One year at Christmas, I made the mistake of asking my grandmother what was in her famous fruitcake. I’ll go ahead and note now that her fruitcake was deemed “famous” not because it is so delicious or something everyone loves, but because without fail it shows up on our holiday dinner table at least twice a year. More if she is feeling particularly generous.

Her face lit up when I asked, and she proceeded to tick off a list of ingredients longer than her tradition of making the holiday cake – many of which I wasn’t entirely sure belonged in a cake. (Where do you find dried mangos? And remind me what a currant is again …) She was so proud of her confectionery and I couldn’t bring myself to ask the question I really wanted to know the answer to: Does anyone really enjoy fruitcake?

As best as I can deduce, fruitcake is a sort of cake made with chopped candied fruit, dried fruit, nuts, spices, and — for the particularly dedicated connoisseurs — can be soaked in spirits. I think my grandmother’s recipe includes rum … and the amount added seems to increase each year (I base this observation on how far away I can smell her fruitcake).

I took a brief office poll to try to determine if fruitcake is one of those traditions we don’t particularly care for but aren’t going to be the ones to break or if people actually enjoy this baked and candied good. Conclusion: the cakes seem to be more popularly used as door stops than dessert. And if the old joke about one piece of fruit cake being re-gifted year after year is true, the door stops will get better with age. (Though with the amount of rum some of them contain, they might be well-preserved and still edible, too).

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So while I have no doubt my lovely grandmother will turn up at our Christmas dinner table with her famous cake filled with unrecognizable chewy candied fruits, I think I prefer these fruit cakes this holiday season. They’re much fresher and more delicious.

And if I’m craving something sweet and chewy, I’ll opt for some gummy worms.

Fresh Apple Cake with Buttermilk Glaze

Blueberry Buckle Coffeecake

Berry Delightful Cornmeal Cake

 

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