I suddenly realized that while I’ve been writing about holiday traditions: the cookies, the presents, the magic, the colors, and of course, the stress, I neglected to mention that December is also National Fruitcake Month – with a special commemorative day December 27th.
Holiday fruitcake aka Christmas Cake aka the best or the worst food concoction ever. People who enjoy fruitcake put up with lots of bad jokes about their favorite food. So many that one of them founded the Society for the Protection and Preservation of Fruitcake.
Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is a fruitcake, anyway?
The short answer is that it’s a cake with fruit, nuts, and spices. Sometimes there’s rum or brandy. Other times, it’s teetotal — which makes it a lot less festive.
Ancient Romans get credit for creating the first fruit cake, a mixture of pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and raisins combined in a barley mash. Fruitcake detractors might comment that those cakes are still in circulation.
It’s a fact: 38 percent of people who receive fruitcakes regift them without even opening the package.
Fruitcake is a massive, heavy cake that comes in a tin. Detractors remark this is what makes the product such an excellent doorstop.
A recipe from 1947 features:
4 cups of flour
3 pounds of currants (a type of raisin)
2 pounds of actual raisins
1 pound of citron (a fruit similar to a lemon)
2 cups of almonds, 1 pound of butter, 2 cups of brown sugar, 9 separated eggs
1 cup of Rum or Brandy … or less festive liquid.
Santa says, This is not a cake for children
To Continue: Many bakers substitute candied fruit for the raisins. Candied fruit brightens the dark cake. In fact, it has been noted that if you hold a slice of fruitcake with candied fruit to the light, it looks like a stained glass window. In other words, it’s a cake with Christmas lights. An image that puts me off.
But seriously, there’s lots of healthy ingredients combined with butter. And who doesn’t like butter?
It’s a Fact: Claxton, Georgia calls itself the Fruitcake Capital of America, a title it maintains despite stiff competition from Corsicana, Texas.
Two bakeries in Claxton produce four million pounds of fruitcake annually, with batter so thick the bakers have to level it by hand before putting the pans in the oven. Paradoxically, Claxton’s other tourist attraction is an annual rattlesnake festival.
Considering how much teasing fruitcakes get, it seems only fair to let three fruitcakes have the last word.
Featured Image: Trappist Abbey Fruitcake from Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey in Lafayette OR by Katr67. Creative Commons Attribution. Wikimedia Commons.
Banana Nut Bread. Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons.
Raisin Fruitcake by James Petts. Creative Commons Attribution. Wikimedia Commons
Postcard of Edwards Tourist Court in Claxton GA. Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons.
Christmas Postcard, c. 1900. US Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons.
Recipe Inspiration Source:
Ruth Berolzheimer, ed. “Delicious Fruitcake.” American Woman’s Cookbook. 1947. P465. [I wonder if Ruth was trying to overcome fruitcake’s image.]
Around the Web:
“Fruitcake Song.” From the musical “That Time of the Year.” Lyrics by Laurence Holzman & Felicia Needleman. Music by Mark Wherry. Performed by Kerri Jill Garbis, Erin Maguiare, & Briget Beirne.
Fruitcake: Why It Tastes so Bad. Huffington Post. Dec. 14, 2012.
Today’s Reason to Celebrate. Punchbowl.
Kathy Lohr. “Georgia Town Makes Claim for Fruitcake Capital of the World.” Dec. 12, 2012. NPR.
Jane Touzalin. “Seven Ways to Fix Fruitcake’s Image Problem.” Washington Post. Dec. 12, 2012.
WYSK. “National Fruitcake Day.” Women You Should Know. Dec. 26, 2014.
Sandra Wagner-Wright is the author of Two Coins: A Biographical Novel and Rama's Labyrinth. Both books are available in digital and print editions at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and Kobo. Rama’s Labyrinth and Two Coins are available as audiobooks.
Sandra blogs weekly about topics related to her travels, writing life, and the incongruities of life in general.