Fruitcake? Fruitcake!

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Emily Palmer, Writer

The infamous fruitcake is a cake made with a bread base then baked with candied or dried fruits, nuts, and various spices. They are then optionally soaked in spirits or other liquors of choice. Fruitcakes are eaten without any condiments due to their rich flavor profiles. In the UK fruitcakes are served in celebration of weddings and Christmas. If soaked in alcohol, fruitcakes can be aged properly for up to three months before consumption. According to a survey done on, 54% of Americans hated Fruitcake the most when asked about holiday desserts. However, in an interview done with a Philadelphia food marketing professor, Sean Coary, he found that fewer than 5% of his students had even tried fruitcake but still held strong, negative opinions on the flavors of these liquor logs. This begs the question, is the hatred for fruitcake justified, or is this an example of people following popular opinion? 

Fruitcake’s modern ridicule can be traced back to a certain talk shows joke. Johnny Carson famously joked, “The worst Christmas gift is a fruitcake… There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other, year after year.” This quip devolved into the holiday tradition of slamming fruitcake. In short, many people see fruitcake as a lazy gift for people to throw around on the holidays. But most people don’t have any authentic experience with receiving fruitcakes as gifts, so let’s look at the true flavor of fruitcake. Some do argue that fruitcake itself is just unappealing to younger generations. Store-bought fruitcakes are the most readily available to people, so of course it is what people are going to buy and judge. Most fruitcakes people do end up trying are described as dense and overly sweet. Even alcohol can’t save it. A fruitcake’s long shelf life can also prove to be annoying at times, after all they were invented to be vessels to preserve fresh and candied fruit in the dead of winter. It was the original power bar. 

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Traditionally, fruitcake has a very loose definition of what should be used in its ingredients allowing for many foreign interpretations and edits that have been made over time. When it comes to flavor, the modern, mass-produced fruitcake that most Americans are exposed to bear little resemblance to its international counterparts. Instead, companies use cheap ingredients that mimic old English recipes. This is where many fruitcake enthusiasts believe the resentment for fruitcake really comes from. Some fruitcake connoisseurs point to the use of artificial fruit substitutes, like red and green glacé cherries, as a large factor in the modern disgust against fruitcake. Virginia Glass, an amateur fruitcake historian believes thatMass-produced fruitcakes, the kind that most people are exposed to during the holidays, are nothing like what a fruitcake should be. A fruitcake should be rich, it should taste like dried fruit and spices and alcohol. It should have a moist texture — it’s not supposed to be dry and crusty. Here’s where I think it all went wrong: it’s those goddamn red and green glacé cherries. I don’t know what they are. But they bear no resemblance to real fruit,” (Thrillist).  

So, is fruitcake’s hatred justified? Is the true flavor of fruitcake a forgotten treasure of holiday spirit? That’s a question best answered for yourself, taste is subjective after all!