Today is National Fruit Cake Day. So if you have any leftovers from Christmas, now is the time to indulge, as we celebrate this unique and amazingly delicious recipe.
What is Fruit Cake?
The only prerequisites for something to be considered fruitcake are your cake dough ingredients, fruit, nuts and alcohol. So you will find that there is a wide variety of fruit cake recipes across the world. In South Africa the most popular cakes have brandy for the liqueur and have a few spices added, such as cinnamon and nutmeg. In Germany, they have something called Stollen which is more of a fruit bread dusted with sugar. Italy has Panettone, a sweet raisin cake like loaf. And Jamaica celebrates with a rum-soaked Black Cake.
The Origins of Fruitcake
Fruitcake has such a wide variety of ingredients that combine to make a curiously divine tasting and textured pudding. And although the final result is delicious, one can still not help but wonder where the idea comes from. I mean, who decided to experiment with throwing fruits, nuts and spices into a batter before baking and drenching it in liqueur?
The theory is that fruitcake was created by ancient Romans. They called it satura and it was known as a mix of barley, pomegranate seeds, nuts, and raisins which was all held together with honey. It was said to be popular because it would last a very long time. Being a heavy cake it was also easy to carry around so often Roman soldiers took it to the battlefields for sustenance.
Then during the 16th century, people realised that fruit could be preserved when soaked in sugar. This meant that many more fruits were available to different areas of the world. And so many started using these candied fruits in their fruitcakes as a substitute for the harder to come by fresh fruit. This soaking in concentrated sugars also intensified the flavours and colours of the fruit. Eventually the Europeans introduced fruitcake to America. And bakeries in nut rich areas like Texas and Georgia started incorporating a fair amount of nuts into the recipe.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, certain ingredients became expensive and harder to come by. This turned fruitcake into a rare delicacy. And as a result, it became quite popular. From here on fruit cake became the traditional wedding cake in Britain. And you will find fruit cake was served at many of the royal weddings, such as that of Princess Diana and Prince Charles.
Did You Know?
In 1969, fruitcake took a ride to the moon! As part of their snack pack, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins were given pineapple fruitcake. Although, admittedly, they never got around to eating it. Which is why it is now on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.