For as long as I can recall, thoughts of receiving a holiday fruitcake is about as cheerful as being invited over for dinner for liver and onions. YUCK!
Maybe it's the mixture of dried fruits that makes the thought of receiving one so offensive?
I mean… who likes raisins?!
Recalling elementary school days, the kids having boxes of raisins in their lunch were considered odd and teased mercilessly about eating dried up rabbit turds or giant boogers. The only way raisins were considered cool was if they were baked in homemade, oatmeal raisin cookies.
Maybe it’s the booze bath that makes fruitcake so disagreeable?
Think about it… Does this holiday cake even have an expiration date? Since this holiday treat offers such a long shelf-life, maybe shoppers wonder how long these cakes have been sitting on the shelf instead of how they taste.
Or maybe it’s the strange, psychedelic candied fruit that looks like a radiation experiment gone wrong?
The store-bought containers of candied fruit look so fake and garish… adding it to a holiday recipe surely induces fear in the most courageous food tasters. So instead of sampling the brilliant slices of holiday fare, the gift is tossed in the trash as soon as the giver leaves the premises.
According to Wil Fulton from Thrillist, the fruitcake didn’t become a national joke until Johnny Carson informed the entire world that it’s the absolute WORST Christmas present because it’s the same fruitcake being regifted every year.
I have to agree with Fulton’s theory, and after asking a few people if they had ever tried fruitcake, it appears that this holiday dessert has been downright rejected through the years! Only 1 out of 5 people admitted having tasted fruitcake in their lifetime. The other 4 people claiming to abhor fruitcake couldn’t remember why they didn’t like it, or even the last time they sampled some.
The mainstream consensus implies that receiving one of these spirituous desserts may reveal how well you are liked by the gift-giver. And since the majority of people regard the fruitcake so negatively, I have to wonder why stores continue to sell the stuff.
In order to get to the bottom of this mystery, I decided to bake some fruitcake recipes and decide for myself what the issue was.
Scouring the internet, I chose three recipes based on rank, and looked for varying ingredients with a minimum, 24-hour booze soak for the fruit. This is how it went…
The night before baking day, I filled three glass bowls with the dried fruit ingredients, added orange and lemon zest as required, and 1 cup of booze to each. The first required Gold Rum, the second did not list a booze soak, so I modified it by soaking the fruit in Blackberry Brandy, and the third called for plain, unflavored Brandy.
Starting out this holiday bake-fest with Alton Brown’s Free Range Fruitcake featured on Food Network’s website, this boozy, fruit boiled batter made my entire house smell exquisite. It was the perfect recipe to start with since the delicious aroma triggered an exhilarating sense of adventure that inspired care in producing the perfect holiday confections.
As the first mini loaves were taken out of the oven to cool, my dog hovered underfoot awaiting any escaped crumbs as I brushed the cake tops with more Bacardi’s Gold Rum.
OH, the smell was delightful… hot, fruitcakes doused in golden delight. As the drool ran freely from my salivating kitchen assistant, I decided I couldn’t wait for the cakes to cool and cut one of the steaming loaves for a quick sampling.
WOW! That first bite filled my mouth with joy and my mind with wonder at why it took me so long to bake this delicious holiday treat!
The rum-soaked fruit wafted through my senses in joyful delight… Similar to a hot slice of banana bread, this fruitcake offers a symphony of fruit flavors and spices likened to a fruity gingerbread cake dunked in your favorite flavored hot toddy. Yum!
Thrilled with the results from this first batch, I commenced to working on batch number 2 while the oven was still up to temperature. As mentioned above, I decided to modify the Best Holiday Fruitcake since research decreed that the only good fruitcake is one requiring a long, booze bath.
In comparison, when cooking with wine, the best chef’s prescribe cooking with a wine YOU like instead of some crappy variety that causes a headache with one sniff and a migraine after the first sip. Deciding to use something a bit out of the ordinary, I soaked the dried fruit in Blackberry Brandy.
Being this recipe was so different than the first, I was very excited to taste the difference. Right from the beginning, the directions called for a mix of sour cream and baking powder to be set aside while working on the batter. Unfamiliar with how these ingredients would react, it was completely by accident I spied the mix overflowing the rim of its bowl, and just barely saved it from ruin.
As the first recipe melded into a simmering batter of pale gold like the rum it was infused with, this second batter developed like white cake batter loaded with fermented fruit tidbits. One taste of this raw mixture zinged on my tongue, confirming the ingredients were still reacting like a chemistry experiment, and I hoped the booze enhancement didn’t set those mini loafs off like a tray of landmines after putting them in the oven.
The first glimpse of golden tops thrilled me to no end, and after carefully loosening each little loaf from it confines and onto the cooling rack, it is of no surprise I couldn’t hold myself back from tasting the blackberry brandy infused bread!
Breaking off the end of one steaming cake, the sweet smell of fruit filled my senses and again, my kitchen assistant drooled incessantly near the edge of the table. Popping that first, steaming bite into my mouth was absolute bliss! As the sweet, blackberry brandy-soaked fruit teased at my senses, thoughts of Willy Wonka’s candy land came to mind. Sweet, golden cake with happy fruit flavors urged me to declare this second attempt was even better than the first, and I couldn’t imagine another recipe could top it.
After proving fruitcake was nothing like the critics proclaimed, I was determined to discover which of the three recipes I would deem the absolute best recipe.
Round 3 - Everyone’s Favorite Fruitcake by King Arthur Baking Company created the largest bowl of batter. Being cocoa was added to this recipe, the batter turned light brown in color. One taste offered only a hint of chocolate, and being a chocolate fanatic, I was again motivated to create the perfect rendering.
Cooking at a lower temperature, my patience ran quite thin with this last batch. As the mini loaves baked painstakingly slow, I had to find something else to occupy myself with so I could let them alone to bake.
Finally, the mini loaves were taken out of the oven, and my kitchen assistant raced me to the cooling table, as eager as I was to free the little cakes from the hot pan.
Once again, I had to wait… another 5 minutes of cooling before slathering the little beauties with a glaze of brandy-drenched, karo syrup making them ooey-gooey, delights worth every ounce of drool my kitchen assistant generated.
Biting into that first steaming morsel elevated me mind, body and spirit into the realm of Christmas Spirit. The Christian Brothers Brandy combined exquisitely with the fruit and dark glaze offering a rich, delicious bite of cake reminiscent of molasses cookies.
Was this recipe the winner?
Since I fully expected the previous recipe to triumph, I considered the possibility that I may have ingested too much booze to make a rational decision. Besides that, a fruitcake would not be received steaming hot, right out of the oven, so I carefully wrapped the little bundles in foil – making sure to label each one so they wouldn’t get mixed-up – and left them to rest overnight.
Morning arrived with a fresh take on the holiday fruitcakes I had toiled over with such meticulous care the day before.
Starting in order, I popped the first bite of Free Range Fruitcake in my mouth noting the hot vapors of golden rum had evaporated overnight leaving behind an elegantly moist, gingerbread flavored cake chock-full of fruit and nut bits. This cake was very good.
Still holding onto hopes that the booze-bolstered, Best Holiday Fruitcake recipe would win the crown, I bit into the moist, fruity delight and again enjoyed a trip to Willy Wonka’s candy land. A scrumptious, holiday treat, I decided it was missing a sweet, white frost to push it over the top.
Last but not least, Everyone’s Favorite Fruitcake lined up for the challenge, and as my fingers sunk into the sticky topping that had oozed down the sides, I wondered if my kitchen assistant had gotten too close to the cooling racks.
At first bite, this ooey-gooey, cake set my tastebuds to dancing as rich flavors of spice, fruit & nuts saturated with a brandy-glaze melted in my mouth. This cake is moist and flavorful, immersing the taster in the essence of holiday spirit. In my opinion, this recipe is the most delectable fruitcake of the three.
Overall… any of these holiday fruitcakes would be ‘gift worthy’ proving once and for all that receiving a holiday fruitcake is no joke! The fabled fruitcake that Carson deemed “the worst Christmas gift ever” is a complete fallacy.
Not only were these holiday desserts expensive to concoct, making them was a long and tedious process. In fact, these little cakes were so much work, gifting them to family and friends has me worried the little darlings will be tossed in the trash without a thought as to how much effort and care was involved in making them.
So please, dear reader, I beg you… if you receive a fruitcake made from scratch this year, know that you are very well loved, INDEED!
Have you ever tried homemade fruitcake? Tell me about it in the comments below.
Thanks so much for reading!
If you liked this story, click on the ❤️ at the bottom of the page, and please share this story with someone you think would enjoy reading it too.
Never miss another post! Subscribe NOW by signing up at the top right of the story’s headline.
Bauer, Elise, December 23, 2019, Best Holiday Fruitcake, https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/patricias_holiday_fruitcake/
Brown, Alton, 2020, Free Range Fruitcake, https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/free-range-fruitcake-recipe-1926833
Fulton, Wil, 12/12/2018, How Did The Fruitcake Become A National Joke And Can It Be Redeemed, https://www.thrillist.com/eat/nation/how-did-the-fruitcake-become-a-national-joke-and-can-it-be-redeemed
King Arthur Baking Company, 2020, Everyone's Favorite Fruitcake, https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/recipes/everyones-favorite-fruitcake-recipe