03 December 2009
Why does fruitcake suck?
It's the fruit, stupid.
For years in America, women have gone to grocery store at Christmas time and purchased a tub of "fruitcake mix" for their cakes. What is in there? Well it seems that the producers of most of this "fruit" are also the producers of fruit juice. That means that after they get the juice, or section out the fruit, they have all that peel left. So you end up with dry bits of peel, with lots of food coloring and some corn syrup and voilà -- fruitcake fruit.
In Europe, especially in France, turning fruit into glacé fruit is an art form. During the reign of Catherine de Medici in the 14th century, glacé fruit was a welcome delicacy.
Over the course of 6 to 10 days, fruit is repeatedly cooked in an ever-increasingly dense sugar solution and finally dried. If you happen to be in France, especially in Provence, you will find stalls with vendors selling beautifully preserved whole fruits.
Since you are not in Provence, you need to find another supplier. My favorite:
La Cuisine has a lovely array of candied and dried fruit. It is one of the only places I go to get my "fruitcake mix."
Some people swear by Nuts Online. I have never tried them, but they seem to get rave reviews.
I love the soft diced ginger at King Arthur Flour. Their fruit cake blend is not my favorite because I am not fond of dates, which they included. If you don't mind the dates, it is a more rustic dried fruit blend, forgoing the citrus.
If you are close to a Trader Joe's, their dried fruits are great.
Of course, I always bake my fruitcake's in Lucinda's Wood Cake Boxes. But then, I make them! Fruitcakes need to cook low an slow, so the wood make for great cooking. And for shipping to loved ones...
It doesn't matter what you cook the fruitcake in if the fruit is of a poor quality. So please, shop around. If you have a favorite fruit source, do let us know.
For some fine fruitcake recipes, check out Cookbook Of The Day.