Feast on Festive Fruitcakes for the Holidays
We all have our favorite Christmas goody that we love to eat. Fruitcake, a heavy cake made from dried or candied fruits and nuts that are marinated in rum or brandy, has origins in ancient Rome. It is often used in both wedding and Christmas celebrations. The earliest Roman recipe lists pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, and raisins that were mixed into a barley mash.
In the Middle Ages, honey, spices, and preserved fruits were added and the name fruitcake was first used. When it was later discovered that fruits could be preserved using a high amount of sugar, they naturally found their way into fruitcakes.
In the 18th century, Europeans were baking fruitcakes using nuts from the harvest for good luck in the following year. The tradition was to save the cake then eat it later before the next harvest. They were in abundant supply across Europe until a law was actually passed banning them at any time other than weddings, Christmas and a couple of other holidays. However, it was still popular during tea time in Victorian England in the 19th century.
The birth of the mail ordered fruitcake can be attributed to the Ringling Brothers Circus back in 1913. The circus management enjoyed the fruitcake from a small local bakery in Corsicana, Texas so much that they ordered them for friends and family members across the country. Collin Street Bakery has shipped their fruitcakes around the world ever since.
The main ingredient in the modern day fruitcake is 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. Its heaviness and long shelf life probably also accounts for its legendary place as the focus of many jokes and comedy sketch routines.