Today is National Fruitcake Day. Made with chopped candied or dried fruit, nuts, and spices and sometimes soaked in “spirits,” fruitcake has been a holiday gift-giving tradition for many years. Rome is believed to be the creator of fruitcake, and one of the earliest recipes known comes from ancient Rome listing pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, and raisins that were mixed into barley mash.
Records indicate that in the Middle Ages, honey, spices, and preserved fruits were added. Recipes for fruitcakes vary from country to country depending on available ingredients and tradition.
Sugar from the American Colonies along with the discovery that high concentrations of sugar could preserve fruits, created an excess of candied fruit hence making fruitcakes more affordable and much more popular starting in the 16th century. Other facts:
- Typically, American fruitcakes are rich in fruits and nuts.
- In America, mail-order fruitcake began in 1913.
- Commercial fruitcakes are often sold, from catalogs, by charities as a fundraising event.
- In 1935, the expression “nutty as a fruitcake” was coined during the time Southern bakeries, Collin Street and Claxton, had access to cheap nuts.
- Most mass-produced fruitcakes in America are alcohol-free.
- Some traditional recipes include liqueurs or brandy and then complete the fruitcake by covering it with powdered sugar.
- Brandy soaked linens have been used to store fruitcakes as some people believe that they improve with age.