Fruitcake: Decoding How The Dessert Became Popular Worldwide

Fruitcake, which today might be a holiday dessert, has a unique history of travelling across the world since its invention. Fluffy slices of bread hiding dried yet juicy and sweet pieces of fruit are everyone’s favourite delight. Children love it, adults carry it in their backpacks, and families serve it for snacks when the options are limited. A fruitcake enjoys all sorts of love across the world.

Video Credit: Chef Ranveer Brar/ YouTube

The baked sweet dish has a simple recipe that has been experimented with by home chefs and bakers for centuries and decades. Today, it can be made in various flavours by adding a variety of fruits. However, only a few know how the traditional Roman dish transcended boundaries and made everyone its fan. This article traces the migration history of fruit cake to understand the secrets behind its popularity around the world. 

Origins Of Fruitcake

If historical texts are to be believed, the fruitcake originated in the ancient period. According to popular folklore, Roman soldiers used to carry it with them. The traditional recipe had pomegranate seeds, barley, pine nuts, honeyed wine, and raisins. It had a long shelf life due to which soldiers were able to sustain it without going hungry on a mission. In Rome, these fruitcakes were referred to as satura.

Fruitcake Arrived In England

The mediaeval texts indicate that plum-based fruitcakes became quite famous in England, especially around Christmas. When devotees used to fast, they followed the ritual of devouring fruitcakes to break them. In the 16th century, spices arrived in England from Asia, and a new variety of spiced fruitcakes came into existence.

In the 1500s, the recipe progressed further as dried fruits were replaced by meat. They started calling this newfound fusion dessert ‘plum pudding’. In the same period, Europeans found that sugar coating could further increase the shelf life of the fruit coating. Hence, sugar-soaked fruits became an integral part of fruitcake recipes

Fruitcake Became Popular In The 18th Century

In the 18th century, fruitcake rose to fame but soon witnessed a downfall when Europeans called it sinful and decadent. The dessert was reportedly banned in many places but it did not last long. In England, unmarried wedding guests would take a slice of a fruitcake and put it below their pillow hoping to see their future partner in their dreams. 

A popular tale of royal weddings states the popularity of fruitcakes and the superstitions associated with them. Reportedly, Queen Victoria waited a year to eat her wedding cake after she married Prince Albert in 1840. Many reports suggest that the dessert was a part of the royal menu during the weddings of Princess Diana-Prince Charles and Prince William-Kate Middleton.

Fruitcake Arrived In America

It is believed that British colonists introduced Americans to the fruitcake. Communities that lived in harsh weather or were isolated from cities survived on preserved fruits and desserts. Claxton in Georgia and Corsicana in Texas became famous for using local nuts in fruitcakes.

In 1969, pineapple-flavoured fruitcake was sent with astronauts on the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. While the popularity of fruitcakes can be traced across continents, it is believed that during Christmas, people used to donate the dessert to poor singers. That’s how it became a holiday staple. 

Fruitcake In the Modern Era

Today, you can get packaged fruitcakes that you can carry with you to the office, trips, and markets. You can open any food delivery application and get orange, chocolate, pineapple, strawberry, and other flavours of fruitcake delivered to your doorsteps. You can also bake it at home by following its easy recipe and serve it at a gathering of friends and family members.