Ah, fruit cake. The most excessively joked about, widely hated, and completely misunderstood Christmas classic in existence. To few, the smell of month-old, bourbon-soaked fruit cake is the smell of the holidays. But to most, that same smell represents a tradition that needs to come to an end.
In order to get to the bottom of this society-splitting dispute, I decided to turn to my grandma (Nana), the ultimate fan of fruit cake. I always make Nana a fruitcake for Christmas, which might be why I get the best presents. I had no respect for this cake until I found out my grandma (who knows her stuff) loves it. I trusted her taste, made one myself, and have since become one of the few fruitcake fans of the world.
"Fruit cake is... can I say Nirvana?"
According to Nana, fruit cake is the most flavor-packed, festive, and indulgent treat there is. It's a Christmas tradition, and there's a reason it's still around.
What most likely ruined the image of this cake was the rise of the dreaded mail-order fruitcakes way back in 1913. Suddenly, this decadent, difficult-to-make treat became the laziest Christmas gift you could give. It quickly became, and remained, the laughing stock of the season.
But don't turn your nose up just yet. There is a whole world of fruit cakes out there worth a try. And they do not always have disturbingly bright green pieces of "fruit" in them.
"The traditional fruit cake is made weeks in advance, and fed a little bourbon each day."
This makes a traditional, super rich, dense cake that requires quite a bit of effort and time. According to Nana, it's "not exactly a light piece of cake," and probably not the best place for fruit cake amateurs to start.
She recommends that if you're trying fruit cake for the first time this holiday season, you make it yourself. Start with a lighter, simpler fruit cake, like this one. These cakes usually have apple sauce, raisins, and nuts, and are not quite as heavy and excessively spiced as the infamous one.
Once you feel comfortable moving up in the fruit cake world, you can try making the real deal. Nana suggests candied pineapple and cherries (the citron can be "chewy and confusing"), along with raisins and currants. Add lots of spices, plenty of bourbon, and don't forget the nuts.
The final product will be rewarding, authentic, and well worth your time and effort. Don't let anyone at your holiday party tell you they don't like fruit cake until they have tried YOUR fruit cake. It's time to give this Christmas tradition the credit it deserves.