They began in Egypt as sustenance buried in tombs for the departed. Roman armies carried them into battle because they lasted a long time without spoiling. In fact, they were the first energy bar. In the Middle Ages, they accompanied soldiers during the Crusades. Fruitcakes are our longest known dessert. But it was expensive to make and often given as a gift during the Christmas season to those who couldn’t afford to make their own fruitcakes.

In the 17th Century, sugar became more accessible in England and was used to preserve fruit. When fresh fruit was unavailable, the preserved fruit baked in the cake mix became very popular.

But the popularity of fruitcake almost became its undoing. In the early 19th Century, the cake was thought to be too decadent and sinful by the European church. Eventually the church gave in, and fruitcakes again became available. Queen Victoria increased its popularity by selecting it as her wedding cake. Royal weddings have featured fruitcake since then.

The American version of the fruitcake is loaded with sweetened fruit and nuts. Many of the fruitcakes today are softened with some form of alcohol. Other countries have their own special form of fruitcake.

The lasting quality of the fruitcake has made it more durable than other desserts, but this has also made it a subject of jokes. The concentrated sugar in the cake causes bacteria and other microorganisms to lose water and shrivel up. The alcohol in the cake also helps with its long life.

Fruitcakes can last up to a year when frozen. The oldest known fruitcake was discovered in an Egyptian town and estimated to be over 4,000 years old.

Although the fruitcake is often dismissed as a joke, over 2 million are sold each year. A dessert that has lasted for more than 4,000 years must have some value.

* * *

“There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other.” – Johnny Carson


How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.