Fruit cakes are one of the most difficult cakes to make. Due to the heavy fruit content these cakes need to be handled with a lot of care. They also have to be made well in advance to an occasion so they can set and the flavors of the fruits become enhanced.
During the Middle Ages the crusaders were reported to carry similar fruit cakes in their saddles to sustain them in the tough travelling conditions and keep their energy high. It was in the 15th century when dry fruits were first added to the fruit cakes in Britain. This was after dry fruits began to arrive in Britain from the Mediterranean. In the 18th century slices of fruit cakes were given out to Christmas carolers as a gift and to make them warm.
According to another tradition in the 18th century in Europe fruit cakes were made at the end of every nut harvest by the farmers. That cake was then saved and eaten before beginning of the next harvest to bring them good luck in cultivating another flourishing harvest.
There was also the tradition of the women keeping a piece of the fruit under their pillow in the hopes of dreaming about their future husbands. One interesting fact is that during the 18th century plum cakes were banned in Continental Europe, with actual laws prohibiting their use. The reason was that they were thought of as being ‘sinfully rich’.
The fruit cake is usually made by soaking the fruits and nuts in alcohol for a few days before using them in the baking of the cake. They are mostly made around Christmas and sent to friends and family as gifts. The alcohol in the cake keeps them warm and adds a wonderful flavor to the cake. However, it can also be alternately made by soaking the fruits and nuts in fruit juices.