Johnny Carson famously joked that there’s just one fruitcake in the world, and it keeps getting sent from person to person. But there are fans of the heavyweight fruit-nut-liquor concoction, and the Palm Beach Post helpfully lists a few famous ones: Dr. J, Princess Caroline of Monaco, and the staff at the Pentagon. So if you, too, favor the boozy sweet, you’re not alone (but you are mocked ruthlessly each holiday season).
Some more fascinating facts about the much-maligned cakes: If regularly infused with liquor (usually brandy, rum, and whiskey), they can last up to 10 years. Ingredients vary but always include dried fruit, sometimes in the form of dyed-green and -red maraschino cherries, and usually include nuts. The serving size for a piece of fruitcake, according to the FDA, is set at a whopping four ounces, a size roughly the same weight as a Major League baseball, and containing a daunting 500 calories.
Food blogger Joe of Joe Pastry (who remembers his father’s enthusiastic fruitcake-making sessions in a lovely essay) notes that the traditional fruitcake is a holdover from medieval times, when dried fruits and spices were brought to Europe from Arabia, and that various countries adapted the original recipes to make such iconic national cakes as Germany’s stollen and Italy’s panettone. For those intrigued by the cake’s fearsome reputation, food blogger Julie of It Must Have Been Something I Ate offers some yummy-sounding recipes, one containing Guinness. Mmm.