Why It's Important To Age Your Fruitcake

In America, fruitcake is as much of a culinary punchline as it is a holiday tradition. The fruit-and nut-studded cake has a reputation for being edible for years, with a running joke that fruitcakes never actually get baked fresh every year, they are simply passed on from previous years. As much as they're made fun of, traditional fruitcakes can be delightful and delicious when prepared correctly. 

If you're skeptical and jaded by grandma's bone-dry, sickly-sweet bricks of cake at Christmas time, consider the fact that the British royals have been opting for fruitcakes as their wedding cake for generations, according to Vogue. According to the magazine, the Prince and Princess of Wales' 2011 wedding featured a fruitcake that reportedly cost $80,000. Surely it was the best tasting cake ever. 

The legend of the cake's longevity might be exaggerated, but there is a touch of truth there. Fruitcakes can actually be aged for a very long time, so long as the aging is done correctly. More importantly, they should be aged. The Spruce Eats suggests that baking a fruitcake is just the beginning. It then needs to be preserved, stored, and tended to regularly for months. The finished product, however, may very well be the best fruitcake you and your friends and family have ever tasted.

Aging gracefully and tastefully

Much like some wines, aging fruitcakes is, first and foremost, for the flavor. Yes, it actually tastes better after aging. Like many culinary creations, aging may have come from a place of necessity. Per Vogue, the fruitcake dates back to the Middle Ages when they were served on special occasions and consisted of dried fruit, spices, and alcohol, ingredients that did not easily spoil and could withstand the lack of refrigeration. Such ingredients were also expensive and rare, symbolizing riches and success, explaining why Queen Victoria probably chose the fruitcake as her wedding cake in 1840, according to Reader's Digest.

King Arthur Baking Company suggests that bakers start their fruitcakes no earlier than seven weeks before they plan to eat or serve them. The baking giant explains that this is perfectly safe, as the ingredients lack of moisture makes it difficult for bacteria to spread. Once baked, fruitcakes should be brushed with alcohol such as brandy, rum, or whiskey once a week. Food blog Grated Nutmeg notes the cakes should also be well wrapped, placed in a cake tin, and stored in a cool, dry place in between the weekly brushes. The final result should be a moist, flavorful confection that is well worth all the time and effort spent giving this cake a new life and new notoriety.