Polish fruit cake
|Main ingredient(s)||Candied fruit and/or dried fruit, nuts, and spices|
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Fruit cake (or fruitcake) is a cake made with chopped candied fruit and/or dried fruit, nuts, and spices, and (optionally) soaked in spirits. A cake that simply has fruit in it as an ingredient can also be colloquially called a fruit cake. In the United Kingdom, certain rich versions may be iced and decorated. Fruit cakes are often served in celebration of weddings and Christmas. Given their rich nature, fruit cake is most often consumed on its own, as opposed to with condiments (such as butter or cream).
Fruit cakes soon proliferated all over Europe. Recipes varied greatly in different countries throughout the ages, depending on the available ingredients as well as (in some instances) church regulations forbidding the use of butter, regarding the observance of fast. Pope Innocent VIII (1432–1492) finally granted the use of butter, in a written permission known as the 'Butter Letter' or Butterbrief in 1490, giving permission to Saxony to use milk and butter in the North German Stollen fruit cakes.
Starting in the 16th century, sugar from the American Colonies (and the discovery that high concentrations of sugar could preserve fruits) created an excess of candied fruit, thus making fruit cakes more affordable and popular.
In various countries 
In Australia, fruit cake is consumed throughout the year, and is available at most major retail outlets. Although popular, common retail varieties of the cake are high in salt, sugar, and milk fat. The cake is rarely eaten with icing or condiments.
In the Bahamas, not only is the fruit cake drenched with rum, but the ingredients are as well. All of the candied fruit, walnuts, and raisins are placed in an enclosed container and are soaked with the darkest variety of rum, anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months in advance. The cake ingredients are mixed, and once the cake has finished baking, rum is poured onto it while it is still hot.
The fruit cake is commonly known as a Christmas Cake in Canada and eaten during the Christmas season. Rarely is it seen during other times of the year. The Canadian fruit cake is similar in style to the UK version, as it is in most Commonwealth countries. However, there is rarely icing on the cake and alcohol is not commonly put in Christmas cakes that are sold. The cakes also tend to be void of any decorations and are shaped like a small loaf of bread. Dark, moist and rich Christmas cakes are the most frequently consumed, with white Christmas cake rarely seen. These cakes tend to be made in mid-November to early December when the weather starts to cool down. They are a staple during Christmas dinner and a gift generally exchanged between business associates and close friends/family.
In French, as in some other non-English speaking countries, it is simply called "Cake".
The Stollen, a traditional German fruit cake usually eaten during the Christmas season, is loaf-shaped and powdered with icing sugar on the outside. It is usually made with yeast, butter, water, flour, zest, raisins, and almonds. The most famous Stollen is the Dresdner Stollen, sold at the local Christmas market.
In Bremen, Klaben is traditionally sold and eaten during the Christmas season. Unlike the more famous Dresdner Stollen, Bremer Klaben is a kind of Stollen which is made without powdered sugar on top.
Panforte is a chewy, dense Tuscan fruit cake dating back to 13th-century Siena. Panforte is strongly flavored with spices and baked in a shallow form. Genoa's fruitcake, a lower, denser but still crumbly variety, is called Pandolce.
Birnenbrot is a dense sweet Swiss fruit cake with candied fruits and nuts.
Trinidad and Tobago 
Fruit cake, also called black cake is a traditional part of the Christmas celebration. The cake incorporates a large quantity of raisins and rum and becomes a staple dinner item between the Christmas season and New Years'.
United Kingdom 
In the UK, fruit cakes come in many varieties, from extremely light to rich and moist. The traditional Christmas cake is a round fruitcake covered in marzipan and then in white satin or royal icing (a hard white icing made with softly beaten egg whites). They are often further decorated with snow scenes, holly leaves, and berries (real or artificial), or tiny decorative robins or snowmen. In Yorkshire, it is often served accompanied with cheese. Fruit cakes in the United Kingdom often contain currants and glace cherries, an example of this type being the Genoa cake. One type of cake that originated in Scotland is the Dundee Cake, a type of fruit cake which does not contain glace cherries. This is a fruit cake that is decorated with almonds, and which owes its name to Keiller's marmalade.
United States 
Typical American fruit cakes are rich in fruit and nuts.
Mail-order fruit cakes in America began in 1913. Some well-known American bakers of fruit cake include Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas, and The Claxton Bakery in Claxton, Georgia. Both Collin Street and Claxton are Southern companies with access to cheap nuts, for which the expression "nutty as a fruitcake" was derived in 1935. Commercial fruit cakes are often sold from catalogs by charities as a fund raiser.
Most American mass-produced fruit cakes are alcohol-free, but traditional recipes are saturated with liqueurs or brandy and covered in powdered sugar, both of which prevent mold. Brandy- or wine-soaked linens can be used to store the fruit cakes, and some people feel that fruit cakes improve with age.
In the United States, the fruit cake has been a ridiculed dessert. Some attribute the beginning of this trend with The Tonight Show host Johnny Carson. He would joke that there really is only one fruitcake in the world, passed from family to family. After Carson's death, the tradition continued with "The Fruitcake Lady" (Marie Rudisill), who made appearances on the show and offered her "fruitcake" opinions. In fact, the fruitcake had been a butt of jokes on television programs such as "Father Knows Best" and "The Donna Reed Show" years before The Tonight Show debuted.
Since 1995, Manitou Springs, Colorado, has hosted the Great Fruitcake Toss on the first Saturday of every January. "We encourage the use of recycled fruitcakes," says Leslie Lewis of the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce. The all-time Great Fruitcake Toss record is 1,420 feet, set in January 2007 by a group of eight Boeing engineers who built the "Omega 380," a mock artillery piece fueled by compressed air pumped by an exercise bike.
Shelf life 
If a fruit cake contains alcohol, it could remain edible for many years. For example, a fruit cake baked in 1878 is kept as an heirloom by a family (Morgan L. Ford) in Tecumseh, Michigan. In 2003 it was sampled by Jay Leno on The Tonight Show. To lengthen the shelf life of a fruit cake, wrap the cake in alcohol soaked linen before storing. 
See also 
- Stollen history
- Robert Sietsema. "A Short History of Fruitcake", The Village Voice, November 20–26, 2002.
- Meyers Lexikon: "Besonders bekannt ist der Dresdner Stollen" ("the Dresden Stollen is especially well-known")
- Swiss recipes, Grandma´s Birnenbrot
- Photos from the 2009 event: www.blueskiesbb.com/fruitcake-popup.html
- Fruitcake is family heirloom http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20097708,00.html
- Jay Leno eats 125 year old fruitcake http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1817&dat=20031224&id=0R0fAAAAIBAJ&sjid=p6cEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6655,2002670
- Fruitcakes - Myths, Mysteries and Truths http://scottymacblog.com/2010/12/fruitcakes/