Christmas Explained: Why Do We Even Have Fruitcake At Christmas?
Fruitcake has been ridiculed, shamed, laughed at, and shamed for as long as I can remember. In this final piece of our Christmas Explained series, I look into the history of Fruitcake.
It all started with the Romans. They would make a dish called satura that contained barley mash, nuts, raisins, and honeyed wine among its ingredients. As the Roman empire spread, so did the recipe.
Eventually it would land in Europe, and in England it would be referred to as plum cake or Christmas cake. It wasn't cheap to make, so it was only had on special occasions and around holidays.
It is believed that the name "Christmas cakes" is part of the reason why in the States we save it for this one time of the year. In other parts of the world, they eat fruitcake all year long. Looking at you Australia.
Fruitcake was once really popular in the US. That all changed with mass production.
It is believed that the mail-order and mass produced fruitcakes of the early 20th century ruined the reputation of what is supposed to be a fantastic culinary delight.
They weren't made with all of the powdered sugar and liqueurs that the British counterparts were. Some think this is where the hate began.
Johnny Carson used to make the joke that there is really only one fruitcake in existence, and it's just being passed from family to family.
The fruitcake is able to last for a very long time, thanks to the traditional methods of preparation that include liqueurs and lots of sugar. Also, brandy soaked linens have been used to wrap the cakes, adding to their longevity.
Jay Leno once sampled a fruitcake that was allegedly baked in 1878. He did so in 2003.