They’re sweet, nutritious, and they last a long time. If a fruit cake contains alcohol, it can remain edible for decades. During a 2003 telecast of The To-night Show, host Jay Leno sampled a then 125 year old fruit cake. Baked in 1878, the cake is still being kept as an heirloom by a family in Tecumseh, Michigan. That’s one cake that was never passed to another family .
Here’s a little history.
Fruit cake history goes back to ancient Rome, where early recipes list pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, and raisins mixed into barley mash.
During the Middle Ages, honey, spices, and preserved fruits were added. However, in some instances church regulations forbade the use of butter. In a written permission known as the ‘Butter Brief’ Pope Innocent VIII gave permission in 1490, to Saxony to use milk and butter in the North German Stollen fruit cakes.
Starting in the 16th century, sugar from the American Colonies, and the discovery that high concentrations of sugar could preserve fruits created an excess of candied fruit, thus making fruit cakes more affordable and popular.
Mail-order fruit cakes began in America in 1913.
In 1935 the expression "nutty as a fruitcake" was derived because some well-known commercial bakers were Southern companies with access to cheap nuts.
Since 1995, Manitou Springs, Colorado, has hosted the Great Fruit-cake Toss on the first Saturday of every January. "We encourage the use of recycled fruitcakes," says Leslie Lewis of the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce.
In January 2007 a group of eight Boeing engineers set the all-time Great Fruitcake Toss record at 1,420 feet. The engineers concocted a mock artil-lery piece fueled by compressed air pumped by an exercise bike.