Believe it or not, fruitcake is a well-loved dessert known throughout the world. It is only in the United States that this cake is the butt of jokes, probably because they were, at one time, mass-produced for mail order and tended to be dry and of questionable age. Some say the ridicule can be traced to Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, but research shows "fruitcake trashing" occurred much earlier in the 20th century.
Though celebrated by some as the delicious tradition it is intended to be (National Fruitcake Day is December 27), others applaud this dense loaf laced with fruit and nuts only when it is flying through the air on National Fruitcake Toss Day, January 3 (or the 7th, depending on which website you visit).
Historically speaking, some believe that ancient Egyptians sent fruitcake to the afterlife with their deceased loved ones. We do know that they did not become common, though, until Roman times, when pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, and barley mash were mixed together.
Preserved fruit, spices, and honey were added during the Middle Ages. Sugar became a main ingredient in the 1500s in the American Colonies, and alcohol was widely used starting in the 1800s. Somewhere along the way, nuts became a staple, as well.
Today, fruitcake is served year 'round in Australia, but is generally enjoyed as a Christmas cake across Europe, India, and parts of the Caribbean.
So, will you buck the trend in the U.S. and give this recipe a try? If you don't like it, you can always save it for January 3!
No-Bake Graham Cracker Fruitcake
3/4 c. sweetened condensed milk
3 c. mini marshmallows
1/2 c. orange juice
1 box + 1 inner seal pkg graham crackers
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 c. raisins
1 c. dates, chopped
1 c. nuts, chopped
16 oz. assorted candied fruit, chopped
Combine milk, marshmallows, & orange juice in large bowl. Let soak 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until marshmallows soften & dissolve slightly. Crush graham crackers into fine crumbs & mix with spices. Add fruits & nuts, stir. Slowly add liquid mixture and stir by hand until well combined.
Press fruitcake into non-stick, lightly greased, or waxed-paper-lined bread pan or mold, cover with plastic wrap, and then with foil. Refrigerate for 2-3 days for flavors to combine. Slice & enjoy.
Instead of the listed fruit, experiment with craisins, dried apples, peaches, mangoes, blueberries, and/or strawberries, or get crazy and use gumdrops, gummy bears, gummy worms, and/or chocolate chips. If you use dried fruit, soak it in additional orange juice (or brandy) in a glass or ceramic bowl (not metal) a few hours or overnight to soften.