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Love it or hate it, fruitcake has been a winter holiday staple for a long time. You could say the earliest version was a barley, pomegranate seed, nut, raisin, and honeyed wine dessert called satura that was made in ancient Rome. It was essentially an energy bar that the Roman Legions loved to have on hand.
Panaforte is an Italian dessert, a kind of fruitcake, which contains fruits and nuts. ( Printemps / Adobe Stock)
Panforte, Satura, Stollen: Middle Eastern Origins of Fruitcake
But the fruitcake (also called fruit cake or fruit bread) that we know best comes from the Middle Ages when dried fruit and spices became more widely available and Western European chefs started to make bread with fruit in it. That soon led to a variety of fruitcakes. In the 13th century, Italians created panforte (literally meaning “strong bread”), a dense sweet and spicy mixture that originated in Siena. German stollen – a tapered bread including candied fruit, nuts, and marzipan, and coated with melted butter and sugar – has been a Dresden favorite since the 1400s.
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The next big advancement for fruitcake came in the 16th century, as Europeans delighted their taste buds with sugar from the Caribbean. This new addition in the kitchen allowed people to make candied fruit. The 18 th-century French epicure Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savari believed that this process preserved fruit “long after the period fixed by Nature for their duration.” Nevertheless, housewives of the time would have found that steeping cherries, plums, pears, and figs, as well as imported oranges, lemons, citrons, and limes in sugar syrup not only increased the sweetness, but that preservation was a useful tool in the kitchen.
Traditional Christmas stollen fruitcake. ( nblxer / Adobe Stock)
Twelfth Night Spice and Fruit Cake
The period between Christmas Day and Twelfth Night (January 6) was an especially festive time in Elizabethan England and the 12 days of Christmas (Twelfth Night) was topped off with a large Twelfth Night spice and fruit cake. Cookbooks and household management books encouraged that people spend as much time as possible in the summer and autumn stocking their pantries in preparation for the festive season. That would have been especially important if you had a grand manor and could expect to feed 50 people or more twice daily, every day, for 12 days!
The Twelfth Night fruit cake would traditionally include a dried bean and a pea and the people who found them in their slice of cake would be declared the King and Queen of the Revels. Samuel Pepys’ 17th century Twelfth Night cake recipe mentions that the ingredients cost him almost 20 shillings and the cake was cut into 20 slices. Another recipe, taken from Lady Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book , dates to 1604, and produces a huge fruitcake that was cut into an amazing 160 slices! If you’d like to try your hand at making this recipe, here it is:
“Take a peck of flower, and fower pound of currance, on ounce of Cinamon, half an ounce of ginger, two nutmegs, of cloves and mace two peniworth, of butter one pound, mingle your spice and flower & fruit together, put as much barme as will make it light, then take good Ale, & put your butter in it, all saving a little, which you must put in the milk, & let the milk boyle with the butter, them make a posset with it, & temper the Cake with the posset drinkl, & curd & all together, & put some sugar in & so bake it. ”
Queen Victoria famously serve a fruitcake at her wedding in 1840.
Queen Victoria and her Wedding Fruit Cake
Fruitcake that was prepared with butter and sugar was declared “sinfully rich” for a time in the 18th century and was even banned in some parts of Europe. But by Victorian times, fruitcake had gained popularity once again and was prepared served as wedding cake. Queen Victoria famously had a fruitcake for her wedding that was topped with a spun-sugar figure of Britannia. Wedding guests would traditionally put a small slice of the fruitcake under their pillows, with the hope that their dreams would reveal their future marriage partner.
These days there are many fruit, nut, and spice options available for creating a personalized fruitcake. For fruits, traditional recipes may include some of the following: raisins, currants, cranberries, cherries, pineapple, lemon, orange, and dates. Popular nut options for fruitcakes are walnuts and pecans. Most fruitcakes will include cinnamon, but you’ll find recipes including spices such as nutmeg, cloves, ginger, mace, or allspice.
100-year-old fruitcake found amongst almost 1,500 artifacts conserved from a group of buildings at Cape Adare in the Antarctic. It was probably left behind by Scott’s Terra Nova expedition. ( Antarctic Heritage Trust )
Long Live the Fruitcake!
Fruitcakes can last for a long time. One of the ways bakers can increase the cake’s shelf life is with the addition of alcohol. People will often “season” their fruitcake by sprinkling on rum, brandy, port, sherry or a liqueur. Oftentimes the process is repeated every week or so – keeping the cake moist, adding flavor, and helping to preserve it for months, years, or even decades!
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Last year, explorers were surprised to come across a fruitcake in Antarctica’s oldest building, a hut on Cape Adare. It was made by the British Biscuit Company and found wrapped in paper inside a corroded tin. The cake was probably left behind by British explorer Robert Falcon Scott during his 1910 to 1913 Terra Nova expedition, making it over 100 years old. The wondrous properties of fruitcake preservation have been brought to light with this cake, which researchers say is in “excellent condition” and with a smell that suggests it’s “almost edible.” This may be the best compliment some people would offer fruitcake in general!
The topping of a fruitcake also has an impact on its taste. Many times fruitcake is topped with marzipan (an almond and sugar or honey icing) and then either royal icing or fondant. Another option is adding a sprinkling of powdered sugar or a sugary glaze on top. At Ancient Origins we’ve created our very own fruitcake recipe that does not include any topping. This allows the cake’s flavors and texture to shine and provide an initiation into the world of fruitcake for people who may have been hesitant to try baking it before.
Finding a fruitcake recipe to suit your taste buds can be a tricky feat. But you should test out different fruit and/or nut combinations, maybe try varieties with and without alcohol, see if you like different toppings, and expand your search area to include various cultures’ opinions on what makes a good fruitcake. You’ll almost certainly find a version of this iconic dessert to make your own!
Our FRUITCAKE RECIPE is available HERE, in the December 2020 Issue of AO Magazine.
An Ancient Treat: The Rich History of Fruitcake - Historya footnote from history by stephanie grace whitson (www.stephaniewhitson.com)
I decided to make a fruit cake.
I know not why.
It seemed a good idea at the time.
I gathered up the recipe, ingredients and such,
And borrowed just the kind of pan
In which to bake the beast.
Reviews were varied when I shared the culinary plan.
And now I'm blogging all about it .
With a bad attempt at a poem.
Do you like fruitcake or hate it? There doesn't seem to be a middle-of-the-road response to this ancient confection. I discovered some interesting things in my adventure which began with the beautiful candied fruit at left and ended with a cake that weighed four pounds.
Fruitcake is ancient. The earliest known recipe is from ancient Rome and calls for pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, raisins, and barley mash.
Fruitcake in the Middle Ages contained honey, spices, and preserved fruit (dried fruits began to arrive in Britain in the 13th century). A luxury reserved for special occasions, fruitcake was prepared long before it was to be served, and alcohol provided both flavor and preservation.
Making a fruitcake in the 18th century was labor intensive. Fruit had to be washed, de-pitted, and dried. Sugar was cut from a loaf and had to be pounded and sieved. Butter . well. They started with a cow, right? Milk, churn, wash--one source I read mentioned washing butter in rosewater, the latter which I assume began with roses. Eggs had to be beaten by hand, and some instructions recommended beating for half an hour. It makes my arms hurt just thinking about it. And then, once the concoction was assembled, one had the issue of managing the temperature in wood-fired ovens.
Compared to baking in "the good old days," my quest to make the perfect fruitcake was easy (albeit expensive). It was also a failure. We eventually ate it, but we didn't love it.
Housekeeping in Old Virginia, published in 1879, includes two recipes for "White Fruit Cake," one of them with the note (superior, tried recipe) and seven other recipes for Fruit Cake. Here's one:
I don't hate real fruitcake, not necessarily those you buy in a store. I think it's the citron that drives many people away from it. And maybe it's whether or not the dried fruits are softened at all before being placed in the batter. I'm no expert but these are my guesses. Thanks for taking on this polarizing issue.
Helpful observations, Connie . because I intend to try again.
I loved my grandmohter's fruitcake. She made it every year. The recipe died with her. Or at least my mother never attempted to make it.As you said it is labor intense. I won't either. A friend gave me one for Christmas. This one reminded me of grandma. Lehmans.com makes wonderful fruitcake.
Thanks! I'll check out Lehman's!
Sounds like a very good book. I don't really care for fruit cake, though. My aunt always made one for my mom on Christmas. I think I have the recipe she used, but I've never made it. The cake I always think of when I think of my grandma is the applesauce stack cake. Delicious! I still make it every now and then.
I am not a fruitcake lover but my mother is. My husband bought her one as a little treat for Christmas.
An Ancient Treat: The Rich History of Fruitcake - History
Fruitcakes are holiday and wedding cakes which have a very heavy fruit content. They require special handling and baking to obtain successful results. The name “fruitcake” can be traced back only as far as the Middle Ages. It is formed from a combination of the Latin fructus, and French frui or frug. The oldest reference that can be found regarding a fruitcake dates back to Roman times. The recipe included pomegranate seeds. Pine nuts, and raisins that were mixed into barley mash. Honey, spices, and preserved fruits were added during the Middle Ages. Crusaders and hunters were reported to have carried this type of cake to sustain themselves over long periods of time away from home.
1400s – The British began their love affair with fruitcake when dried fruits from the Mediterranean first arrived.
1700s – In Europe, a ceremonial type of fruitcake was baked at the end of the nut harvest and saved and eaten the next year to celebrate the beginning of the next harvest, hoping it will bring them another successful harvest. After the harvest, nuts were mixed and made into a fruitcake that was saved until the following year. At that time, previous year’s fruitcakes were consumed in the hope that its symbolism would bring the blessing of another successful harvest
In the early 18 th century, fruitcake (called plum cakes) was outlawed entirely throughout Continental Europe. These cakes were considered as “sinfully rich.” By the end of the 18th century there were laws restricting the use of plum cake. Between 1837 and 1901, fruitcake was extremely popular. A Victorian “Tea” would not have been complete without the addition of the fruitcake to the sweet and savory spread. Queen Victoria is said to have waited a year to eat a fruitcake she received for her birthday because she felt it showed restraint, moderation and good taste.
It was the custom in England for unmarried wedding guests to put a slice of the cake, traditionally a dark fruitcake, under their pillow at night so they will dream of the person they will marry. Fruitcake’s durability – the butt of most of the jokes about the holiday treat – is actually the reason the baked good was invented in the first place.
Roman soldiers carried fruitcake with them during their long treks. Crusaders also brought the hearty treat along on their search for the Holy Grail. Egyptians packed the fruit-and-nut bread in the coffins of friends and relatives. They apparently felt it was the only food that could survive the journey into the afterlife.
Fruitcake was also tied to the abundance of ingredients in the Middle East region during ancient times. Fruits and nuts were plentiful in the Holy Land, so mixing together a fruitcake wasn’t difficult. It also provided a special treat for people in northern Europe, where those items weren’t as readily available. In addition, fruit was a luxury in winter months, so a fruitcake made in summer or fall would still be edible during December and January.
the Romans mixed raisins, pine nuts and pomegranate seeds with barley mash to make their sturdy, compact cake. During the Middle Ages, Dorfman says, preserved fruits, honey and spices were added. These days, candied fruit, fruit rind, citron peel and some sort of liquor are also part of the ingredients. Dorfman says the ratio of fruit and nuts to batter is high, which gives fruitcake it’s dense, heavy make-up.
Light and dark fruitcake
There are two basic types of fruitcake. The lighter version uses lighter ingredients such as granulated sugar, almonds, golden raisins, pineapple and apricots. The darker version uses darker ingredients such as molasses, brown sugar, raisins, prunes, dates, cherries, pecans and walnuts.
The jokes about fruitcake’s staying power are true. Peggy Trowbridge Filippone on the website about.com says fruitcakes can easily last three years if stored and cared for properly. They need to be tightly wrapped and you need to pour a small quantity of liquor over them every few months.
Fruitcake is still popular
Despite the jokes, fruitcake does retain some popularity. The Collin Street Bakery in Texas sells 1.6 million fruitcakes every year. They go to all 50 states and 200 countries.
The 14 monks at the Assumption Abbey in Missouri make 23,000 fruitcakes every holiday season. It costs $28 for a 2-pound cake. And their website says they’re sold out for Christmas 2007. If you want one of their fruitcakes, you have to wait until Feb. 1.
The Secret Life of Fruit Cake
The fruit cakes a beating with Christmas time jokes, considered the gift that keeps on giving. The fruitcake has an interesting and slightly unbelievable ancient history.
The earliest record of fruitcake goes back to Ancient Egypt, where a loaf was provided in tombs as an afterlife treat. Fruitcake did not become a common dessert until Roman times.
Roman Fruitcake included pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and barley mash. The ring-shaped loaf was often carried on the battlefield by Roman Soldiers, this battlefield tradition was also practiced by Crusaders during the Middle Ages.
Fruitcake became so popular (And if you can believe it, DECADENT.), it was once banned in Europe on the account of being “Sinfully rich.”
The anatomy of a fruitcake
Fruitcakes are usually prepared one month to a year in advance of their consumption date. Bakers usually engage in “feeding” their cake (Pouring whiskey, brandy or rum over the loaf.) to enhance flavor. Nuts and fruits make up the bulk of the cake’s weight and vary from loaf to loaf. Once put into circulation as a Christmas gift, a fruitcake could be passed from one person to the next dozens of times.
- The average fruitcake weighs two pounds.
- Fruitcakes will last YEARS without spoiling.
- Astronauts on Apollo 11 ate fruitcake with their second meal.
- Claxton, Georgia is known as the Fruitcake Capital of the World.
- According to Harper’s Index, 1991, the ratio of the density of the average fruitcake to the density of mahogany is 1:1.
Check out Julie Douglas’s Ultimate Guide to Fruitcake for more heavy fruitcake facts.
Ultimate Guide to Fruitcake
Culinary lore claims that ancient Egyptians placed an early version of the fruitcake on the tombs of loved ones, perhaps as food for the afterlife. But fruitcakes were not common until Roman times, when pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and barley mash were mixed together to form a ring-shaped dessert. Prized for its portability and shelf life, Roman soldiers often brought fruitcake with them to the battlefields. Later, in the Middle Ages, preserved fruit, spices and honey were added to the mix and fruitcakes gained popularity with crusaders [source: What's Cooking in America].
With the colonies providing a boon in cheap, raw materials, 16th-century fruitcakes contained cupfuls of sugar, which added another density booster to the cake. In addition, fruits from the Mediterranean were candied and added to the mixture, along with nuts. Each successive century seemed to contribute yet another element to the cake, like alcohol during the Victorian era, until it became weighty with the cumulative harvests of the seasons.
In fact, by the early 18th century, fruitcake became synonymous with decadence and was outlawed in Europe, where it was proclaimed "sinfully rich" [source: Associated Content]. The law was eventually repealed since fruitcake had become an important part of the tea hour, particularly in England.
Recent centuries have seen fruitcake continue as a popular item to send to soldiers. One former soldier, Lance Nesta, rediscovered a fruitcake gifted to him in 1962 when he was stationed in Alaska. He had forgotten about the loaf, and it ended up in his mother's attic, where he found it 40 years later, claiming that at the time of receiving the present, "I opened it up and didn't know what to do with it. I sure wasn't going to eat it, and I liked my fellow soldiers too much to share it with them" [source: Breitbart].
The humble loaf has also appeared in popular culture like Truman Capote's "A Christmas Memory," which recounts young Capote's time spent with his eccentric cousin, who would commence to fruitcake-making when she deemed it proper "fruitcake weather."
But it's perhaps the former host of "The Tonight Show," Johnny Carson, who best determined fruitcake's place in the modern psyche. Deriding the loaf as a holiday reject, he once claimed that, "The worst gift is fruitcake. There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other" [source: Village Voice].
In the next section, we'll look at the physical qualities of fruitcakes and find out why some people begin "feeding" their fruitcakes a year in advance of their gifting or consumption.
Kin to the fruitcake, panettone and stollen have similar ingredients, like fruit and nuts. However, the Italian version, panettone, is lighter, with a cake-like consistency, and isn't made with alcohol. Stollen, fruitcake's German counterpart, has a lower sugar content and also omits alcohol [source: Village Voice].
Weddings, Wars, Humanity, Divinity, and Fruitcake
From millennia past to modern day, from the Antarctic to the Caribbean, there has always been fruitcake. Far more than a source of holiday ridicule, fruitcake has fueled weddings and war. It’s as storied and complex as humanity with a whisper of the divine. And let us say, hallelujah.
Fruitcake has its origins not in commercial factories but in ancient Rome, appearing in the first–century work De re coquinaria (The Art of Cooking), the world’s oldest-surviving cookbook. The first fruitcake comprised dried fruit and nuts bound with mashed barley, honey, and wine, then formed into cakes and baked. This was born out of necessity — the ingredients were available and nonperishable — but the result proved fruitcake to be greater than the sum of its parts. As I write in my book, Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith, and What to Eat for Dinner, “The sumptuous oils of pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, and pistachios embraced and enhanced the winey sweetness of dates, apricots, plums, and raisins for a rich confection that endured (without preservatives) long after Rome fell.”
At its most primal and delicious, the recipe remains as once it was — mostly dried fruit and nuts, natural, high in energy, and nutrient-dense, a treat you can feel good about (kinda), without any of the strange artificial anythings commercial fruitcakes might contain. Think of fruitcake as the forerunner of power bars and trail mix. That’s why it served as rations for Roman legionnaires and medieval crusaders. It’s an MRE actually worth eating.
If you study the history of fruitcake — and I do — you’ll note early recipes are stingy with the sweet spices we throw about so freely now — cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove. Spices came from the Silk Road — Asia, India, and the Middle East. Getting your hands on them took money, and in the case of nutmeg, bloodshed it was so prized in the 17th century, the Brits and the Dutch went to war over it. Keep that in mind the next time you shake some into your cappuccino.
A century or so passes, spices become more accessible and affordable, and mankind as a whole grows a smidge more civilized. America declares its independence, and fruitcake becomes part of American history, thanks to our very first first lady, Martha Washington, who made it for friends and family. So did another American icon, Emily Dickinson. The beloved poet made sure to bake fruitcake for everyone on her Christmas list. For a recluse and an introvert, she had a lot of friends. Her recipe for black cake, so called because it is brandy-rich, thick, dense, and dark with raisins, prunes, and dates — serves 60.
By the Victorian era, fruitcake becomes a wedding ritual back channel. The Victorian groom needed something more than wedding cake to sustain him through the matrimonial pomp and see him through his wedding night. The answer? A robust, boozy fruitcake. After the ceremony, slices of what was called “groom’s cake” would be given out to everyone in the wedding party to place beneath their pillows that night. This sounds more like a recipe for ruined pillowcases and flattened fruitcake, but I love the idea. Did it inspire sweet dreams? Mad sex? Being Victorian, they did not say.
Groom’s cake and black cake — the darker, richer, alcohol-intense fruitcakes — have their origins in the Caribbean, home of rum and sugar. They’ve never had a white Christmas but love the season anyway. Black cake is a point of pride and a celebration unto itself. Every family in Jamaica, Trinidad, Grenada, Barbados, and the Bahamas has its own recipe, and everyone swears theirs is the best.
Fruitcake has endured through the ages and throughout the world. Really endured. Over a century after Robert Scott’s ill-fated 1910 expedition to the South Pole, conservationists discovered artifacts at his base camp including a fruitcake. It looks and smells “almost edible,” thanks to the cold, which kept it well-preserved. Alas, the same cannot be said for Scott and his crew, who perished.
Look, no one should die over fruitcake. It is proof of an abundance of spirit — by which I mean soul, not alcohol, although a true fruitcake involves that, too. It also requires generosity, forethought, effort, time, and with all that chopping and stirring, a certain stamina and upper-body strength. It is truly a labor of love.
Devoted fruitcake makers start the process months before the holidays are upon us, macerating citron, raisins, pineapple, cherries, and dates and figs in bourbon, brandy, or rum. One Jamaican friend macerates her fruit in Manischewitz for a fruitcake for all faiths. It will smell high-octane at first. Don’t worry, give it an occasional stir then leave it alone. The alcohol will mellow over time.
Come fall, you whip up a batter resplendent with “ginger and vanilla … and walnuts and whiskey and oh, so much flour, butter, so many eggs, spices, flavorings: why, we’ll need a pony to pull the buggy home.” Does that cozy quote sound like Dickens? It’s actually from flamboyant, irascible Truman Capote, who showed his soft spot for fruitcake in A Christmas Memory. Then you bake your cakes, cool them, wrap them, bathe them gently with more alcohol from time to time, and let them ripen for the holiday season, pausing on occasion simply to admire. They’re like pets you don’t have to housetrain.
For all the effort involved, the best fruitcakes are still made lovingly and artisanally in small batches. Some things do not scale well. You can increase fruitcake production, but you risk losing its soul. So if you outsource your cake, do so to people who are in the business of souls. Turn to the church. Really.
The finest fruitcakes on the market are made by religious orders and have been for at least 1,500 years. Monks produce and sell fine foods as a way to sustain the order — it’s a win-win. You can be sure the recipe has already achieved perfection, each cake mellowed with age (and alcohol), and blessed. You don’t have to be of the faith. Just believe in fruitcake.
Brandy-soaked, loaded with goodness
Monastery Greetings’ website serves as an online clearing house of religious orders and their fruitcakes and other wares. New Camaldoli Hermitage in majestic Big Sur is the first and only fruitcake-baking Camaldolese Benedictine order, and the monks take it seriously. I first had to prove I was legit and sincere in my inquiry and not, in their words, a “fruitcake terrorist” — such are the dark days we live in.
The original fruitcake recipe comes courtesy of Brother Joseph. A chief petty officer in the U.S. Navy prior to joining the order, Brother Joseph crafted the fruitcake recipe, along with New Camaldoli’s other big seller, date-nut cake, as a monastery money-maker. It worked. They’ve been making it for almost half a century, and according to the order’s Father Zacchaeus, they produce 2,000 fruitcakes a year.
Theirs is brandy-soaked, dense, and moist but not goopy, with a nice balance of dates and raisins, walnuts (my favorite), and pecans (everyone else’s favorite). As with most fruit-cakes, it’s best enjoyed sliced thin and served with something bracing — strong coffee, black tea, or a tot of brandy or port. A 1-pound fruitcake costs $20.98 — such a deal! Larger fruitcakes are available, as well as New Camaldoli’s date-nut cakes and Holy Granola.
For the ultimate New Camaldoli experience, the monks welcome visitors who request a retreat at the hermitage. The fruitcake baking is left to the experts, but guests are encouraged to join in prayer or silent contemplation and to enjoy the area’s wild beauty. We could all use more contemplation and beauty in our lives. More fruitcake, too. Amen.
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My mom has a recipe for a refrigerator fruitcake that's pretty easy to make. It's not bad at all. I guess I'm one of those people who actually likes fruitcake, as long as it has more nuts than fruit. But I'll eat almost any kind of fruitcake. I guess I'm a little strange.
I also love fruitcake cookies. My aunt makes them and they are delicious. They're not nearly as much work as traditional fruitcake and I really like them. You get a lot of the things you like about fruitcake without all the effort. julies July 13, 2011
I had never been a big fan of Christmas fruit cake until I tasted some homemade cake at a friends house. All the fruit cake I had tasted before had been shipped from a company that sold a lot of holiday gifts.
There was no comparison in the quality and taste of these fruit cakes. When she told me how she made it, I never realized how much time it takes for the whole process. I'm not much of a baker, so don't think I will ever attempt to make my own, but any time I get the chance to taste some homemade fruit cake I don't pass it up any more. honeybees July 12, 2011
I came across an unbaked fruit cake recipe which I decided to try. It really turned out well and was so easy to make. After mixing all the ingredients together, I just poured it into a pan and let it age for at least a week.
The thing I like about making fruitcake for myself, is you can choose the fruits and nuts that you like best. Any recipe I find for fruitcake I will usually make modifications in the ingredients that I put in. This unbaked cake was very sweet and satisfying. John57 July 11, 2011
My uncle makes fruit cake every year to give away to family and friends. He puts quite a bit of time and effort into this endeavor and has to start quite early in the fall, so they are just perfect for Christmas.
Once we were visiting him in October and he already had the fruit cakes made and they were aging in brandy for flavor and as a preservative.
We do look forward to this gift every year because we know how much love he puts in to making these. It is a rich fruit cake, so is best if you only eat a little bit at a time, but this way it lasts longer too. anon44654 September 9, 2009
Anon25403, with only apple juice in the recipe, I'd make it about a week ahead and store it in the fridge, certainly. I've never made one like that, but you'd be safe doing it that way. anon25403 January 28, 2009
with the apple juice added to the cake instead of alcohol do you still make 4 weeks in advance and store in the fridge? or nearer the date can anyone that has done this advise?
The term "cake" has a long history. The word itself is of Viking origin, from the Old Norse word "kaka". 
The ancient Greeks called cake πλακοῦς (plakous), which was derived from the word for "flat", πλακόεις (plakoeis). It was baked using flour mixed with eggs, milk, nuts, and honey. They also had a cake called "satura", which was a flat heavy cake. During the Roman period, the name for cake became "placenta" which was derived from the Greek term. A placenta was baked on a pastry base or inside a pastry case. 
The Greeks invented beer as a leavener, frying fritters in olive oil, and cheesecakes using goat's milk.  In ancient Rome, the basic bread dough was sometimes enriched with butter, eggs, and honey, which produced a sweet and cake-like baked good.  Latin poet Ovid refers to his and his brother's birthday party and cake in his first book of exile, Tristia. 
Early cakes in England were also essentially bread: the most obvious differences between a "cake" and "bread" were the round, flat shape of the cakes, and the cooking method, which turned cakes over once while cooking, while bread was left upright throughout the baking process. 
Sponge cakes, leavened with beaten eggs, originated during the Renaissance, possibly in Spain. 
During the Great Depression, there was a surplus of molasses and the need to provide easily made food to millions of economically depressed people in the United States.  One company patented a cake-bread mix to deal with this economic situation, and thereby established the first line of cake in a box. In so doing, cake, as it is known today, became a mass-produced good rather than a home- or bakery-made specialty.
Later, during the post-war boom, other American companies (notably General Mills) developed this idea further, marketing cake mix on the principle of convenience, especially to housewives. When sales dropped heavily in the 1950s, marketers discovered that baking cakes, once a task at which housewives could exercise skill and creativity, had become dispiriting. This was a period in American ideological history when women, retired from the war-time labor force, were confined to the domestic sphere, while still exposed to the blossoming consumerism in the US.  This inspired psychologist Ernest Dichter to find a solution to the cake mix problem in the frosting.  Since making the cake was so simple, housewives and other in-home cake makers could expend their creative energy on cake decorating inspired by, among other things, photographs in magazines of elaborately decorated cakes.
Ever since cake in a box has become a staple of supermarkets and is complemented with frosting in a can.
Cakes are broadly divided into several categories, based primarily on ingredients and mixing techniques.
Although clear examples of the difference between cake and bread are easy to find, the precise classification has always been elusive. 
Butter cakes are made from creamed butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. They rely on the combination of butter and sugar beaten for an extended time to incorporate air into the batter.  A classic pound cake is made with a pound each of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. Another type of butter cake that takes its names from the proportion of ingredients used is 1-2-3-4 cake: 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour, and 4 eggs.  According to Beth Tartan, this cake was one of the most common among the American pioneers who settled North Carolina. 
Baking powder is in many butter cakes, such as Victoria sponge.  The ingredients are sometimes mixed without creaming the butter, using recipes for simple and quick cakes. [ citation needed ]
Sponge cakes (or foam cakes) are made from whipped eggs, sugar, and flour. Traditional sponge cakes are leavened only with eggs. They rely primarily on trapped air in a protein matrix (generally of beaten eggs) to provide leavening, sometimes with a bit of baking powder or other chemical leaven added. Egg-leavened sponge cakes are thought to be the oldest cakes made without yeast.
Angel food cake is a white cake that uses only the whites of the eggs and is traditionally baked in a tube pan. The French Génoise is a sponge cake that includes clarified butter. Highly decorated sponge cakes with lavish toppings are sometimes called gateau, the French word for cake. Chiffon cakes are sponge cakes with vegetable oil, which adds moistness. 
Chocolate cakes are butter cakes, sponge cakes, or other cakes flavored with melted chocolate or cocoa powder.  German chocolate cake is a variety of chocolate cake. Fudge cakes are chocolate cakes that contain fudge.
Coffee cake is generally thought of as a cake to serve with coffee or tea at breakfast or a coffee break. Some types use yeast as a leavening agent while others use baking soda or baking powder. These cakes often have a crumb topping called streusel or a light glaze drizzle.
Baked flourless cakes include baked cheesecakes and flourless chocolate cakes. Cheesecakes, despite their name, are not cakes at all. Cheesecakes are custard pies, with a filling made mostly of some form of cheese (often cream cheese, mascarpone, ricotta, or the like), and have very little flour added, although a flour-based or graham cracker crust may be used. Cheesecakes are also very old, with evidence of honey-sweetened cakes dating back to ancient Greece.
Layer cakes are cakes made with layers of sponge or butter cake, filled with cream, jam or other filling to hold the layers together.
One egg cake
One egg cakes are made with one egg. They can be made with butter  or vegetable shortening.  One egg cake was an economical recipe when using two eggs for each cake was too costly. 
Although clear examples of the difference between cake and bread are easy to find, the precise classification has always been elusive.  For example, banana bread may be properly considered either a quick bread or a cake. Yeast cakes are the oldest and are very similar to yeast bread. Such cakes are often very traditional in form and include such pastries as babka and stollen.
Cakes may be classified according to the occasion for which they are intended. For example, wedding cakes, birthday cakes, cakes for first communion, Christmas cakes, Halloween cakes, and Passover plava (a type of sponge cake sometimes made with matzo meal) are all identified primarily according to the celebration they are intended to accompany. The cutting of a wedding cake constitutes a social ceremony in some cultures. The Ancient Roman marriage ritual of confarreatio originated in the sharing of a cake.
Particular types of cake may be associated with particular festivals, such as stollen or chocolate log (at Christmas), babka and simnel cake (at Easter), or mooncake. There has been a long tradition of decorating an iced cake at Christmas time other cakes associated with Christmas include chocolate log and mince pies.
A Lancashire Courting Cake is a fruit-filled cake baked by a fiancée for her betrothed. The cake has been described as "somewhere between a firm sponge – with a greater proportion of flour to fat and eggs than a Victoria sponge cake – and a shortbread base and was proof of the bride-to-be's baking skills". Traditionally it is a two-layer cake filled and topped with strawberries or raspberries and whipped cream. 
Cakes are frequently described according to their physical form. Cakes may be small and intended for individual consumption. Larger cakes may be made to be sliced and served as part of a meal or social function. Common shapes include:
A plate of white chocolate cake balls
The kransekage is an example of a conical cake
Special cake flour with a high starch-to-gluten ratio is made from fine-textured, soft, low-protein wheat. It is strongly bleached and compared to all-purpose flour, cake flour tends to result in cakes with a lighter, less dense texture.  Therefore, it is frequently specified or preferred in cakes meant to be soft, light, and/or bright white, such as angel food cake. However, if cake flour is called for, a substitute can be made by replacing a small percentage of all-purpose flour with cornstarch or removing two tablespoons from each cup of all-purpose flour.    Some recipes explicitly specify or permit all-purpose flour, notably where a firmer or denser cake texture is desired.
A cake can fail to bake properly, which is called "falling". In a cake that "falls", parts may sink or flatten, because it was baked at a temperature that is too low or too hot,   when it has been underbaked  and when placed in an oven that is too hot at the beginning of the baking process.  The use of excessive amounts of sugar, flour, fat or leavening can also cause a cake to fall.   A cake can also fall when subjected to cool air that enters an oven when the oven door is opened during the cooking process. 
A finished cake is often enhanced by covering it with icing, or frosting, and toppings such as sprinkles, which are also known as "jimmies" in certain parts of the United States and "hundreds and thousands" in the United Kingdom. The frosting is usually made from powdered (icing) sugar, sometimes a fat of some sort, milk or cream, and often flavorings such as a vanilla extract or cocoa powder. Some decorators use a rolled fondant icing. Commercial bakeries tend to use lard for the fat, and often whip the lard to introduce air bubbles. This makes the icing light and spreadable. Home bakers either use lard, butter, margarine, or some combination thereof. Sprinkles are small firm pieces of sugar and oils that are colored with food coloring. In the late 20th century, new cake decorating products became available to the public. These include several specialized sprinkles and even methods to print pictures and transfer the image onto a cake.
Special tools are needed for more complex cake decorating, such as piping bags and various piping tips, syringes and embossing mats. To use a piping bag or syringe, a piping tip is attached to the bag or syringe using a coupler. The bag or syringe is partially filled with icing which is sometimes colored. Using different piping tips and various techniques, a cake decorator can make many different designs. Basic decorating tips include open star, closed star, basketweave, round, drop flower, leaf, multi, petal, and specialty tips. An embossing mat is used to create embossed effects. A cake turntable that cakes are spun upon may be used in cake decoration.
Royal icing, marzipan (or a less sweet version, known as almond paste), fondant icing (also known as sugar paste), and buttercream are used as covering icings and to create decorations. Floral sugarcraft or wired sugar flowers are an important part of cake decoration. Cakes for special occasions, such as wedding cakes, are traditionally rich fruit cakes or occasionally Madeira cakes, that are covered with marzipan and iced using royal icing or sugar-paste. They are finished with piped borders (made with royal icing) and adorned with a piped message, wired sugar flowers, hand-formed fondant flowers, marzipan fruit, piped flowers, or crystallized fruits or flowers such as grapes or violets.
Where to Learn More
Bailey, Adrian, ed. Mrs. Bridges' Upstairs, Downstairs Cookery Book. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1974.
Cosman, Madeleine Pelner. Fabulous Feasts: Medieval Cookery and Ceremony. New York: George Braziller, 1976.
Field, Carol. The Italian Baker. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1985.
General Mills, Inc. Betty Crocker's International Cookbook. New York: Random House, 1980.
McGrath, Jean. Butte's Heritage Cookbook. Butte, MT: Butte-Silver Bow Bicentennial Commission, 1976.
Morris, Sally. British and Irish Cooking: Traditional dishes prepared in a modern way. New York: Garland Books, 1972.
History of Cabbage - Where does Cabbage come from?
Cabbage is a leafy vegetable from the wide family of "brassicas". It is grown annually, and we eat its dense green or purple leaves in many different dishes. Head of cabbage, which can grow from 0.5 to 4 kilograms, is rich in vitamins and minerals, has almost no fat and is very rich in fiber which makes it very healthy to eat.
We don't know for certain where cabbage appeared for the first time because many plants belong to the family of "brassicas", they grow around the world and today's cabbage descends from them. The most common theory is that The West cabbage is domesticated in Europe some 3,000 years ago from its wild predecessors that had thick leaves that retained water which allowed them to survive in colder places with less water. In the East, cabbage is used since the 4,000 BC and was cultivated in North China. These variants were nonheading cabbages and were domesticated by Celts of central and western Europe. Mesopotamia also knew about cabbages while the ancient Egyptians didn't cultivate cabbages until the times of the Ptolemaic dynasty. By the time of the early Rome, cabbage became common food in the Egypt along with other vegetables. Theophrastus (371 – 287BC), which is considered “father of botany”, mentions cabbage in his texts, so we know that Greeks knew about them at least as early as 4th century BC. The headed cabbage Greeks called “krambe” while the Romans called it “brassica” or “olus”. Tales say that Diogenes ate nothing but cabbage and drank nothing but water. In Rome, cabbage was considered a luxury and many regarded it as better than all other vegetables. They also used it for medicinal purpose as relief from gout, headaches and the symptoms of poisonous mushroom ingestion. Some even advised the use of cabbage-eater's urine, in which infants might be rinsed. Pliny the Elder wrote about seven known variants of cabbage at that time which include Pompeii, Cumae, and Sabellian cabbage. Except for nourishment, Ancient Egyptians and Romans ate larger amounts of cabbage before the night of drinking which allowed them to drink more.
During the time of Charlemagne (Charles the Great, 8th century), cabbages were directed to be cultivated in the “Capitulare de villis”, a text that gave rules and regulations on how to manage the lands and laws in the country.
The first round-headed cabbages appeared in 14th-century England, and they became more and more popular as cuisine throughout Europe. Proof for this we find in manuscripts of that time where they appeared in illuminations and in other texts where they were mentioned as the food of both wealthy and poor. From Europe, cultivated variants of cabbage spread to Asia and Americas. It was brought to India by colonizing traders from Portugal somewhere between a 14th and 17th century, and it was unknown in Japan until the 18th century.
The first cabbage in America was brought by a French explorer Jacques Cartier on his third voyage 1541 – 1542. Cabbage became necessary on long ocean journeys because it has high amounts of vitamin C which prevent scurvy. Ship doctors (like for instance doctor on captain Cook's ship that sailed in 1769) used sauerkraut (cabbage preserved in brine) to treat wounds of sailors and prevent gangrene.
Today, China is the largest producer of cabbage, followed by India and Russia, which is the biggest consumer of cabbage.
Around the world, cabbage is prepared in different ways. While it can be eaten raw, as a salad, cabbage can be steamed, pickled, stewed, sautéed or braised. Sauerkraut and kimchi are the most popular pickled variants while the coleslaw is one of the most popular salads.