The Fruited Cake

Some will smile with delightful anticipation…some will screw up their faces in distaste.  Such is the essence of fruitcake, it seems — you either love it or hate it.

I am of the camp that loves it.  The rich, buttery aroma of those heavily fruited cakes is as much a Christmas tradition to me as the tree itself.  Of course, it wasn’t always that way.

When I was a little girl, my mother always made two fruitcakes every year — one light, and one dark.  On a day that was deemed “just right” for the long, slow bake — perhaps one of those days when the air smelled like snow — she would get up extra early in the morning, cut and flour the huge mixing bowls of nuts, raisins, and candied fruit and set out the rest of the ingredients to come to room temperature.  Pounds of rich butter (margarine or shortening won’t do for fruitcakes!) and a dozen eggs warmed on the counter.  And then came the arduous task of mixing it all together and putting it into the prepared pans.  The kitchen would soon be filled with the wonderful aroma of spices and butter, molasses and dark sugar.  I would be shooed into another room to play lest my jumping around would make the cakes “fall”.

When the cakes were finally ready to come out of the oven, there was such excitement and nervous anticipation as they cooled a few minutes in their pans.  Then they would be turned out onto racks to cool with proud exclamations of how “perfectly golden” and “wonderfully moist” the cakes were.  When fully cooled, they were wrapped in a layer of brandy soaked cheesecloth, then plastic wrap, and then stored in cake tins from the 1950’s that were just the right size for the cakes.  They were left to “season” in a cool, dark place until the ceremonious first taste.

Then one day in December, my Mom and her best friend, Florence (my godmother), would share the ritual of the first cut over several cups of tea in china cups, always pronouncing that, indeed, that year’s cake outshone all those that had gone before.

It took me a while to warm up to fruitcake, and I never did develop a close relationship with the dark cakes, but I eventually came to look forward to the fudgy, golden goodness of the light ones.  My Mom hasn’t made fruitcakes, light or dark, for a few years now.  Manipulating the heavy batter bothers her arthritic hands and arms and, though I completely understand why she gave up the ritual, I must say that the lead up to Christmas doesn’t seem quite the same without this long-standing tradition.

So, I’ve taken over the baking of the fruit cakes.  Rather than make one large cake, I usually bake three smaller ones and share them with my parents, Charlie’s folks, and keep one for us me.  Charlie and none of our daughters can stand fruitcake — which leaves all the more for me. :)  The fruit, nuts, and raisins are chopped and floured and waiting to be baked tomorrow morning.  I’ll post a photo of this year’s cake — it’s a recipe I’ve never made before.

How about you?  Love it, or hate it?

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Author: nancybond

A writer, photographer, naturalist from small town Nova Scotia, Canada.

19 thoughts on “The Fruited Cake”

  1. I LIKE fruitcake, especially the lovely homemade kind that you describe. I used to spend a bit of time on Thanksgiving Day making light fruitcakes to give away, although I haven’t done that in quite awhile. Your post reminded me of that holiday tradition.

  2. OH !!! Nancy Girl !!!
    You have a huge fan of fruitcake here drooling at the picture and description of your childhood experiences : )
    When I was a child, Sears catalog had them and that was what we enjoyed .. I know a bit strange but that was the ritual.
    I am a dark fruit cake with thick marzipan topping fan .. moist with out too much of the hard candied fruit .. I loved the currents,raisins, nuts, soft cherries .. well I think you get the drift ? haha But when no other option is present I will certainly devour the golden fruitcake no problem ? LOL
    This was a VERY delicious Christmasy post to read girl .. Thank YOU !
    Joy : )

  3. I’m I big fan of it Nancy especially home made. I’m going for Thanksgiving dinner to my daughter and a fruitcake will be a perfect gift don’t you think. Yours looks absolutely yummie and very pretty decorated too

  4. I think homemade fruitcake is like night and day different from the store bought kind. I have had homemade once. It is an acquired taste…more of a grown-up taste. Similar to Lebkuchen — American kids think it is too strong flavored, while some of us can’t get enough!

  5. Love it, and the darker the better. My Mom used to make them, but she had stopped after a few years. I also love! the plum pudding, especially with that white brandy sauce.

    Yours look wonderful.

    Jen

  6. Nancy,

    My Ex used to have a client that made fruitcakes for gifts. I never met the lady but once she heard my reviews of her fruit cake I got a fruit cake every year. I mkiss her fruitcake. My favorite store bought is plain old Claxton, which is sold in all the groceries.

  7. I am not a fan of fruitcake…but I’ve never had homemade~~They look beautiful Nancy and I think it’s wonderful that you took over the baking of the Fruited Cakes….gail

  8. My Mom would always make the dark fruitcake, which I really love. The store-bought cakes just don’t do justice to the homemade sort. Part of our ritual would be the kids taking turns grinding up the dates, then cracking the walnuts to get the meat and chopping them up in the old grinder as well.

  9. I love it too. I remember my mother making fruitcake from her mother’s recipe. I think I am the only one of my family who still makes it. Every time I smell it, I think back to such pleasant memories of childhood Christmases.

    Jan
    Always Growing

  10. Hi, Nancy,
    What a lovely description of this tradition as you experienced it.
    In our home, we enjoy dried fruits (NOT candied fruit!) in our cakes. Nuts are also frowned upon by a couple of our kids.
    More than fruitcake, I enjoy making Dutch almond pastries, though we’re not Dutch.

  11. Count me in for loving this post, Nancy! Bless you for carrying on the tradition, even more important than the fruitcake. This is a debate that never ends … a fun one :) I’ve been working on several and yet to find one that ‘grabs’ me! Tomorrow we will be celebrating our Thanksgiving … and thankful for knowing you :)

  12. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve tried it just because I’ve heard it’s so awful- maybe I’ll rethink that! Such a wonderful memory you’ve shared with us. Thank-you and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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