As a child, while visions of sugar plums danced in the heads of children around the world on Christmas eve, I dreamed of candied orange peel, candied lemon peel, candied citron, candied cherries, raisins, ginger, chopped walnuts, chopped pecans, grated lemon rind, brandy, vanilla cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, mixed into a batter made of baking powder, flour, sugar and eggs. I remember watching mom mixing these ingredients together to make the perfect fruit cake!
From the time when I was a mere child, and discovered that Christmas was really all about eating, I was addicted to fruitcake. To me, nothing epitomized the meaning of Christmas like that of my mother's fruitcakes that she made from scratch. This was of course before I knew that Christmas was really a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ some 2000 plus years ago. Until that time, the success of my Christmas depended on whether my mother had felt like baking the cake a month before.
I often wondered why she would make a cake in November only to cut into it a month later in December. As I was growing up I learned that she would soak a cloth in my wayward uncle's whiskey that she'd would pilfer while he was asleep, soak a cloth with the brandy or whatever spirits he was consuming at the time, and insert it in the center of the fruitcake which was baked in a bunt pan. The whiskey would soak into the cake, giving it a tang that couldn't be made any other way.
Fruitcake addiction hasn't been limited to me. History tells us in the early 1800's, fruitcake, then called plum cake, was outlawed throughout continental Europe. It seems that the powers that be back then thought the cake was so good it just had to be sinful. Since flagrant sinning was a no-no, Royalty put its foot down and banned the fruit cake! I suspect they were correct on that decision. A good fruitcake is so delicious it is almost a sin to enjoy it as much as I do. Thankfully it's not banned in Alabama.
As to the decadence of the fruitcake, a rumor that has lasted for a couple of centuries, reveal that Queen Victoria received a fruitcake for her birthday one year but waited another year to eat it. She wanted to show that the elite could show restraint and good taste while enjoying in moderation such a tasty treat. This restraint has unfortunately followed her to this century for many folks decry the virtues of the noble fruitcake!
Not everyone has been enamored of the fruitcake as I have been. Over the years people have made jokes about them that have not really been in good taste, but then good taste is not something that is in abundance in our society. Bad jokes about the fruitcake have been around for years. Everyone has heard the one liners concerning this wonderful cake:
'Fruitcakes make good door stops.'
'Fruitcakes make good weights on a grandfather clock.'
'Fruitcakes make good Christmas wreaths.'
'Fruitcakes make good Curling stones.'
'There is really only one fruitcake; it's just been passed around for hundreds of years'
There's no accounting for bad taste. These and other jokes have made a mockery of the awesome fruitcake.
While commercial bakeries do indeed make excellent fruitcakes, I still wish I could taste one like my mother used to make when I was a kid. I am making this my one big mission in life... searching for the perfect fruitcake!