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The Controversial Cake

By mahir | December 9, 2010

Fruit Cake

Food Thoughts with Sheryl Estrada

Christmas time is the season to be jolly, except if you’re a fruitcake – no pun intended.

The poor-quality, mass produced versions of fruit cakes in the U.S., which came about in the 20th century, created an anti-fruit cake sentiment, and made it the brunt of jokes to this day. The cake, which has origins dating back to ancient Egypt and Rome, is either loved or hated during the holiday season.

There are fruitcake advocates who believe in its traditional richness, so “sinfully rich” in fact it was once banned throughout Continental Europe in the early 18th Century. And, there are those who have given up on the cake completely.

Those in favor: Yea for fruitcake

-The Trappist monks of Assumption Abbey in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri bake and sell thousands of fruitcakes per holiday season to support themselves. They use rum in their recipe. The monks of Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey in Oregon bake and sell fruitcakes soaked in 120-proof brandy, and aged.

-The Society for the Protection and Preservation of Fruitcake was created as, I guess you could say, an online support group for people who like fruitcake. According the website, “By providing information and links about fruitcake, it’s hoped we can provide a safe haven for fruitcake lovers and some encouragement for others to give it a try.”

-Claxton, Ga. and Corsicana, Texas love fruitcake, and make them the old-fashioned way. Corsicana, home of the Collin Street Bakery was founded in 1896. Their cakes are chock-full of Texas pecans. Claxton is home of the The Claxton Fruitcake Co.  around since 1910.

-Apparently, the cakes do age well. In 2003, late night talk show host Jay Leno ate some of a fruitcake baked in 1878.

Those opposed: Nay for fruitcake

-Each year in the U.S. there is a festival dedicated to getting rid of fruitcakes. Since 1995, The Great Fruitcake Toss takes place in Manitou Springs, Colo. each January. Events include tossing by hand, and even catapult, not to mention a Fruitcake Derby.

-A security threat. The U.S. government banned airline passengers from bringing a fruitcake as a carry-on during the Christmas season in 2005. As the cakes are dense, x-ray machines could not scan for hidden weapons.

-An “I Hate Fruit Cake” group exists on Facebook.

-There’s a negative connotation of the word “fruitcake;” there are novelty items like fruitcake doorstops; the ridicule if you dare bring one to an office party.

I personally say yea for fruitcake during the holidays. Yes, I said it. I’m not head over heels for the commercialized version, but I think it has its place in the season. As far as appearance, yes, it’s a little gaudy looking. But what about the funky Christmas sweaters, and homes and lawns decorated in “unique” ways? Isn’t that accepted?

There are also modern versions of fruitcakes, which are light on the candied fruit. And, if you want diversity in your fruitcake, most countries have their own versions that are available. I adore West Indian black cake, and the Japanese version of fruitcake is very popular.

I have never been to Manitou Springs, it looks like a beautiful place to visit. If I ever do, I think the last thing I’d want to see is baked items flying through the air. Take me to the mountains instead! Besides, my mother always told me to never play with my food.

To each his or her own.

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