Thursday, December 21, 2017

Fruitcake: Lost corners, rabbit holes and recipes


I got a fruitcake as a present for someone this Christmas — it's okay, the person wanted a fruitcake — and that served as the launching-off point for me to waste some time peering into the lost corners of the internet for fruitcake discussion, history and lore. Enjoy these fruitcake tidbits!

  • Snopes has done a good job preserving versions of the "The Ultimate Fruitcake Recipe," which is actually a joke (not a recipe) that dates to at least 1959.
  • Earlier this year, the Antarctic Heritage Trust discovered an ice-covered, 106-year-old fruitcake that was described as "almost edible."
  • Here's an excerpt from a 2010 forum on BellyBelly.com.au1, discussing what alcohol to use in fruitcake recipes: "I made one the other night using Nigella's Chocolate Christmas Cake recipe and it uses Tia Maria.....It is fair dinkum the best christmas cake I have ever eaten."
  • Full disclosure: "Fair dinkum" is a wonderful expression. Read more about it at World Wide Words and The Phrase Finder.
  • Peter Muise's New England Folklore blog, which has been going strong since 2008, has a post about a fruitcake recipe (but called "plumb cake") published in Connecticut in 1798. It might be the oldest published fruitcake recipe in the United States.
  • The computer-gaming community, of all places, had a discussion titled "Is fruitcake really that terrible?" five years ago on GameFAQs. Here's what some of them wrote:
    • "I've never seen one, maybe it's a thing of the past?"
    • "Man there is some delicious ****ing awesome fruitcake but I have no idea where my aunt got it or if she made it. That stuff in piles at Walmart around the holidays is disgusting and the ingredients are candy and candied fruit with extra candy and six fistfulls of straight sugar...or at least it sure comes off that way...ewwwyuck! The good one was like kind of chewy and mildly sweet and had lots of flavorful chunky bits but not all candy and sugar for crying out loud! It was like a really dense moist cake with dried fruit trail mix stirred into it... If you want bad fruitcake it's easy to find. Just thinking about that crud at walmart makes me sick to my stomach and my mouth."
    • "Fruitcake is amazing. It's god-tier dessert. Heck, I'll even eat industrial fruitcake, as long as it's drowned in milk to cut down on the sweetness."
  • Jogan fruit cake is an actual thing in the Star Wars universe, per Wookieepedia.
  • I found a 20-year-old post [December 08, 1997] from the Food and Food Storage Forum. It might not be around much longer, so here it is: "I like the weird stuff. My favorite all time food it the SAFEWAY stores fruit cake. Full of chems but it sure tasts good. Fortunately I can't afford to buy it! I used to have the recipe, from a safeway baker years ago, but have since lost track of it. What a pity. I like healthy food too, but when it comes to desserts and holidays I say let it roll... not the fruit cake, the fun!"
  • The Safeway Deluxe fruitcake is mentioned in an interesting Julia Homer article from the December 14, 1980, edition of The Washington Post that discusses the best fruitcakes in the Washington, D.C., area.

Bonus recipe

The 1960 staplebound Amish-Dutch Cookbook, written by Ruth Redcay and published by Ben Herman Dutch Books of Kutztown, Pennsylvania, contains a recipe for Christmas Loaf that seems close enough to fruitcake to share here. So here you go...

Ingredients
  • 3 cups scalded milk
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ yeast cake dissolved in
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 6 to 8 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ lb. raisins, cut
  • ½ lb. currants
  • ¼ lb. citron, chopped
  • ½ cup almonds, sliced and blanched

Directions
Scald 2 cups of milk and let cool. Add dissolved yeast cake, 3 cups flour and salt. Mix well. Cover and set to rise in warm place overnight. In morning scald another cup of milk and add butter and stir till melted. Combine with yeast mixture and add sugar and balance of flour kneading dough well until it is no longer sticky. Use more flour if necessary. Combine fruit and sprinkle with some flour and add to the dough mixing well. Cover and let rise again till double in bulk. Shape in small loaves. Place in small pans and sprinkle with sliced almonds. Let rise for 2 hours. Bake in oven 400 degrees F. for 20 minutes.

Footnote
1. BellyBelly.com.au is "a leading Australian website for all things conception, pregnancy, birth and parenthood."

3 comments:

  1. It's god-tier dessert. I don't particularly agree ... but that was fun to type :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. In Alex Cox's 1984 cult film Repo Man, Emilio Estevez discovers that his love interest (played by actress Olivia Barash) works at a mysterious venue named United Fruitcake Outlet. (The initials belie the venue's true intent.)

    Skip to minute 2:47 here: http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/352881/Repo-Man-Movie-Clip-United-Fruitcake-Outlet.html

    -- M.F.

    ReplyDelete
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