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“Why are Fruitcakes Immortal?” and Other Christmas Food Mysteries

“Why are Fruitcakes Immortal?” and Other Christmas Food Mysteries

When a holiday is steeped in tradition, it honestly doesn’t do much good to question why things are the way they are. This is especially true when it comes to Christmas foods, dripping with candied fruits and gingerbread, and some serious questions remain.

What are Sugarplums?


Visions of sugarplums may be dancing in children’s heads, but what are they actually visualizing? If you think they’re just a variety of plum, guess again: The term “plum” was once used to denote any dried fruit. Sugarplums are actually finely diced dried fruit mixed with nuts, honey, and spices like fennel and anise, then rolled into a ball and rolled in sugar.

Why are Fruitcakes Immortal?


Is that fruitcake in the back of the pantry from last year’s Christmas, or from two years ago? It doesn’t really matter, because fruitcakes last more or less forever. America’s most ridiculed dessert, the high sugar content and traditional addition of alcohol both act as excellent preservatives.

What is Figgy Pudding?


Now bring us some figgy pudding, but only after you explain to us what exactly it is, because it sounds rather odd. It uses the British definition of “pudding,” meaning any dessert (be it actual pudding, cake, pie, or other) and is essentially a dense cake made with molasses, nuts, spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, and lots of finely chopped dried figs.

What’s the Deal with King Cake?


Cakes baked with a small baby figurine, usually intended to be Jesus, inside are served all over the world during Christmastime, from galette des rois in France to rosca de reyes in Spain, vasilopita in Greece, bolo-rei in Angola, and banitsa in Bulgaria. The significance of the baby varies according to different cultures; in the U.S., finding it in your slice means you will be rewarded with luck and prosperity; In Spanish-speaking countries, whoever finds it must take it to the nearest church on February 2; in Mexico, whoever finds it has to host a party on that date; and in France, the figurine (la fève) can be anything from toy cars to cartoon characters, and whoever finds it becomes “king for the day.”

Does Mincemeat Actually Contain Meat?


Mince pie is a traditional British Christmas dessert, and the filling is traditionally called mincemeat. While in the past it was traditionally a savory combination of finely minced beef or mutton mixed with suet (beef fat), vinegar, prunes, raisins, and dates, today just about every variation is meat-free, and is sweeter and made with dried fruits, spices including clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon, and brandy.


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The Dreaded Citron: What Is It?

Those who do not like fruitcake generally point the finger at the candied citron or fruits used in the cake. Candied citron is made from the thick peel of the citrus fruit of the same name. The fruit looks like a large, lumpy lemon and has a thick peel and relatively little pulp or juice. It's one of the four ancient citrus fruits, being grown for over 3000 years. It was used medicinally for stomach and intestinal ailments. Since it contains a large amount of vitamin C, it could prevent scurvy. Citron oil was used for perfume.

Today, citron fruit is used to make candied citron peel as well as being used commercially as a source of pectin, which is soluble fiber. The candied peel used in fruitcake is brined and fermented for several weeks, desalted, boiled, and then candied in a sugar solution. After that, it is dried and sold to be used as an ingredient in fruitcake, plum pudding, and other baked goods and candy.


The 10 Best Fruitcakes to Order Online in 2021

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As soon as the holiday decorations go up and A Christmas Story starts playing on repeat on TV, you know the fruitcake is soon to follow. Every fruitcake is unique to the baker making it. And everyone has their preference for the kinds of fruit, level of spiciness, overall crumb, and addition of alcohol that make for the perfect fruitcake. But, a few ingredients are consistent in almost every recipe.

There likely will be brightly-colored jellied fruit. Embrace it. Most of the time, fruitcakes include cherries, dried fruit, pineapple, raisins, and candied citrus. In the United States, most fruitcakes are also made with pecans, as pecans are native to the South. Not surprisingly, the fruitcake tradition is strongest in the South and throughout Texas. Cakes made with less fruit, or at times of the year other than the holidays, are often called "pecan cakes" instead of fruitcakes. The cakes are typically decorated with more fruit and nuts and generally don't need icing.

If you've never had a fruitcake before, visions of dense, dry, or cloyingly sweet cakes might come to mind. But the good ones should never be dry or dense enough to throw like a rock. The best fruitcakes are just as moist and flavorful as your favorite banana bread. With traditional fruitcakes available from all over the world, there's bound to be one you enjoy. Whether you're an enthusiast or testing the waters for the first time, here's a roundup of some of the best fruitcake options available for delivery this holiday season.


Ultimate Guide to Fruitcake

Each­ year in early January, the town of Manitou Springs, Colo. gathers for the Annual Great Fruitcake Toss. Besides acting as a food drive -- participants must bring one canned item to gain admission -- the event is a clever way to rid citizens of unwanted fruitcakes. Fruitcakes can be hurled, tossed or launched by a pneumatic device such as a spud gun.

Since 1994, individuals and teams have tested their projectile prowess with the promise of a trophy in one of the following categories:

  • Catch the Fruitcake - Team members catch fruitcakes launched from their team's device.
  • Accuracy with Targets - Targets are placed at distances of 75 feet, 125 feet and 175 feet with the objective to land or hit a target.
  • Most Creative Launch/Crowd Pleaser - Teams are tasked to execute an inventive launch as judged by the crowd.
  • Best Showmanship - Peoples Choice Award - Teams are judged by costume, decorated devices and slogans.

­Judges take the event seriously and make contestants adhere to standards such as weight divisions (two- and four-pound fruitcakes), launching distances, fruitcake contents (must contain glacéed fruits, nuts, flour and be edible) and launching devices (non-fuel devices only) [source: Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce].

Fruitcakes have also found their way into science experiments. "Iron Science Teacher" is a competition similar to the food show "Iron Chef," wherein competitors are given a secret ingredient to perform an experiment with.

One year, the secret ingredient was fruitcake, and science teachers had 10 minutes to present their science lessons, which included dropping various sizes of fruitcakes to reenact Galileo's Leaning Tower of Pisa experiment, drowning fruitcakes in water to measure buoyancy and using fruitcakes to illustrate the powers of the digestive system [source: Torassa].

And in 2006, nutrition and food scientist Thom Castonguay blew up fruitcakes with a bomb calorimeter -- a metal box that allows for small-scale food explosions. The heat from the explosion was measured in order to determine the amount of calories in the fruitcake [source: NPR].

Though some people prefer to repurpose their fruitcakes in less dramatic ways, like the old stand-by: fruitcake-as-doorstop. For more information about holiday traditions and related articles, visit the next page.


Did We Always Hate Fruitcake?

Fruitcake lives a sad life as the reigning punchline of holiday food. The much maligned dessert has a well-worn reputation. When we think of fruitcake we think of a thick, dense brick of a cake. One dotted with candied fruits and nuts. Perhaps it’s doused in rum, or some other alcohol, to which Truman Capote quipped, “that’s no way to waste good whiskey.” Maybe it’s the spawn of a Jell-O mold or a relic of your grandma’s 1960s kitchen. Whatever it is, it’s ugly.

Americans have spent decades rolling our eyes at this beast and its questionable taste, texture, and toughness. In a now classic “Tonight Show” monologue, Johnny Carson claimed, “The worst gift is fruitcake. There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other.” That was in 1985 and that attitude has prevailed ever since. Nowhere is this more evident than in Manitou Springs, Colorado. The city is home to the Great Fruitcake Toss, an annual event where people compete to see who can fling the dessert the furthest using a variety of mechanical contraptions.

But has it always been this way? And more importantly, should it be? As is usually the case when history is long and complicated, the answer is both yes and no.

The Origins of Fruitcake

Get the Goods Shockingly Tasty Fruitcakes While fruitcakes date back to ancient Rome, the dense, spiced cakes didn’t take on a life of their own until the modern era. Fruitcakes became holiday staples as early as the 1800s and were considered an easy way to share the gifts of each year’s harvest. However, rather than eat them right away, people would wait an entire year before serving them, out of superstition that it would bring good luck for the new year. While the cakes can withstand 365 days without refrigeration, they were rarely properly preserved. Thus, this tradition helped the cake achieve its reputation as a tough, rock hard dessert.

As evidence of their long shelf life, a 106-year-old fruitcake was found in Antarctica earlier this year. And yes, it is believed to be edible. The cake is thought to have belonged to British explorer Robert Falcon Scott, who even in the most frigid of circumstances, left his dessert untouched.

However, fruitcakes’ reputation as stale, whiskey-drenched doorstoppers is very much an American phenomenon. Despite their questionable texture, they still maintain their status as special occasion treats overseas. To this day, they remain the British royal wedding cake of choice, ever since a plum fruit cake was served at Prince Albert and Queen Victoria’s wedding in 1840. Prince Charles and Princess Diana honored the tradition, as did Prince William and Kate Middleton. A slice from the most recent royal wedding even sold at auction for $7,500 dollars. That sale alone more than defies the cake’s bargain bin status and gave fruitcake its biggest ego boost yet.

How Did Fruitcakes Fall Out of Favor?

In terms of price point, fruit cake’s reputation as a cheap dessert didn’t emerge until the early twentieth century. By the 1900s, thanks to increasing industrialization and inexpensive access to fruits and nuts, Southern bakeries were able to mass produce the dessert. Because of these conveniences and their remarkably long shelf life, the cakes were able to be sold via mail order catalog across the United States. All of a sudden there was a cheap, accessible, and easily gift-able cake on the national scene. They filled an untapped market, resulting in quick proliferation and near ubiquity.

While commercial saturation was near, the tide against fruitcake didn’t turn overnight. During the 1940s and ’50s, prominent eateries like the Collins Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas and the Claxton Bakery in Claxton, Georgia emerged as the premier purveyors of the dessert. These dueling cities continually duke it out for the title of “Fruitcake Capital of the World,” a somewhat dubious distinction that wasn’t always that way.

In fact, for a while, people actually liked receiving fruitcakes as presents. An article published in a 1953 issue of Los Angeles Times, unironically exclaimed, “Some like them dark. Some like them light. But everybody likes fruitcake!” In 1958 a headline in the Christian Science Monitor read, “What Could Be a Better Gift That Fruitcake?” Most people today would say anything.

Perhaps the biggest misconception about fruitcake is that they have to taste bad. The problem doesn’t lie within the cake itself, but the ingredients and recipes people tend to use. The brighter-than-a-Christmas-tree, neon, jellied fruits that top many cakes are often the major culprit. If you replace those saccharine candies with figs, dates, glacé cherries, and apricots, you’ll end up with a much better tasting cake, albeit a less kitschy one. Also brandy. Use brandy. It’s the ideal liquor for the job.

Or you could just leave it off your dessert spread altogether if you don’t want to risk contaminating your apple and pumpkin pies by sheer association. But it’s easier to pull together than figgy pudding.


Culinary Theme Mysteries : Cooking Mysteries….. A – D

There are many cozy mystery authors who have series that have a culinary theme. Because the list of culinary-themed cozy mysteries is so long, I have decided to devote several blogs in order to provide more than just the “grocery store list” approach of just listing the names of the authors. So, if you don’t see your favorite culinary-theme cozy mystery series in this blog, rest assured that there will be more authors in the near future!

Avery Aames (aka Daryl Wood Gerber) writes the Cheese Shop Mystery Series which has, as its sleuth, the co-owner of the cheese shop.

Kathy Aarons: Chocolate Covered Mystery Series features sleuth Michelle Serrano, co-owner of Chocolates and Chapters, a combination bookstore and chocolate shop.

Allyson K. Abbott (aka Annelise Ryan & Beth Amos) writes the Mack’s Bar Mystery Series, which features recipes for both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. The series is set in a bar which she (Mack) owns.

Riley Adams (aka Elizabeth Spann Craig) pens the Memphis Barbeque Mystery Series which (of course!) takes place in Tennessee.

Rebecca Adler writes the Taste of Texas Mystery Series starring a head waitress in Texas.

Ellie Alexander writes the Bakeshop Mystery Series. Jules Capshaw works at her family’s Torte Bakeshop in Oregon.

Ellie Alexander (aka Kate Dyer-Seeley): Sloan Krause Mystery Series. Sloan is a brewmaster in Washington state.

Robin Allen writes the Poppy Markham: Culinary Cop Mystery Series which is set in Austin, and features a health inspector.

Connie Archer pens the Soup Lover’s Mystery Series. It is set in a little Vermont skiing town.

Sandra Balzo writes the Maggie Thorsen Mystery Series which takes place in Wisconsin, where Maggie owns a coffee shop.

Maggie Barbieri writes the Maeve Conlon Mystery Series which features a bakery owner.

Jessica Beck writes the Donut Shop Mystery Series which features the owner of Donut Hearts Coffee Shop as the sleuth… (Doughnut recipes are included!)

Maymee Bell (aka Tonya Kappes): Southern Cake Baker Mystery Series – Sophia Cummings is a pastry chef in Kentucky who owns the For Goodness Cakes bakery.

Claudia Bishop writes two series, one of which is the new Dr. McKenzie series about a veterinarian and his wife. The other series is her hugely successful Hemlock Falls Series. This series features two sisters, one who owns the Hemlock Falls Inn and the other who is the Inn’s chef.

Miranda Bliss writes the Cooking Class Mystery Series which features two best friends who get involved with solving murders when they venture into a world previously unknown to them: the kitchen! Neither of these two can cook, so they take a Cooking Class (thus the title of the series) in which they meet their side-kick sleuth… the cooking class instructor!

Ginger Bolton (aka Janet Bolin): Deputy Donut Mystery Series – Emily Westhill runs a donut shop along with her retired chief of police dad and her Tabby cat, “Deputy Donut” >>> in Wisconsin.

Michael Bond is the author of the Monsieur Pamplemousse Series (as well as the children’s Paddington Bear series!) Monsieur Pamplemousse, who along with his bloodhound (Pommes Frites) solves crimes when not critiquing restaurants. (Some of the books have recipes, others, don’t.)

Jacklyn Brady (aka Sherry Lewis) writes the Piece of Cake Mystery Series which is set in New Orleans, and features Rita Lucero, a pastry chef.

Catherine Bruns is the author of the Cookies & Chance Mystery Series, featuring a baker.

Julia Buckley writes the Undercover Dish Mystery Series which is set in Illinois and stars Lilah Drake, owner of a catering company where the clients can claim to have cooked the meal.

Lynn Cahoon writes the Farm-to-Fork Mystery Series which features Angie Turner, the owner of a farm-to-table restaurant in Idaho.

Janet Cantrell (aka Kaye George): Fat Cat Mystery Series – Charity (Chase) Oliver makes both people and cat treats in Minneapolis.

Joanna Carl writes the Chocoholic Cozy Mystery Series, and need I say more. I must warn you, though… If you are trying to lose weight, and you have the same penchant for chocolate as I do… read these books on a full stomach! (Carl is aka Eve K. Sandstrom)

Sammi Carter writes the Candy Shop Mystery Series which features an ex-lawyer who now owns the Divinity Candy Shop in Colorado. Recipes are included!

Bailey Cates (aka Cricket McRae) writes the Magical Bakery Mystery Series which takes place in Savannah, Georgia. This is a paranormal mystery series.

Chris Cavender (aka Elizabeth Bright, Melissa Glazer, & Tim Myers): Pizza Mystery Series

Laura Childs writes the Cackleberry Club Mystery Series, which is set in a delightfully cozy cafe that has a book-nook corner and knitting shop area.

Mary Jane Clark : Piper Donovan Wedding Cake Mystery Series

Peg Cochran (aka Meg London): Gourmet De-Lite Mystery Series (Low calorie recipes are included.)

Nancy Coco (aka Nancy J. Parra): Candy-Coated Mystery Series (Includes recipes)

Susan Conant, along with her daughter, Jessica Conant-Park writes the Gourmet Girl Mystery Series.

Maya Corrigan: Five-Ingredient Mystery Series, featuring the manager of a fitness club’s café.

Shelley Costa: Miracolo Mystery Series is set in Philadelphia and features a chef in her family’s Italian restaurant.

Isis Crawford is the author of the Mystery with Recipes Series that features two sisters who own the Little Taste of Heaven Catering and Bake Shop in New York. (Some of you might be familiar with more of Crawford’s work as Barbara Block… and her Robin Light mystery series.)

Jessie Crockett: Sugar Grove Mystery Series – Dani Greene works at her family-owned maple sugar farm in Sugar Grove, New Hampshire.

Carol Culver (aka Grace Carroll) pens the Pie Shop Mystery Series which features Hanna Denton as the sleuth who moves back home to take over her grandmother’s pie shop.

Diane Mott Davidson‘s Goldy Bear Catering Mystery Series is probably one of the most recognizable culinary theme cozy mystery series. The series is set in a picturesque area of Colorado and features Goldy (the caterer) who provides the best catered food in town and manages to solve a lot of the best crimes in town, also! (The books include recipes.)

Krista Davis writes the Domestic Diva Mystery Series which centers around Sophie Winston, a… (What else?!) domestic diva! Since the series is a culinary mystery series, it includes recipes to follow along with the clues.

Maddie Day (aka Edith Maxwell & Tace Baker): Country Store Mystery Series – Robbie Jordan owns the Pans ‘N Pancakes Country Store restaurant in South Lick, Indiana.

Gale Deitch writes the Trudie Fine Mystery Series. Trudie is the co-owner of a catering company in Washington, D.C.

Devon Delaney: Cook-Off Mystery Series – Sherry Oliveri-Frazzelle is a competitive cook who works part-time with her dad AND Chutney, her Jack Russell Terrier in Connecticut.

Christine DeSmet writes the Fudge Shop Mystery Series. This series features a sleuth (Ava Oosterling) who is the owner of a copper kettle fudge shop which is located in her grandfather’s bait shop in Wisconsin.

Lesley A. Diehl writes the Microbrewers Mystery Series which features Hera Knighsbridge, a master brewer in New York.

Leighann Dobbs: Lexy Baker Mystery Series – Lexy is a baker who gets help from her grandmother and her friends when solving a mystery.

Pamela DuMond writes the Annie Graceland Mystery Series which features a psychic owner of a bakery.

Here are some more of my CULINARY – COOKING THEMES:

♦To access more Cozy Mysteries by Theme click on this link.♦


Ultimate Guide to Fruitcake

Culinary lore claims that ancient Egyptians placed an early version of the fruitcake on the tombs of loved ones, perhaps as food for the afterlife. But fruitcakes were not common until Roman times, when pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and barley mash were mixed together to form a ring-shaped dessert. Prized for its portability and shelf life, Roman soldiers often brought fruitcake with them to the battlefields. Later, in the Middle Ages, preserved fruit, spices and honey were added to the mix and fruitcakes gained popularity with crusaders [source: What's Cooking in America].

­With the colonies providing a boon in cheap, raw materials, 16th-century fruitcakes contained cupfuls of sugar, which added another density booster to the cake. In addition, fruits from the Mediterranean were candied and added to the mixture, along with nuts. Each successive century seemed to contribute yet another element to the cake, like alcohol during the Victorian era, until it became weighty with the cumulative harvests of the seasons.

In fact, by the early 18th century, fruitcake became synonymous with decadence and was outlawed in Europe, where it was proclaimed "sinfully rich" [source: Associated Content]. The law was eventually repealed since fruitcake had become an important part of the tea hour, particularly in England.

Recent centuries have seen fruitcake continue as a popular item to send to soldiers. One former soldier, Lance Nesta, rediscovered a fruitcake gifted to him in 1962 when he was stationed in Alaska. He had forgotten about the loaf, and it ended up in his mother's attic, where he found it 40 years later, claiming that at the time of receiving the present, "I opened it up and didn't know what to do with it. I sure wasn't going to eat it, and I liked my fellow soldiers too much to share it with them" [source: Breitbart].

The humble loaf has also appeared in popular culture like Truman Capote's "A Christmas Memory," which recounts young Capote's time spent with his eccentric cousin, who would commence to fruitcake-making when she deemed it proper "fruitcake weather."

But it's perhaps the former host of "The Tonight Show," Johnny Carson, who best determined fruitcake's place in the modern psyche. Deriding the loaf as a holiday reject, he once claimed that, "The worst gift is fruitcake. There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other" [source: Village Voice].

In the next section, we'll look at the physical qualities of fruitcakes and find out why some people begin "feeding" their fruitcakes a year in advance of their gifting or consumption.

Kin to the fruitcake, panettone and stollen have similar ingredients, like fruit and nuts. However, the Italian version, panettone, is lighter, with a cake-like consistency, and isn't made with alcohol. Stollen, fruitcake's German counterpart, has a lower sugar content and also omits alcohol [source: Village Voice].


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. [ citation needed ]

Fruitcakes soon proliferated all over Europe. Recipes varied greatly in different countries throughout the ages, depending on the available ingredients as well as (in some instances) church regulations forbidding the use of butter, regarding the observance of fast. Pope Innocent VIII (1432–1492) finally granted the use of butter, in a written permission known as the ‘Butter Letter' or Butterbrief in 1490, giving permission to Saxony to use milk and butter in the Stollen fruitcakes. [2]

Starting in the 16th century, sugar from the American Colonies (and the discovery that high concentrations of sugar could preserve fruits) created an excess of candied fruit, thus making fruitcakes more affordable and popular. [3]

Australia Edit

In Australia, fruitcake is consumed throughout the year, and is available at most major retail outlets. The cake is rarely eaten with icing or condiments.

Bahamas Edit

In the Bahamas, not only is the fruitcake drenched with rum, but the ingredients are as well. All of the candied fruits, walnuts, and raisins are placed in an enclosed container and are soaked with the darkest variety of rum, anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months in advance. The cake ingredients are mixed, and once the cake has finished baking, rum is poured onto it while it is still hot.

Bulgaria Edit

In Bulgaria, the common fruitcake is known as keks (Bulgarian: кекс [kɛks] ), is home-made and is consumed throughout the year. Recipes for keks vary, but commonly it contains flour, butter and/or cooking oil, milk, yeast, yoghurt, eggs, cocoa, walnuts, and raisins. It is usually baked in Bundt-style pan.

There is also another specific type of fruitcake prepared for Easter, which is known as kozunak (Bulgarian: козунак [kozoˈnak] ).

Canada Edit

The fruitcake is commonly eaten during the Christmas season in Canada. Rarely is it seen during other times of the year. The Canadian fruitcake is similar in style to the UK version, as it is in most Commonwealth countries. However, there is rarely icing on the cake and alcohol is not commonly put in Christmas cakes that are sold. The cakes are shaped like a small loaf of bread, and often covered in marzipan.

Dark, moist and rich Christmas fruitcakes are the most frequently consumed, with white Christmas fruitcake less common. These cakes tend to be made in mid-November to early December when the weather starts to cool down. They are a staple during Christmas dinner and a gift generally exchanged between business associates and close friends/family.

Chile Edit

Pan de Pascua is a fruitcake traditionally eaten around Christmas and Epiphany.

France Edit

In France, as in some other non-English speaking countries, the gâteau aux fruits ("fruit-cake") is often simply called "Cake".

Germany Edit

In Germany, baked goods that fit the description of fruitcake are not usually regarded as cake but rather as sweet breads.

Stollen is loaf-shaped and often powdered with icing sugar on the outside. It is usually made with yeast, butter, water, and flour, with the addition of citrus zest, candied citrus peel, raisins, and almonds.

The most famous Stollen is the Dresdner Stollen, [4] sold at the Dresden Christmas market, the Striezelmarkt. Official Dresden Stollen, produced by only 150 Dresden bakers, bears a special seal depicting Elector Augustus II the Strong.

In Bremen, the local fruitcake called Klaben is traditionally sold and eaten during the Christmas season. Bremer Klaben is a kind of Stollen which is not dusted with powdered sugar after baking. Both Dresdner Stollen and Bremen Klaben are protected geographical indications.

In Southern Germany and the Alpine region, Früchtebrot is a sweet, dark bread baked with nuts and dried fruit, e.g. apricots, figs, dates, plums.

India Edit

Fruitcake is a rich dense cake packed with dry fruits and nuts flavoured with spices usually made during Christmas. In India, this is found everywhere during the Christmas season, although it is also available commonly throughout the year.

Ireland Edit

In Ireland, a type of sweetbread called barmbrack is eaten at Hallowe'en. The cake contains different objects such as a ring or small coin, each signifying a different fortune for the person who finds it.

Italy Edit

Panforte is a chewy, dense Tuscan fruitcake dating back to 13th-century Siena. Panforte is strongly flavored with spices (Panforte means "Strong-bread") and baked in a shallow form. Genoa's fruitcake, a lower, denser but still crumbly variety, is called Pandolce ("Sweet-bread").

Panettone is a Milanese sweet bread loaf (widely available throughout Italy and in many other countries) served around Christmas which is traditionally filled with dried and candied fruits, with a bread loaf consistency similar in texture to Irish barm brack.

New Zealand Edit

Fruitcakes arrived in New Zealand with early settlers from Britain. Until the 1960s fruitcake was generally homemade, but since then they have become commercially widely available in a range of styles. Light coloured fruitcake is often sold as tennis cake or light fruit-cake all year round.

Most New Zealand wedding cakes are finely iced and decorated fruitcake often several tiers high. Most fruitcake is eaten in the Christmas period. It is dark, rich and made from multiple dried fruit. Homemade cakes may use brandy or sherry to enhance flavour rather than as a preservative. They may be square or round, iced or uniced. A Christmas cake is usually simply decorated with a Christmas scene or the words Merry Christmas.

Philippines Edit

In addition to the European-style fruitcake, a traditional fruitcake commonly eaten during Christmas in the Philippines is the crema de fruta. It is made with layers of sponge cake, sweet custard or whipped cream, gelatin or gulaman (agar), and various preserved or fresh fruits, including mangoes, pineapples, cherries, and strawberries. [5] [6]

Easier-to-prepare icebox cake variants of crema de fruta use ladyfingers (broas) instead of sponge cake layers. Mango float is a very popular modern adaptation of this dish. It uses graham crackers and ripe carabao mangoes (though other fruits can be used as well). [7] [8]

Poland Edit

Keks is a traditional fruitcake eaten during Christmas season. It is a loaf shaped sponge cake with a substantial content of nuts, raisins, figs and candied fruits.

Portugal Edit

Although French in its origin, Bolo Rei is a traditional fruitcake enjoyed during Christmas season and a staple dessert in any Portuguese home during the holidays. Included is the characteristic fava bean and, according to tradition, whoever finds the fava bean has to pay for the cake next year.

Romania Edit

Cozonac is a fruitcake mostly made for every major holiday (Christmas, Easter, New Year).

Spain Edit

Bollo de higo is a cake made from figs, almonds or walnuts, and flavorings, similar to a panforte.

Switzerland Edit

Birnenbrot [9] is a dense sweet Swiss fruitcake with candied fruits and nuts.

Anglophone Caribbean Edit

Called black cake, is a traditional part of Christmas celebration in the English Caribbean. The cake incorporates a large quantity of mixed fruits and rum/wine and becomes a treasured Christmas treat consumed and given out between the Christmas season and New Years'. The fruit, wine and rum is prepared weeks sometimes months ahead, and has its origin in the English Christmas pudding, and can be quite expensive. It is very different from a North American fruitcake.

United Kingdom Edit

In the UK, fruitcakes come in many varieties, from extremely light to rich and moist.

The traditional Christmas cake is a round fruitcake covered in marzipan and then in white royal icing or fondant icing. They are often further decorated with snow scenes, holly leaves, and berries (real or artificial), or tiny decorative robins or snowmen. It is also the tradition for this kind of cake to be served at weddings as part of the dessert course.

In Yorkshire, it is often served accompanied with cheese. Fruitcakes in the United Kingdom often contain currants and glace cherries, an example of this type being the Genoa cake. One type of cake that originated in Scotland is the Dundee Cake, a type of fruitcake which does not contain glace cherries. This is a fruitcake that is decorated with almonds, and which owes its name to Keiller's marmalade.

Fruitcake was historically referred to as plum cake in England since around 1700. [10]

United States Edit

Typical American fruitcakes are rich in fruit and nuts.

Mail-order fruitcakes in America began in 1913. Some well-known American bakers of fruitcake include Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas, and The Claxton Bakery in Claxton, Georgia. Both Collin Street and Claxton are Southern companies with inexpensive access to large nut quantities, for which the expression "nutty as a fruitcake" was derived in 1935. [3] Commercial fruitcakes are often sold from catalogs by charities as a fund raiser.

Most American mass-produced fruitcakes are alcohol-free, but those made according to traditional recipes are saturated with liqueurs or brandy and covered in powdered sugar, both of which prevent mold. Brandy (or wine) soaked linens can be used to store the fruitcakes, and some people feel that fruitcakes improve with age. [ citation needed ]

In the United States, the fruitcake has become a ridiculed dessert, in part due to the mass-produced inexpensive cakes of questionable age. Some attribute the beginning of this trend with The Tonight Show host Johnny Carson. [3] He would joke that there really is only one fruitcake in the world, passed from family to family. After Carson's death, the tradition continued with "The Fruitcake Lady" (Marie Rudisill), who made appearances on the show and offered her "fruitcake" opinions. In fact, the fruitcake had been a butt of jokes on television programs such as Father Knows Best and The Donna Reed Show years before The Tonight Show debuted and appears to have first become a vilified confection in the early 20th century, as evidenced by Warner Brothers cartoons.

Since 1995, Manitou Springs, Colorado, has hosted the Great Fruitcake Toss on the first Saturday of every January. "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 1,420 feet, set in January 2007 by a group of eight Boeing engineers who built the "Omega 380," a mock artillery piece fueled by compressed air pumped by an exercise bike. [11]

When a fruitcake contains a good deal of alcohol, it can remain edible for many years. For example, a fruitcake baked in 1878 was kept as an heirloom by a family (Morgan L. Ford) in Tecumseh, Michigan. [12] In 2003 it was sampled by Jay Leno on The Tonight Show. Wrapping the cake in alcohol-soaked linen before storing is one method of lengthening its shelf life. [13]

A 106-year-old fruitcake discovered in 2017 by the Antarctic Heritage Trust was described as in "excellent condition" and "almost" edible. [14]


Chestnuts

Starchy, nourishing chesnuts may have been one of the earliest foods eaten by humans, and unlike many traditional Christmas foods, they weren't a rare luxury. Chestnuts grow wild and have been used historically as a subsistence food. Their humble nature may be key to the Christmas connection: on Martinstag, or the Feast of St. Martin, the poor receive a symbolic gift of chestnuts for sustenance.

This recipe for Marrons Glacé (candied chestnuts) delivers a new take on the classic roasted chestnut and makes it a gift worth giving to family and friends. This French recipe takes many days to be made, but the end result belongs in the window display of a true patisserie.


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