages, honey, spices, and preserved fruits were added and the name fruitcake was first used. Robert Sietsema finds that inexpensive sugar from the American Colonies and the discovery that high concentrations of sugar could preserve fruits created an excess of candied fruit. The fruitcake was the way to use them.

In the 18th century, Europeans were baking fruitcakes using nuts from the harvest for good luck in the following year. The cake was saved and eaten before the next harvest. Fruitcakes proliferated until a law in Europe restricted them to Christmas, weddings, and a few other holidays. Even so, the fruitcake remained popular at Victorian Teas in England throughout the 19th century.

Mail-order fruitcakes began in 1913. The management of Ringling Brothers Circus liked the fruitcake from Collin Street Bakery, a local bakery in Corsicana, Texas. They ordered them as gifts to be mailed to friends around the country. Collin Street Bakery, using the old European recipe of baker Gus Weidmann and salesman Tom McElwee, grew quickly, and have shipped their fruitcakes to nearly 200 countries worldwide and numerous multi-national corporations and famous individuals.

The modern fruitcakes are fundamentally butter cakes with just enough dough to bind the fruit. The cakes are saturated with liqueurs or brandy, and covered in powdered sugar, both of which prevent mold. Brandy or wine-soaked linens are used to store the fruitcakes. Many people feel fruitcakes improve with age. Some cakes have been eaten 25 years after baking.

Recently, in Waukesha, Wisconsin, a man discovered a 43 year old fruitcake in his mother's attic that his aunts had sent to him in 1962, while stationed at an Army base in Alaska. The cake arrived wrapped in brown paper with a red "fragile, handle with care" sticker on it, and the label "Old Fashioned Fruitcake". The man who found this treasure says "Now it's just old".

Fruitcake in popular culture

In the United States of America, the fruitcake has become one of the most ridiculed desserts and the butt of many jokes centered on its heaviness and long shelf life.

Former Tonight Show host Johnny Carson joked that there really is only one fruitcake in the world. It is passed from family to family -- a joke also frequently attributed to the writer Calvin Trillin, who denies being the source. Trillin says he was just passing along a theory he "had heard from someone in Denver". He continues, "There is nothing dangerous about fruitcakes as long as people send them along without eating them." The Fruitcake Lady makes appearances with current host Jay Leno and offers her "fruitcake" opinions.

Comedian Jim Gaffigan has used fruitcake in his bit to question its relation to regular cakes with the line, "Fruit, good; cake, great; fruitcake, nasty crap."

For the last nine years about 500 people have shown up in Manitou Springs, Colorado each January for the Great Fruitcake Toss. "We encourage the use of recycled fruitcakes", says Leslie Lewis of the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce. The all-time Great Fruitcake Toss record is 420 feet.

In the UK, fruitcakes are far moister and richer than their American counterparts, and remain extremely popular. The traditional Christmas cake is a fruitcake covered in marzipan, and then in white satin or royal icing. They are often further decorated with snow scenes, holly leaves and berries (real or artificial), or tiny decorative robins or snowmen.

Fruitcakes have been banned on airplanes. Because they are difficult to identify using x-ray equipment at security checkpoints, they could exacerbate security delays created by recently increased security.

Fruitcake is also used, especially in the United Kingdom and the United States, as insulting slang for a 'crazy person' (e.g. "he's a complete fruitcake"). It is derived from the expression "nutty as a fruitcake", which was first recorded in 1935. [1] It is also used to suggest that someone is a homosexual.

See also

External links

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Christmas Guide, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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