You know something is mass-hated by everyone if it accumulates this many jokes. Johnny Carson once said,
“There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep passing it around.”
They’re inedible doorsteps, bread with nuts and gummies, and the list goes on. That hate likely comes from its notoriously hard and dry texture and unappealing taste.
Stick around to learn more about why fruitcake garners this much hate and how you can make one that your relatives will reach for the next holidays.
Fruitcake has become the pastry world’s punching bag. Its reputation likely originates from its overly dry texture and use of dried fruits.
You’d have to drink a lot of tea to get through a loaf of fruitcake. Additionally, the holiday dessert’s problem lies with one of its prime ingredients, fruit.
Fruitcakes usually use Maraschino cherries. Let’s just say that you’re better off serving them in drinks.
When poked into a dough and baked in an oven, these cherries lose all their appeal. They become gummy and taste off.
The fruit doesn’t melt through the dough to create a well-rounded sweetness. That’s why some people use dried fruits instead, but that doesn’t give fruitcake much to work with.
Some people don’t soak the fruit before incorporating it into the batter. In turn, the dried fruits soak up the moisture from the batter, creating an unappealing dry cake.
Fruitcakes likely garnered most of their hate from the mass-produced versions. These mail-order cakes were adorned with candied fruits and nuts.
Overall, the image didn’t please the senses or mass media. Pop culture had a lot to say about fruitcakes.
In 1955, the cartoon “The Hare Brush” featured a “Fruit Cake Sanitarium” because it’s full of nuts.
In one of the episodes from The Donna Reed Show in 1958, a paper boy doesn’t hide his disappointment upon being tipped with a fruitcake.
The fruitcake hate continues with “The Great Fruitcake Toss,” an event hosted in Colorado since 1995. In the itinerary, people see who can toss their unwanted dessert the farthest.
Part of a fruitcake’s unpopular reputation stems from how long it can last. Some can last as long as years while remaining edible. That doesn’t sound too appetizing, does it?
Since most recipes call for soaking the cake in alcohol and dusting it with sugar, it can’t form mold.
Additionally, fruitcakes have a maturing period of around three months. During then, you should periodically brush it with alcohol.
Before refrigerators were commercial, fruitcakes were more popular thanks to their longevity. According to a Ford family living in Michigan, they have a fruitcake that traces to 1878.
It all started when Fidelia Ford, a farmer’s wife, created the heirloom and left it to age by Thanksgiving.
Nevertheless, Fidelia didn’t get to serve her fruitcake, and her relatives weren’t willing to eat it without her.
This unwillingness continued for years to come until the dessert turned into a family legacy.
If fruitcakes survived this long, can they be all that bad? Some might argue that the North American version is the widely-hated one.
After all, fruitcakes have multiple variations stemming from Italian and German cultures. Italian fruitcakes, or panettones, are more fluffy and less compact than the American option.
Meanwhile, the German variation is stollen. It’s denser and adds powdered sugar as a topping.
The European fruitcake choices are more pleasing texture-wise, unlike the American version’s hard and chewy mouthfeel.
Fruitcakes are usually associated with the old days. With our trend-driven lifestyles, the once-hated dessert can make a powerful comeback in the American palate. Here’s how.
Your dried fruits need to be soaked. Otherwise, they’ll suck the batter’s moisture, leaving you with a dry cake.
Soak the fruits for at least a day in cranberry or apple juice. We also recommend using Earl Gray tea as a non-alcoholic alternative.
If your fruitcake has hints of an obnoxious green, you’re doing something wrong. Put the candied cherries down. You need to find half-dried fruits.
They will offer more flavor and less dryness to your fruitcake. Additionally, use richer European-style butter and brown sugar.
You can also toast your nuts before adding them to your mixture for a more refined taste.
Leaving your nuts uncoated can make them sink to the bottom of your fruitcake. Subsequently, dust the nuts with flour before tossing them into your batter.
That way, you’ll have a more even dispersion of nuts and fruits in your fruitcake.
The idea of fruit and cake combined seems harmless enough. Somehow, a mass-produced recipe managed to create a well-established hate crowd.
Nevertheless, when done right, your holiday dessert can sink a decades-long punchline.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.