Yeah, yeah, fruitcake this..fruitcake that. It’s the black sheep of the Holiday treats. It’s always getting the bad rap and we hear about it every year. People question it’s culinary contribution to this world, even the Catholic. There’s the inevitable jokes of course:
“The worst gift is a fruitcake. There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other.” – Johnny Carson
I myself have never tried fruitcake but every year I promise myself that this year will be the year. So I went in search of fruitcake and stumbled upon stollen instead. I’d heard of it but never seen one and didn’t really know what it was or the difference between it and fruitcake.
Fruitcake is typically made with chopped candied and dried fruit (cherries, dates, pineapple, etc.) and sometimes nuts (walnuts, pecans, etc.), it is then soaked in spirits (usually rum). A lot of the fruitcake recipes state that there is just enough batter to hold the fruit and nuts in place. The soaking of the loaf in rum adds to the lore that it can be stored for many months and still be edible. Many even believe that it’s flavor develops over time and is best after several weeks of soaking.
Stollen is a made much the same, again with candied fruits and nuts but apparently without the rum soaking. It’s also a little less dense, more of a bread really. It is traditionally sprinkled with powdered sugar.
I would conclude that a rum soaked cake would be much better than a piece of bread with some candied fruit and nuts. Does fruitcake deserve it’s infamous rap after all? Alton Brown seems to think it’s a wonderful cake and has a recipe that he says will make you a believer of fruitcake.