1. It’s in America’s first cookbook—but called something else.
Connecticut orphan Amelia Simmons authored the country’s oldest cookbook, American Cookery, published in 1798. Fruitcake is the first cake included, but called “plumb cake” in keeping with its original English name. At that time “plumb” (now “plum”) meant any dried fruit, such as raisings and prunes.
2. It dates back to Roman times.
Not satisfied to use them only for pesto, the Romans included pine nuts, along with pomegranate seeds and raisins in the earliest fruitcakes. By the Middle Ages, honey and spices joined the party. The British added other dried fruits that became available through Mediterranean exploration.
3. It was banned. And a treat for royalty.
So sinfully rich were the fruitcakes that in 18th century Europe, laws restricted their consumption. According to legend, Queen Victoria waited a year to eat a fruitcake received as a birthday present, believing it showed restraint, moderation and good taste. But others indulged, since Victorian teatime wasn’t just about the tea. Fruitcakes were essential part of the ensemble.
4. The royals still eat it today on special occasions.
Princess Diana served fruitcake at her wedding to Prince Charles. Years later, a slice of that fruitcake fetched $7500 at auction. Kate Middleton’s wedding cake of choice? Fruitcake, as both a nod to history and a way honor Diana.
5. It’s got a very long shelf life.
That has to be a plus, right? Fruitcakes last a long time, but not because nobody wants to eat them. It’s all about composition: the high sugar content helps, and adding alcohol—like rum—can add decades to its lifespan. On The Tonight Show in 2003, Jay Leno willingly ate a small piece of the oldest preserved fruitcake, baked 125 years earlier.
6. It’s a slang term with two meanings.
Coined more than a hundred years ago to describe a crazy person, the phrase “nutty as a fruitcake” is still in use today. Calling someone a fruitcake isn’t being kind either way, but realize it’s also as a homosexual slur.
7. It’s a Jimmy Buffett song.
In his 1994 hit Fruitcakes, Jimmy Buffett explains—to a calypso backbeat—why people are crazy. “Human beings are flawed individuals—the cosmic bakers took us out of the oven a little too early and that's the reason we're as crazy as we are.” So that’s why there are “half-baked cookies in the oven” and “half-baked people on the bus.” Who knows, he might just be right.
8. In Colorado, they really don’t like fruitcake.
Fruitcake haters in Manitou Springs CO make sport out of disposing unwanted ones in style. Starting in 1995, the small city at the foot of Pike’s Peak has hosted an annual fruitcake tossing day that measures the distance its competitors can project a two-pound fruitcake. But it’s not just simple tossing: catapults, slingshots and cannons powered by exercise bikes are also involved. The next one is in January.
9. There’s a fruitcake at the Smithsonian.
The Apollo 11 crew transported a pineapple fruitcake with them on the first successful lunar mission, but it went uneaten (go figure). So instead of “one giant leap for fruitcakekind”—and cosmetic benefits that might have rendered Buzz Aldrin’s plastic surgeries unnecessary—the unopened contents returned to earth for display at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum.
10. Alton Brown likes fruitcake.
That’s probably because the Food Network star can probably make a better one than you’ve ever tasted. But he shared his recipe on an episode of Good Eats. Track it down on YouTube (for a fee) or just remember these key unexpected additions: candied ginger, lemon zest and rum before baking; brandy spritz before serving. Are you less afraid to try, or to even admit you like fruitcake now? We hope so.