My name is Dianne. I love fruitcake.
By the looks on the faces of my extended family members, when I roll in around Christmas and plop down my Costco fruitcake, you would think I needed to be sent to a 12-step recovery program.
Why on earth would I buy a fruitcake, much less eat one?
Well, I like my once-a-year fruitcake. It’s sweet and gooey. I have no clue what all is in it. Don’t want to know. But with a good cup of coffee, there’s nothing more decadent than fruitcake for breakfast.
Despite all the insults and jokes heaped on me by the fruitcake deniers in my family, a funny thing happens. By the end of the day, there’s not a stinkin’ piece left — not even a crumb. And some of those years, all I managed to grab was a sliver of a piece.
Millions of fruitcakes are made and sold every year. Someone, other than just me, must be eating them.
The much-maligned fruitcake has become a running holiday joke. I have no clue why — especially since they started out centuries ago as an expensive delicacy.
fruitcakes date back to ancient Egypt, when they were placed at grave sites to give the newly-departed some nourishment on their trips to the great beyond. Early Romans made a fruitcake of pine nuts, barley, pomegranate seeds and raisins — an early energy bar.
In the Middle Ages, various fruits, honey and spices were added. The cake became a status symbol as it made its way across Europe during the crusades. Movement spawned cultural adaptations — Italy’s sweet, spicy panforte; Germany’s stollen; and the Caribbean Islands’ black cake are some examples.
Because of the high cost of ingredients, fruitcakes were considered “grand indulgences.” Their popularity peaked during the late 1800s and early 1900s, when dried and candied fruits became more available, and mass-produce cakes arrived on store shelves.
But then the jokes began.
The late-night talk-show host Johnny Carson was renowned for his holiday fruitcake gags. In one, he had a fruitcake arrive at his studio on a forklift. When it was lowered onto his desk, the furniture collapsed. In another skit, he joked that there really was only one fruitcake in the world. It just keeps getting passed around.
Well, maybe that should make the fruitcake Bakersfield’s “official” cake. Bakersfield also became the butt of many of Carson’s jokes.
In Manitou Springs, Colo., in the shadow of Pikes Peak, the annual Fruit Cake Toss has been held on the first Saturday of January since 1995.
“Let’s be honest,” organizers contend. “Nobody really likes fruitcake and nobody ever really eats it, either. Heavy, flavorless and always too sweet, fruitcake is one of our century’s biggest holiday jokes.”
Now, that’s downright mean!
The Fruit Cake Toss events, such as distance and accuracy competitions, give people an alternative to just throwing it away. Instead, they hurl, catapult and cannon the cakes into the air.
There are even versions of a cartoon floating around that depict the forgotten Fourth Wiseman as the one who brought fruitcake. (Really???)
But for people with discerning taste — meaning, people like me, who like fruitcake — local bakeries, such as Smith’s Bakery, often sell fruitcakes around the holidays. They can be tastier than mass-produced.
And online specialty bakeries may offer a variety of different flavors. Recently a friend raved about a Kentucky bourbon-drenched fruitcake produced and sold online by Trappist monks. Apparently, there is a silent-but-deadly heavy pour of bourbon in the cakes produced at Kentucky’s Gethsemani Abbey. Check out gethsemanifarms.org.
So, if you are tempted to reject or toss a fruitcake, try it first. You may be pleasantly surprised.