Americas, ancient Rome, anniversaries, candied fruit, candied peel, christenings, Christmas essential, cinnamon, earliest fruitcake recipe, Europe, Fruitcake, Germany, icing sugar, Italian favourite, loaf shaped, Marylou Andrew, marzipan icing, Michigan, nutmeg, Pakistan, stollen, Tuscany, weddings, Wikipedia
You either love fruitcake or you hate it – there’s really no middle ground. A Christmas essential in many countries, fruitcake is famous for having lots of ingredients among which candied peels, dried fruit, nuts and spices, such as nutmeg and cinnamon are essentials.
There are many varieties of fruitcake ranging from light (with fewer ingredients and a light batter) to rich (with a dense, heavy batter that includes lots of fruit and nuts). Celebration fruitcakes come covered in marzipan (made with almonds) icing and decorated with royal icing. These are eaten not only at Christmas but also at weddings, anniversaries and christenings.
According to Wikipedia, the earliest fruitcake recipe in existence comes from ancient Rome and lists pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, raisins and barley mash as the major ingredients. Although Europe had discovered fruitcakes in the 15th century, it was in the 16th century when sugar from the Americas started flowing in and the Europeans learned how make candied fruit (in order to preserve it) that fruitcakes became popular and affordable.
Several countries have their own distinct variety of fruit cake. In Germany, the traditional fruitcake is called the stollen; it is loaf shaped and dusted with icing sugar. Major ingredients include yeast (not an otherwise common ingredient in fruitcake), butter, zest, raisins and almonds. The Italian favourite is the panforte, a dense, chewy fruit cake from Tuscany which dates to the 13th century and is usually strongly flavoured with spices.
One of the most distinct qualities of a fruitcake is that it keeps extremely well and can remain edible for many years. The best example of this comes from Michigan where one family has kept a fruitcake baked in 1878 as an heirloom!
Eating a fruitcake that is over 130 years old is certainly not for everyone, but don’t worry, bakeries across Pakistan sell plenty of freshly baked fruitcake at this time of year, so grab yours today and have a very happy Christmas.
– Marylou Andrew
First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on December 23, 2012.