The History of the Heavy Fruitcake

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December 13, 2013

Love it or hate it, Christmas is the time for fruitcake.  The oldest recorded references to fruitcake were discovered in Ancient Egypt and the Roman Empire. The Ancient Egyptians reportedly added a fruitcake to the tombs of their loved ones so it could sustain them in the afterlife.  Did you know that the Crusaders reportedly carried fruitcake with them on their travels because it stayed good for such a long time?

The History of the Fruitcake

The real credit often goes to the English who made fruitcake a much more common occurrence especially during the holiday season.  Did you ever wonder what the history of fruitcake was or why anyone ever thought to make a bread that was so heavy and chock full of fruits and nuts?

Fruitcake was originally called plum porridge and was enjoyed Christmas Eve as a traditional holiday food after fasting.  The addition of dried fruits and spices came later when they were added to the oatmeal mixture.  This became known as Christmas pudding.   Eventually, the oatmeal was replaced with flour, eggs and butter and it became what we know today as a fruitcake.

It was traditional that those with money added dried fruits and spices into the mixture.  An enterprising cook learned that by adding a lot of sugar to the fruitcake it would last longer. The rich often gave these cakes out to Christmas carolers during the holidays because they would stay good longer.

Did you know that an old English tradition was that if you slept with a slice of fruitcake under your pillow you would dream of your future husband?  Whether you believe in that tradition or not, fruitcake is still tradition for many people during Christmas.  There are many different varieties of fruitcake known today although many people don’t enjoy them in any form.

To ensure that your Christmas fruitcake stays good for as long as possible (up to four months), here are a few tips:

  • Wrap the fruitcake tightly in parchment paper to help to keep in the moisture.
  • Wrap the fruitcake in a second layer of parchment paper going in the opposite direction to ensure all air is kept out.
  • Store the fruitcake in a tin instead of a a sealed plastic container. A tin will keep the air and the light out much better than plastic will.
  • Keep your fruitcake in a cool place, away from light and heat. I find that a back corner of a kitchen cupboard works well for this.

Would you enjoy a Fruit Cake as a holiday gift or would you pass it on to someone else?

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