No, this isn’t a joke. There’s no cutesy punchline at the end. I’m writing this open love letter about fruitcake because I genuinely think it’s delicious—and severely underappreciated. I first realized how outnumbered I was—and how unpopular I was about to become—when I brought up the hot topic to a group of friends at the bar last week. “Fruitcake? You actually eat that?” some said. Even the eavesdropping bartender shot me a skeptical side-eye.
After from my initial, defensive reaction (“Let me live, people!”), I was sent into a spiral of self-examination about why I like the quirky holiday staple so much, when seemingly everyone else would rather use it as a doorstop. For me, it has a lot to do with nostalgia. Before you could have a fruitcake sent to your doorstep with the click of a keyboard key, you either had to make it from scratch or purchase one in the store. Since my father’s only culinary specialty was burnt grilled cheese sandwiches, he settled for the latter—and I was his accomplice. We hit up the local grocery store and a few bakeries to track down the best one, and we ate it on the drive home while listening to Christmas carols.
In short, fruitcake brings back all the warm fuzzies of my childhood during the holiday season. But there are a few other reasons I think my friends, that bartender, and the rest of you hesitant fruitcake eaters should give it another chance:
1. The recipe is flexible
You can make fruitcake dark or light, and use candied or dried fruit. However you do it, the ingredients can vary greatly, and there are a ton of different combinations. Pineapple, apricots, brown sugar, raisins and molasses are all possibilities.
2. You can incorporate your favorite booze
Although most classic fruitcake recipes call for brandy, you can swap that out for rum, bourbon or even wine.
3. It keeps for a very long time
The serious fruitcake lovers out there have been to known to wait as long as three years before eating the treat. If you want to follow their lead, be sure the cake is stored properly so the it ages safely.
4. It satisfies a sweet tooth
Fruitcake is everything sweet baked into a dense, flavorful loaf. So from the candied fruits to the dark, boozy aftertaste, it satisfies every sweet craving.
5. It’s a Christmas tradition
You might not have grown up eating fruitcake, but I bet your grandmother did…and her mom and dad and their family before that. In our opinion, for the sake of keeping tradition alive, munching on a delectable fruitcake is a small price to pay. Psst! We’ve gathered a few more fun holiday traditions you might want to start this year.
Our Best Fruitcake Baking Tips
If we’ve convinced you to give fruitcake another chance, then you’re absolutely brave enough to make your own at home. Taste of Home Food Editor James Schend offers some of his best tips for baking fruitcake, below:
- Make it at least 4 weeks in advance. “They just seem to get better and better the more they are aged,” says James.
- Use high-quality, fresh spices (not the old ones sitting in your pantry), since this is main component of the fruitcake’s flavor.
- Place a double layer of parchment paper in the pan before adding the batter. Says James: “Since it’s in the oven so long, this helps keep the outside from browning too much.”
- Once the fruitcake cools, wrap it in a triple layer of cheesecloth—soaked in whatever alcohol you choose to use—before storing in an airtight container.
- Dampen the fruitcake with alcohol, using a spray bottle, and mist the cheesecloth thoroughly. “I like to ‘feed’ fruitcakes about once a week in the beginning, and then less often as they age,” James says.
- Never store them in the fridge, which can be too cold—not to mention moist. Instead, choose a cool, dry place. “I usually store fruitcake in my basement,” James says. “If the storage area is too chilly,” he explains, “it stops the aging process.”
At the end of the day, fruitcake is one of those things you simply can’t knock until you try. Surprise a fruitcake lover by gifting them a homemade one this year. You might actually enjoy it, yourself.