Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Countdown to Christmas ...24 - Old Fruit Cake


Countdown to Christmas ...24 - Old Fruit Cake 
Favourite Christmas cake is usually from a fruit cake recipe passed on from one generation to another in a family, ( in my case, my mother's recipe),  but the oldest recipes are said to be much older - ancient, in fact. Fruit cake  was probably first tasted in Ancient Egypt and Rome. 

The ancient Egyptians made fruit cake for their departed loved ones to carry with them to the afterlife. It was a dense cake with preserved fruit which was buried with pharaohs. Fruit cake was thought to be able to withstand a long journey and the richness of the fruit and nuts indicating the wealth of the consumer and the family's esteem for their deceased relative. From Fruitcake Facts 

In Ancient Rome,  "  raisins, nuts and pomegranate seeds were added to barley mash, making the fruitcake not only handy and lethal catapult ammunition, but also hearty compact foodstuff for the long campaigns waged by the conquering Roman legions. Centuries later, during the Middle Ages, preserved fruits, honey and spices were added, bumping the status of fruitcake up from granola bar to decadent dessert." from Et Tu, Fruitcake 

While fruit cakes  were made to last for very long time. Historically, alcohol was included in fruitcakes so that it provides both flavour and natural preservative. However, even by "feeding" the cake regularly,  I doubt if anyone kept a fruit cake for over 3,000 years.  The following claim is probably a record  -  possibly the oldest  modern Christmas cake?  From a 1983 article called "Fruitcake is forever"  Russell Baker  talks about how he inherited the family 221-year-old fruitcake that was baked by his grandmother's great-grandfather in 1794 as a Christmas gift for President George Washington.  I wonder if it was still edible? How long does your Christmas cake last?  

Tomorrow's post will investigate further the history of Christmas cake..