There are three main parties where fruitcake is concerned: those who like it, those who don't, and me. Yeah, uh huh, I am my own party: the Don't Like It But Want To party. There are endless sub-groups as well: the Like It But Pretend Otherwise coalition, the Scared Off by All Those Carcinogenic-Looking Candied Cherries offshoot, the Only Ever Ate the Supermarket Variety and Yet Think That Gives Them the Right to Look Disdainful faction--it can get convoluted.

My dad being a big fan of fruitcake, I've tasted my fair share. Every Christmas I have a little slice, wondering if this will be the year my palate changes its mind. I did after all use to hate all sorts of things as a child that I now love: butter, eggplant, ice cream that doesn't contain chocolate.

Now, I think I've given fruitcake enough of a chance that I may be permitted to state my disapproval. First of all, those ever-present red and green maraschino cherries really disturb me, not to mention make my tongue instantly curl up in a saccharine-induced kind of seizure. Second, the term "slice" of fruitcake is ridiculous, since what follows the downward motion of the knife is reminiscent of a dried fruit landslide as everything sort of crumbles and scatters all over the place. What is the point of all that labor, chopping and baking and basting for months, if the result is a mouthful of boozed up raisins tenuously held together with a bit of dark spackle?

I didn't start this post merely to lambast the poor fruitcake, however. I think it has been sorely misrepresented for too long. Although I've never tasted good fruitcake, I believe it has the potential to be something...dare I say, yummy? Consider the concept: dark spicy cake studded with fruits and peels, aged for months, and saturated in liquor. When it comes to baking, there's nothing as alluring to me as a troublesome, time-consuming recipe--hence my love of sourdough bread baking, which definitely requires patience. And this fruitcake-making thing sounds like a bloody nuisance. Perfect.

And so I now embark on a quest: to create palatable, no, yummy fruitcake. I'll try to challenge the recipes and go a little easier on the nuts and dried fruit, and there'll be no jujubes or glace cherries winking from my cake like misplaced Christmas lights. Also, I've decided to milk this fiddly endeavor for all it's worth--infusing my liquor with tea, candying my own nuts and peels, soaking the fruit in liquor for a month first, and I think I will let the cake age until next Christmas, seeing as it is practically November now. What I really would love is to make a fruitcake with my sourdough starter, but I can't find a satisfactory recipe (there seems to be only one on the entire world wide web), and considering I might quite possibly collapse in utter despair if an entire year's worth of waiting for my own fruitcake comes to something gross, I will not take that risk.

I'm taking my time on this one. I do have an entire year, after all. Every so often, I'll complete another small step. I don't think I'll actually bake the cake until next month. I promise to keep you all updated. Exciting, eh? Hello? Hello?

Oh, come. This will be fun! And maybe at the end of this project, I'll have something that will change my mind about fruitcakes. And, perhaps, yours as well? My husband's eyes are already rolling with fear, but if anyone wants to try some next year, I will be most happy to share. Or, better yet, does anyone want to join me in my fruitcake odyssey? We could do the same recipe or do different ones. Doesn't matter. Could even keep each other updated and offer advice, such as what to do if one's fruitcake is developing an unattractive bloom of green fur. Mwaha, nonsense, of course!

Perhaps someone else could try what is called a white fruitcake, which uses clear liquors, pale fruit, and presumably no spices--lighter and prettier, I guess. Ummm, tempting.

Promise to keep y'all updated! Oh, stop that moaning.

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You know, I'm almost tempted to take you up on this, except (A) I cannot bake/cook/use the kitchen meaningfully; (B) I have little patience (I like instant recipes); (C) I am undiscerning when it comes to fruitcake since I LURVE all fruitcake (or I haven't come across one I don't like).

So I settle for the easier option - I will try your experiment when you unveil it to us next Christmas. I will not, however, eat it if there is green fur. I have at least that much ability to discern what's poisonous and what's not.  

- Hsin

10/27/2004 08:46:00 PM  

Ok, so I may or may not have bad news...of all the non-traditional things happening at my wedding there is one point on which my mother was addemant...I am having a traditional British wedding cake which is, of course, fruitcake.

And not just any fruit cake, the mother of all fruitcakes, a layered, marzipan encrusted, crunchy icing, rum soaked fruitcake. Actually I'm going to publish a stats sheet on this cake when it's done but for now we have:

Number of days fed rum: 185
Total number of tiers: 4
Weight of 'base cake': 15 lbs
Number of miles travelled by each cake: aprox 3,500 

- Jaime

10/28/2004 04:11:00 AM  

Oh, an official Fruitcake Lurver. What an honor, Hsin-Li. You know you have to do this. After all, what is an odyssey comprised of a one-girl band?--a dull, pathetic one.

And you really can't hide behind that "cannot do anything in the kitchen" excuse, since (a) I've already eaten your cooking, and (b) if you have a good recipe, there is nothing to fear. Just don't go off course the way I do, and no harm shall befall you or your fruitcake.

Jaime, is your mom making the cake? But you said the cake has travelled... what does that mean? Is someone in England baking it and sending it over? You know, every time I had wedding cake in Canada, it was fruitcake. Could Canadians possibly have adopted this tradition from the motherland?

That is so cool. After all the rum feedings, I wonder how much the final cake will weigh at your wedding. My god, you'll need some sort of pulley to haul it around.  

- Rachel

10/28/2004 05:10:00 PM  

I have to say that I actually like fruitcakes, not the supermarket type with the green and red bits (I hate those colors) but really nice ones. One year I got one as a present and it was so yummy, but I can't remember the name of the bakery now.

As for actually making one myself, if I quit my job before the end of next year, I will join you on this odyssey. Otherwise, I will just wait patiently to eat the fruit of your labor. Oh, but maybe I can contribute some of that yummy mokusei flower to be added to your fruit cake when they bloom next October. 

- Lynn

10/29/2004 09:37:00 AM  

Lynn, you HAVE to remember which bakery the fruitcake came from. I wanted to get one last Christmas but couldn't find any! Christmas just isn't Christmas without fruitcake!

As for this odyssey, I have to decline. Aside from the I-can't-cook thing (the Hokkien Mee was instant and even then, I don't think I did a good job), I don't have patience for experiments with long incubation periods. I'm more of an instant gratification person (like Betty Crocker's choc brownies). So I will stay on the sidelines and be a willing volunteer on the tasting end of the odyssey. 

- Hsin

10/29/2004 07:26:00 PM  

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