Beware! This post probably contains more verbiage about fruitcakes than you can tolerate. But heck, it’s that time of year!
It’s fruitcake season. Fruitcake: The brunt of jokes (the first one I heard this year: “My family has one fruitcake. We pass it from person to person every year..”). For some, like my husband, it ignites an annual quest: Find a fruitcake, a decent fruitcake, that can approach the taste ambrosia his grandmother created each year. As his search has become more, well, fruitless, the longing increases. His grandmother used fruit, lots of fruit. “All these have too much cake! It should be more fruit!” Grandma started making her cakes in September. “Lots of green and red cherries. And citrus peel.” After they were baked she’d wrap them up and then soak them in brandy, dousing them repeatedly month by month until they were just right. By Christmas they were perfect and the little boy version of my husband feasted so contentedly he’s never recovered. Though the fruitcake above is iced with marzipan, this is the first fruitcake that’s come anywhere near passing muster in decades. My husband’s face lights up like a four year old catching a glimpse of Santa when I dole out the nightly slice. It remains hidden. Otherwise it would disappear in moments as he beasts it.
Me? I’ll eat fruitcake but my affection for it doesn’t approach the level of addiction of, say, chocolate. Fruitcake had an entirely different place in my family history. My uncle, a commercial baker, was in charge of fruitcake production for Hostess Bakeries. We got a fruitcake every year in one of the distinctive Hostess antique-looking gold tins with a picture of a woman on it. I think she was holding a plate with a fruitcake on it. And every year around the Christmas table we’d hear war stories of fruitcake production from my uncle who, by Christmas, had seen enough green and red cherries to jade the jolliest of Christmas elves. The only brandy I knew that was related to fruitcake was probably downed in relief by my uncle. I took it totally for granted, much like my childish belief that nothing would ever change. I don’t remember when we stopped getting the cakes. My uncle moved up the corporate chain and eventually moved to the East Coast for the remainder of his working career. He moved on to Twinkies. (Really!) But that’s another story.
So. What about you? Shall I cut you a slice, or is there another treat that speaks to you of happy holidays?