Whether you know it as a fruitcake, Christmas cake, or plum cake, this dense collection of dried fruits and candy was likely given to you at least once, to both your surprise and feigned delight.
Known for its ability to transform into a fruit-embedded rock and its standing as the ultimate regift option, fruitcake gets the short end of the candy cane.
Here are few facts to make you think twice before using one as hockey puck this holiday season.
1. Ancient Egyptians Were The First People To Make Fruitcakes – Just Not Eat Them
Long before gracing the ovens of British mommies, fruitcakes spent a great deal of time keeping Egyptian mummies company.
Even then, people were sure that the cakes could survive anything, making them as a final parting snack, in case their loved ones got hungry in the afterlife.
The first living people to enjoy fruitcake, however, lay across the Mediterranean in the Roman Empire.
2. Fruitcakes Can Last Forever
No, seriously. If kept in an airtight container in a dark, cool place, any fruitcake can be reheated years after being baked.
The sorcery lies within the starch crystals and the dried fruit. Both absorb water that would otherwise evaporate and release the water when slowly warmed, transforming a cement block to a spongy cake.
Fruitcakes spiked with alcohol have the added benefit of more preservatives and a higher, bacteria-deterring acidity.
3. Fruitcakes Were The First Military Ration Bricks
From the Romans to the Crusaders, soldiers heading into battle revered the resilience and valued the shelf life of fruitcakes. Portable in size, though often heavy, they provided a wide range of nutrients to weary warriors.
4. Someone May Still Be Eating A Fruitcake Made For George Washington
In 1983, New York Times columnist Russell Baker discussed a fruitcake he had inherited 34 years prior. One of his ancestors is said to have made the cake for America’s first president in 1794, but for some reason, Washington refused and later returned it.
Baker claimed that after many years of trying to pawn it off, he just began divvying up a tiny sliver (presumably with a hacksaw) amongst his family members every Christmas. Assuming the family still holds this precious heirloom, the fruitcake is currently 221 years old.
5. In The Early 1700s, Fruitcakes Were Outlawed In Europe
Over the centuries, people added increasingly sweeter ingredients to their fruitcakes until the cakes became decadence incarnate, which was morally wrong and thus made illegal.
England had the most lenient rules, only allowing countrymen to consume fruitcakes on festive occasions like weddings and Christmas. Naturally, the laws didn’t stick and the alcohol soaked desserts returned to tea time spreads.
6. Monks Make Some Of The Best (And Booziest) Fruitcakes In The World
Kentucky’s Abbey of Gethsemani and the Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, Virginia have solid reputations for making completely edible fruitcakes and have battled for top spots on fruitcake taste test lists for decades.
Though annually they only produce about 10,000 and 20,000 cakes, respectively, both sell out quickly. Burgundy wine and Kentucky bourbon ooze out of the cakes from Gethsemani while Holy Cross monks prefer to use an ample measure of sherry wine.
No one’s sure if the holy men know that children eat these cakes.
7. Delicious Fruitcake Is Not An Oxymoron
With no rhyme or reason to adhere to in any of the hundreds of fruitcake variations, it’s easy to see why most people have had a poor experience with one. The ultimate mistake of any baker is to include modern candies in the batter. An ideal fruitcake should only utilize dried fruits, holiday spices, and copious amounts of alcohol.