Dec. 3 Island Fruitcake
Legendary island-life aficionado, Jimmy Buffet, once said "There's a little bit of fruitcake left in everyone of us." Maybe he's saying something about keeping the holiday spirit alive inside of us, and maybe he's saying fruitcakes never digest. I feel like either once could be possible. Either way, the fruitcake is one of the most iconic symbols of Christmas, whether we want it or not.
Ho Ho Ho, my thirsty readers! It's time once again for some holiday cheer in liquid form! Every time I hake Christmas cocktails, especially the tropical variety, there's always this same well we all reach to: peppermint, baking spices, chocolate, etc. There's that one holiday food item, which always seems to allude me, the most loved and hated item on the planet, the holiday fruitcake.
Though generally reserved as the worst gift on the table, fruitcake has a long, storied history, beginning in ancient Egypt. The Egyptians would make a cake with with fruits to be left in the tombs of their family members, ensuring them sustenance beyond the grave. The Ancient Romans had their own cake, consisting of nuts and pomegranate and then soaked with wine, to give nourishment to their soldiers. Every ancient culture seemed to have their own version of the infamous loaf. When Catholicism became widespread, there was a period of time where butter in fruitcake was forbidden, referring to it as "too sinfully rich." This created the need for the Butterbrief of 1490, allowing the use of butter once again. Queen Victoria popularized the dish a step further, often enjoying a slice with her tea. People really really wanted their fruitcakes, and they wouldn't take no for an answer.
With this much fanaticism for the holiday-brick, how did it get such a bad name in the first place? Fast forward to the American Revolution. Much as it was in Roman times, the fruitcake gained popularity again as nourishment for the first American troops. A rich, dense fruitcake, wrapped in alcohol soaked clothes became a battle-time ration for many starving soldiers. In many cases, the old fruitcake became a life saver. Being gifted a fruitcake became a very caring gesture, so much so, that mail-order fruitcakes were the hottest holiday gift of the early 1900s.
As with most things which become popular in America, commercialization had to rear it's ugly head sooner or later. Factory bakeries began cranking out cheaply-made fruitcakes for the gift-giving industry, and before too long, the once loved holiday staple and lifeline of warriors, was filled with the most bland candied fruits and nuts available at the time. Comedian Johnny Carson once even said "The worst gift is a fruitcake. There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other." I myself was never a fan of the fruitcake either, until I finally had the real thing, and you'd better believe rum was involved. In the Caribbean, fruitcakes are soaked in rum, returning them to their ancient, alcohol-laden origins. After all, what's cake without rum?
2oz Fruitcake Rum Blend
.5oz Humbug Spices #2
2 dashes Black Walnut Bitters
Double Old Fashioned Glass
Stir over a large ice rock.
Express a flamed orange disc.
Garnish with fruitcake slice and orchid.
Fruitcake Rum Blend
750ml Aged Barbados Rum
750ml Aged Jamaican Rum
4oz 151 Proof Guyanese Rum
1 stick unsalted butter
1 pint of fresh pineapple chunks
2g whole mace
On medium heat, simmer all ingredients (except the rum of course) until the pineapple becomes toasted and the butter browned.
Remove from heat, and add the rum, stirring to incorporate everything.
Put everything in a sealed container and place in the freezer overnight.
The next day, remove as much solid particulate as possible, and filter the rest through a coffee filter.
I almost fee like this is one of those "don't try this at home" recipes, but the holidays are the time to be in the kitchen after all! Have some fun with it, and don't become too frustrated if your first fat-wash doesn't come out as clear as the photo. Practice makes perfect, as they say. Hopefully this will help you stop sleeping on the fruitcake after all these years. I'll bring you another holiday delight tomorrow, and I promise it will be less labor-intensive. Let's keep those vacation vibes flowing. Stay merry, stay safe, and keep shaking.