For decades, fruitcake has been used as a cultural joke come the holiday season. While the fruitcake used to be quite popular in the first half of the 20th century (it was the preferred dessert of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt), it is often ridiculed today as being inexpensive and lacking in quality. The Tonight Show host Johnny Carson famously quipped that “There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other, year after year.”
Many see fruitcake as irrelevant in today’s dessert landscape, but that couldn’t be further from the truth at bakeries throughout the United States. The decadent holiday food can be loaded with a variety of ingredients to give it a kick. For instance, at Ackroyd’s Scottish Bakery in Michigan, the fruitcake is full of dates, raisins, sultanas, currants, candied orange peel, and walnuts, then soaked with rum. The bakery quietly began offering it last year, and it was so-well received that it has been brought back full-time.
Ackroyd’s isn’t the only bakery offering great fruitcakes. Zingerman’s Bakehouse, one of the biggest names in baking in the state of Michigan and the rest of the country, regularly sells out of the Robert Lambert’s White Rare Citrus Fruit Cake priced at $70.
“The recipe is British, Victorian era. It’s based on my grandmother Floria’s cakes, but instead of the store-bought glaceed fruits she used, I make my own candied fruit,” says Robert Lambert. The cake features citrus like blood oranges, bergamots, Rangpur limes, rare Japanese shekwasha, and more. They are mixed with cherries glaceed in a Blood Orange Syrup, and nuts hand-cut down to just the right size to distribute evenly and help the cake stay intact when sliced. Each cake is soaked in cognac and aged for a few months.
Collin Street Bakery, a mainstay in Corsicana, Texas since 1896, continues to make its name on its Deluxe Fruitcake. The world-famous dessert is still baked faithfully to its original recipe, and now comes in Fruitcake Petites as well. These bite-sized treats are packed with native Texas pecans, organic Costa Rican pineapple, and pure clover honey.
Last year, Mountain Dew teamed up with Brooklyn’s Four & Twenty Blackbirds for a less traditional fruitcake for the holidays using its seasonal Mountain Dew Merry Mash-up flavor. The cranberry-pomegranate soda was used to make the glaze for the cake, which itself featured fresh and dry cranberries and a syrup mimicking a pomegranate flavor in order to highlight the Mountain Dew flavors.