Oct 2, 2012

History of Fruitcake

The name "fruitcake" can be traced back only as far as the Middle Ages. It is formed from a combination of the Latin fructus, and French frui or frug.

The oldest reference that can be found regarding a fruitcake dates back to Roman times. The recipe included pomegranate seeds. Pine nuts, and raisins that were mixed into barley mash. Honey, spices, and preserved fruits were added during the Middle Ages. Crusaders and hunters were reported to have carried this type of cake to sustain themselves over long periods of time away from home.

1400s - The British began their love affair with fruitcake when dried fruits from the Mediterranean first arrived.

1700s - In Europe, a ceremonial type of fruitcake was baked at the end of the nut harvest and saved and eaten the next year to celebrate the beginning of the next harvest, hoping it will bring them another successful harvest. After the harvest, nuts were mixed and made into a fruitcake that was saved until the following year. At that time, previous year's fruitcakes were consumed in the hope that its symbolism would bring the blessing of another successful harvest.

In the early 18th century, fruitcake (called plum cakes) was outlawed entirely throughout Continental Europe. These cakes were considered as "sinfully rich." By the end of the 18th century there were laws restricting the use of plum cake.
Between 1837 and 1901, fruitcake was extremely popular.  A Victorian "Tea" would not have been complete without the addition of the fruitcake to the sweet and savory spread.  Queen Victoria is said to have waited a year to eat a fruitcake she received for her birthday because she felt it showed restraint, moderation and good taste. 
It was the custom in England for unmarried wedding guests to put a slice of the cake, traditionally a dark fruitcake, under their pillow at night so they will dream of the person they will marry.

Fruitcakes of the World

In the Bahamas, not only is the fruit cake drenched with rum, but the ingredients are as well. All of the candied fruit, 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.

The fruit cake is commonly known as a Christmas cake in Canada and eaten during the Christmas season. Rarely is it seen during other times of the year. The Canadian fruit cake 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 also tend to be void of any decorations and are shaped like a small loaf of bread. Dark, moist and rich Christmas cakes are the most frequently consumed, with white Christmas cake rarely seen. 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.

In French, as in some other non-English speaking countries, it is simply called "Cake".

The Stollen, a traditional German fruit cake usually eaten during the Christmas season, is loaf-shaped and powdered with icing sugar on the outside. It is usually made with yeast, butter, water, flour, zest, raisins, and almonds. The most famous Stollen is the Dresdner Stollen, sold at the local Christmas market.

Pan forte is a chewy, dense Tuscan fruit cake dating back to 13th-century Siena. Pan forte is strongly flavored with spices and baked in a shallow form. Genoa's fruitcake, a lower, denser but still crumbly variety, is called Pan dolce.

Birnenbrot is a dense sweet Swiss fruit cake with candied fruits and nuts.

Trinidad and Tobago
Fruit cake, also called black cake is a traditional part of the Christmas celebration. The cake incorporates a large quantity of raisins and rum and becomes a staple dinner item between the Christmas season and New Years'.

United Kingdom
In the UK, fruit cakes 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 satin or royal icing (a hard white icing made with softly beaten egg whites). They are often further decorated with snow scenes, holly leaves, and berries (real or artificial), or tiny decorative robins or snowmen. In Yorkshire, it is often served accompanied with cheese. Fruit cakes in the United Kingdom often contain currants and glace cherries. One type of cake that originated in Scotland is the Dundee Cake. This is a fruit cake that is decorated with almonds, and which owes its name to Keiller's marmalade.

United States
Traditional American fruit cake with fruits and nuts. Most American mass-produced fruit cakes are alcohol-free, but 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 fruit cakes, and some people feel that fruit cakes improve with age.
In the United States, the fruitcake has been a ridiculed dessert. Some blame the beginning of this trend with The Tonight Show host Johnny Carson. 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.
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.
December 27 is National Fruitcake Day and December is National Fruitcake Month (December is considered National Eggnog Month, as well.

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The above information and images are taken from various sources on the internet.



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