Fruitcake may be inextricably linked with Christmas, but it is not everyone’s cup of tea. The common fruitcake (crustus fructus lacrimosa) has been in existence since time immemorial, literally, and legend has it that the original Gifts of The Magi were actually gold, frankincense and fruitcake. Luckily, Caspar, upon hearing that Melchior was trying to pawn off a fruitcake he had received at a going away party in the Orient, had some Myrrh in his pocket and said, “Hey Buddy, give the kid this instead.” And the rest is history.
It is one of those inescapable realities of life; if you do not like fruitcake you will receive at least one fruitcake this year. Books have been written on the duplicitous tactics employed by those attempting to re-gift the cake, empires that have been built out of them (again, literally) have crumbled on account of them, and promising careers have been destroyed. There is a reason people have been called “Nutty as a Fruitcake.”
Basically, when it comes to the common fruitcake you have three options: eat it, re-gift it or re-purpose it. Having tried and famously failed at the former two, I am happy to report that re-purposing the crustus fructus is not as impossible as it sounds, and can be done so in a delicious manner.
We all know that with a little imagination we can make stale, horrible bread into a scrumptious bread pudding the same ingenuity applies to fruitcake. In fact, Michael Smith, one of Canada’s most beloved chefs and food personalities, has a recipe for bread pudding that is absolutely delicious and guaranteed to make you squeal with delight. So the next time someone graces your good graces with this otherwise immovable object, have a go at Michael Smith’s down home bread pudding recipe, one of the all time great comfort foods. I have reprinted his recipe substituting one pound of fruitcake for one pound of stale bread, and eliminated the direction to add 1 cup mixed fruit. Served warm, this treat will make fruitcake lovers out of anyone.
Another clever way to re-invent the fruitcake is to crumble it up and make it into fruitcake ice cream! It is ridiculously simple and delicious, a great dessert in itself, or as a topping with a warm pie or cake. Both these recipes work equally well with dark or light cake, and will be sure to please the skeptics in the crowd.
Finally, while the pudding is cooking, you might want to kill a little time by perusing this clever and hilarious site by American Barbara Bailey, who happily admits she has too much time on her hands. Plum full of fruitcake puzzles, shooting galleries and hilarious commentary, this site will have you re-evaluating how you feel about this much maligned tradition.
Maybe fruitcake isn’t so bad after all…. Merry Christmas Everyone!
“Fruitcake” Bread Pudding
adapted from a recipe by Michael Smith
1 pound fruitcake, cut into cubes
3 cups milk
1 cup white or brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or your favourite baking spice
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons coarse sugar
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C). Toss the fruitcake into a large bowl.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, your choice of sweetener, your favourite spice and the vanilla. Pour the mixture over the bread and stir until the bread is coated. At first, the bread will float on the milk mixture, but after a few minutes it will begin to absorb it and sink.
- Let rest for 15 minutes or so and then pour it into a 9-inch square lightly greased ovenproof casserole dish. Sprinkle coarse sugar overtop and bake until the eggs set, the pudding firms and the top is golden brown, about 1 hour.
- Serve with Fruitcake Ice Cream!