Agri Leader

Some fruitcake is simply fantastic

Santa socks, reindeer ties and sparkly ornament earrings may have found their way under your tree this year, as well as another holiday favorite - the fruitcake.

It's long been the butt of many holiday jokes, notably Johnny Carson's comical assessment: "The worst gift is fruitcake. There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other." Jokes aside, this sweet cake is still a traditional holiday favorite.

Carson was right in the sense that a fruitcake can last a long time. Thanks to the moisture-stabilizing properties, particularly sugar, that work to reduce the fruitcake's water content, the cake can preserve itself, without molding, for quite some time.

Generally, the cake is quite heavy. The fruitcake is often around two pounds in weight, which is why some threaten to use them as doorstoppers.

Fruitcake is made with a collection of candied or dried fruits and nuts, and oftentimes, whiskey, brandy or rum is poured over the top. The alcohol is poured on the fruitcake on a regular basis in a process called "feeding the cake".

This process can take place on several occasions over the course of a few weeks. Fruitcake is often made weeks ahead of time and many recipes call for several weeks of aging in an airtight tin before eating. The long wait time makes sense because the fruits inside of the cake slowly release their flavors so the cake actually becomes more flavorful with the passage of time. As you "feed the cake," you are helping to enhance the other the flavors that are slowly releasing themselves.

The fruitcake is an old cake any way you slice it. The cake dates back to the Romans, maybe even earlier times, when the soldiers brought long-lasting fruitcakes with them onto the battlefields. As the centuries passed, the recipes were adapted and changed. The difference in the types of fruit and nuts that were incorporated into the recipes would depend, in part, on the geographical region they were made in. Still, a fruitcake, at its best, is perfect combination of nuts and candied or dried fruits with just enough batter to hold it all together.

If you are creating your own fruitcake, you can make it more Florida-style by substituting some of the fruits and nuts called for in the recipe with Florida Fresh. Often the fruits used in the fruitcake are soaked overnight for at least 24-hours, so instead of using fruits like cherries, cranberries, raisins and currants, you could substitute them for Florida fruits.

"Try Florida dried papaya and mangos," said Justin Patrick Timineri C.E.C., executive chef/ culinary ambassador, FDACS. Timineri explained that the fruits should be soaked in 1/4 citrus infused alcohol, covered tightly and stored at room temperature for 24-hours prior to using them in the recipe. Grapefruit, lime, oranges and tangerines are all in season right now, and are perfect choices to use for infusing the spirits. Check out how to infuse alcohol here:

Also, Florida pecans are also a good option if the recipe calls for nuts.

If you are opting for store bought fruitcakes, they can be found over the holiday season at local bakeries such as Publix. Publix has a small bar fruitcake and a 6-inch round fruitcake. You can also special order a fruitcake from certain bakeries, such as Havana Day Bakery, who will make one for you with the fruits and nuts of your choosing, such as cherries, pineapples and walnuts.

So if you haven't had time to enjoy that delicious fruitcake sitting under your tree with your name on it, you still have plenty of time to indulge. Remember the cake gets more flavorful with age. Then again, you can always re-gift it. After all, next holiday season will be here before you know it.