Across the United States, fruitcake lovers young and old, commemorate National Fruitcake Day each year on December 27th.
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.
Dating back to ancient Rome, one of the earliest known recipes lists pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, and raisins mixed into barley mash. Records indicate that in the Middle Ages, makers added honey, spices, and preserved fruits. Recipes for fruitcakes vary from country to country, depending on available ingredients and tradition.
In the 16th century, two achievements crystallized to make fruitcakes more affordable and accessible. First, sugar from the American Colonies became abundant. Second, it was discovered that high concentrations of sugar could preserve fruits. These two actions resulted in excess candied fruit. Consequently, fruitcake making grew.
- Typically, Americans produce fruitcakes abundant in fruit and nuts
- In America, mail-order fruitcake began in 1913.
- Charities often sell commercial fruitcakes from catalogs as a fundraising event.
- In 1935, the expression “nutty as a fruitcake” was coined. The phrase came about as a result of excess nuts some Southern bakeries added to their fruitcakes due to their access to cheap nuts.
- Most mass-produced fruitcakes in America are alcohol-free.
- Some traditional recipes include liqueurs or brandy. Bakers then complete the fruitcake by covering it with powdered sugar.
- Some fruitcake makers soaked their fruitcakes in brandy-soaked linens believing the cakes improved with age.
HOW TO OBSERVE NATIONAL FRUITCAKE DAY
Share a fruitcake story or recipe. Or maybe share both. Invite someone to enjoy some fruitcake with you. No matter how you celebrate, use #NationalFruitcakeDay to post on social media.
You can also explore the other 5 Time-Honored Christmas Foods to get a jump on next year.
NATIONAL FRUITCAKE DAY HISTORY
National Day Calendar will continue to experiment with recipes until we get it right. In the meantime, we’ve not found the origins of this immortal cornerstone of holiday baking, either.
Q. I’ve never eaten fruitcake because I’ve always heard it is awful. Is that true?
A. No, it doesn’t have to be true. There’s a difference between quality fruitcakes and those you might find at the convenience store Christmas shelf. Bakers using quality ingredients create rich, nutty, and flavorful fruitcakes.
Q. Why did the fruitcake fall out of favor?
A. Historians point toward a variety of reasons for the fruitcakes downfall including mass production, poor ingredients, and iconic jokes. However, another reason may be that a good fruitcake takes time and effort, sometimes up to a week to complete every step.