Sunday, December 12, 2010

Fruit Cake: Lost art form? or was it ever an art form at all?

Fruit Cakes are always the butt of all holiday jokes. Which will survive longer a cock roach or a fruit cake?

The history of the fruitcake is rather interesting. The first recorded reference to fruit cakes dates to Roman times. The recipe included pomegranate seeds. Pine nuts, and raisins that were mixed into barley mash. Honey, spices, and preserved fruits were added during the Middle Ages. Crusaders and hunters were reported to have carried this type of cake to sustain themselves over long periods of time away from home.

See they really have been around forever!   The Victorians took them one step further.  
Between 1837 and 1901, fruitcake was extremely popular. A Victorian "Tea" would not have been complete without the addition of the fruitcake to the sweet and savory spread. Queen Victoria is said to have waited a year to eat a fruitcake she received for her birthday because she felt it showed restraint, moderation and good taste. It was the custom in England for unmarried wedding guests to put a slice of the cake, traditionally a dark fruitcake, under their pillow at night so they will dream of the person they will marry.

Could you imagine your wedding cake as a fruitcake?   

Does anyone still make homemade fruitcakes?  Are they still given as a gift? or now in modern times, are they the boobie prize of the gift exchange?   How did a cake that was loved and adored by generations fall so far down the food ladder?   Is baking a fruitcake truly an art form that has been lost to the ages?   Does anyone under the age of 60 appreciate fruitcake? 

I personally have never been a fan of fruit cake ever! But this year, I kind of miss my aunt's fruit cake cookies. She passed away several years ago. But growing up, I remember she would spend days getting ingredients together and spend hours baking this cookies.  She would bake them to resemble mini fruit cakes in those little mini muffin wrappers.  I remember most years, they were green with red stripes and holly leaves.   I don't know how she found the same wrappers every year.   There were the odd years, that she would pick up the silver foil wrappers.    She tried her best to dress them up.    These were the cookies, that when you ate one and it seemed that 2 more grew in it's place. I guess you could call them the Hydra of the cookie platter.  For me, the most unpleasant part of fruitcake is the tortured candied fruit.  Cherries and pineapples are not ment to come in those colors.   Still, I fondly think back to her baking cookies for everyone. My aunt was an excellent cook!  She always made at least 4 different kinds of cookies by the dozens.   This is the recipe that she always used and I am sharing it in memory of her. 


1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs, separated
3 cups flour, divided
1/2 lb candied cherries, finely chopped
1/2 lb candied pineapples, finely chopped
1/2 lb golden raisins
1 quart shelled pecans, finely chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark rum
1 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in hot water

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar; beat in egg yolks.

Sprinkle the rum over the fruits. Chopping the fruits and nuts is made easier with a food processor, or simply mound them together and sprinkle with a little of the flour to make chopping easier.

Stir the remaining flour together with the spices and salt to mix evenly. Then add remaining ingredients (except for the egg whites).

Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter. Drop by small teaspoonfuls onto a cookie sheet brushed with Crisco or vegetable oil.

Bake at 350°F for 10-15 m

Maybe a modern movement to save the fruitcake can be launched ( if you interested in launching fruit cakes check out what the folks in Manitou Springs, Co do).  Is it possible to save the fruitcake from its own bad reputation?  


  1. Fruit cake? My father LOVED fruit cake! Every Christmas, my father would come hom with everyone's fruitcakes because nobody else wanted them! This was a source of tons of laughter in our family during this season...

    Thanks for sharing this & the memory to go along with it...

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  2. Hmmm...I have to admit I am suspicious of fruitcake, but I just might try those cookies.
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