The dreaded fruitcake, oh how we detest it. Yet it seems to be such a cornerstone to the Christmas holiday that no matter how many parodies are made or how many noses are up-turned the poor, ridiculed fruitcake continues to be gifted over and over again.
The standing joke is that there is actually only one fruitcake on the planet. It has been gifted and re-gifted for hundreds of years and this is why the fruitcake is so very hard and impossible to eat. Of course, this is only a joke and one more stab at fruitcake.
The truth is fruitcake has a rather long and interesting history. It's been part of the holiday tradition for hundreds of years. Even before Christmas existed, fruitcake was alive and well in the Egyptian times, only it was made with a recipe that included pine nuts, raisins, barley mash and pomegranate seeds. In fact, it was considered an essential for the afterlife and all royalty had plenty of fruitcake in their tombs. Maybe the Egyptians knew just how long fruitcake lasted too!
During the 1600's in Europe the Pagans or Celtics had a variation of fruitcake that was used in a ritualistic ceremony as the nut harvest came to an end. The fruitcake was then ate the following year in celebration of the harvest to come.
Fruitcake became a food of privilege during the 18th century in England. Laws strictly prohibited the consumption and use of plum cakes to serious holidays and celebrations of great meaning. And so, plum cakes; plum cake was a generic term that included any type of dried fruit, was only legally consumed on Christmas, Easter, funerals, christenings and weddings.
Between the years 1837 and 1901 fruitcake was extremely loved and popular in Europe. Queen Victoria herself received this now loathed cake as a birthday gift. The rumor was she set the fruitcake aside for an entire year as a sign of extreme restraint, showing the ability to folly in moderation and to also show good taste.
It is customary in England for weddings to serve their guests dark fruitcake. This custom comes from an old wive's tale that says if the unmarried wedding guests place a slice of the fruitcake under their pillows they will dream of the person that they will one day marry.
Although the sugar content of a fruitcake is extremely high, fruitcake have an array of nutrients that are very beneficial. Filled with antioxidants, fruit and fiber, fruitcake is a very healthy snack.
The high content of sugar means there is very little water in the fruitcake. In turn, a fruitcake takes a very, very long time to mold. Unless you actually see mold growing on the fruitcake, it's perfectly ok to eat. Just keep in mind that even though they seem to last forever, they don't!
Even with all the brilliant history of the fruitcake, still yet it is hated today. Being a person who loves tradition and appreciates the cultural value of things, I say give the hated gift of fruitcake this and each year to at least one person. Include a brief history of the fruitcake and perhaps that person will carry on the tradition of the fruitcake as well.
1/8 cup chopped dried cherries
1/8 cup chopped dried mango
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup dried currants
2 tablespoons chopped candied citron
1/4 cup dark rum
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup dark rum, divided
Soak cherries, mango, cranberries, currants, and citron in 1/4 cup rum for at least 24 hours.
Cover tightly, and store at room temperature.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Butter a 6x3 inch round pan, and line with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar until fluffy.
Beat in egg.
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon and then mix into butter and sugar in three separate batches, alternating with molasses and milk.
Stir in soaked fruit and chopped nuts. Scrape batter into prepared pan.
Bake in preheated oven for about 40 minutes.
Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then sprinkle with 2 tablespoons rum.
Cut out one piece parchment paper and one piece cheesecloth, both should be large enough to wrap around the cake.
Moisten cheesecloth with 1 tablespoon rum. Arrange cheesecloth on top of parchment paper, and unmold cake onto it. Sprinkle top and sides of cake with remaining rum. Wrap the cheesecloth closely to the surface of the cake, then wrap with paper.
Place in an airtight tin, and age for at least 10 weeks. If storing longer, douse with additional rum for every 10 weeks of storage.