I think that it is the small things, the little extra touches that make something special. I will give you an example of what I mean. I have had acquaintances who thought that “perfect” was when they picked something up at the store and presented it as is. For a more specific example I guess I have to go back a couple of years. But it is something that really drives home what I am talking about today. A friend of ours (hubby and me) were going to celebrate our friends mother’s 60th birthday. They were nice enough and we had met their mother a number of times so it was a nice chance to get together and visit. Most of the decorations were well done, time had been taken to use them to make the room come to life and in general they had made an effort to make it festive. We had come a little bit before the celebration was to begin because I had been asked to help get the rest setup. So while hubster and his friends were talking outside we were busy getting the last odds and ends together. And that is when the cake arrived. The hostess’ sister was responsible for the cake which she had picked on up at the store. I am not against this, don’t think that I am a snob in that regard, because I am not. But even if you have not got time to bake your own cake you still need to put some effort into making it look appealing. And you can do this with everything. No matter what, presentation is everything. And that cake was a good chance to prove it. When it came time to server it, the sister slid it on a serving tray and want to dish it up. I quickly jumped up and put some quick garnish together and we served a cake that looked worlds better than it had a moment before. Their mother even raved about how nice the cake had been. As I said, the small things.
So here I am writing a quick follow up to yesterday’s piece about my love of fruit cake. My husband made it sound like we were a family of drunks. I personally didn’t get that. But I am probably biased. Probably. But I thought that I would clear up any misconceptions about the real fruitcake and make it clear that it isn’t like you think. Fruitcake used to be made with rare ingridients like citrus fruit. We don’t think those are rare anymore so the fact that these flavors are featured makes it pretty ho-hum.
A Fruity HistoryFruitcake used to be a sign of wealth, since fruit, especially warm-climate fruits were hard to come by in the winter. By putting many exotic flavors, like orange and lemon, into the cake, you were showing off that you could afford these rare ingredients. The best way of getting these fruits was candied and dried, so that is what is used in fruitcake even today. To further show off, liquours were added to the cake after baking.
TodayFast forward a few years and having a cake that has citrus fruit in it is no longer a big deal, those are flavors we can get all the time. What’s worse, in an attempt to recreate the taste of earlier fruitcakes, many fruitcakes purchased now have rum or other liquor flavoring added, which is a different thing than actually pouring the liquid on a cake that doesn’t have that flavoring. We also now have access to flavorings that were much more rare during the heyday of fruitcake, flavors like chocolate and vanilla.
Homemade Tastes BestIf you were to make a traditional style fruitcake at home, and do it the old way it would be much better than what you can buy at the store. But even then, you’ve now been spoiled by an availability of much fresher citrus, and many more diverse flavors than you would have had available even 100 years ago. That makes the fruitcake much less of a treat. So most people don’t go through the trouble to make it, since it is a very involved process. Instead people buy the fruitcakes, which are even worse, for reasons mentioned above. The purchased fruitcakes are what many people’s first introduction to fruitcake is, and it just doesn’t satisfy as much as most modern desserts to many modern pallets.
RecipesHere are a few recipes that will help you get your fill. Or you can always order from Assumption Abbey and get monk made fruit cake from Ava, Missouri.
Personally speaking I love fruit cake. And after today’s epiphany, well, I just can’t wait until my aunt gives us another for the holidays. I mean, most people hate them, but we love them. And I think that the reason is simple, most people don’t get to experience them the right way. And there is a right way to experience them. I think most people only get the commercial cakes, the ones that taste like dirt and are as hard as a rock. I understand why people would think that they are nasty. I don’t like the store bought varient either. A fruit cake is not meant to be eaten dry. It is meant to be soaked in liquor, over a period of weeks in a process called ripening (example). This yields a moist cake, sweet with fruit and full of liquor. Everyone is happy. But some time in our history (at least American history) I think we got on some kind of moral high horse and decided that booze was bad, and we would have nice holiday celebrations without getting drunk. Naturally this goes for the cake too.