I've always wondered why the homophobes decided to use the term "fruitcake" for gays. Do they mean those disgusting hunks of gluey stuff that are sold under the name "fruitcake" by supermarkets and commercial bakeries this time of year? Those "fruitcakes" don't even deserve the name. They are frauds. Somebody should be sued for fraud. It's hard to know what certain American food companies do to fruitcake to make it so awful...so tasteless and dry.
Maybe commercialized holiday culture turned against "fruitcake" because of the homosexual connection. Maybe the religious right sent a secret memo to the baking companies, telling them to ruin fruitcake on purpose. I.e. fruitcake has to be bad because homos are bad. If kids eat bad fruitcake, they won't "go gay" when they grow up.
Well, whatever grinch stole fruitcake, he shot himself in the foot and ruined one of the best foods known to humanity. Real fruitcake (i.e. homemade) is ambrosia, food for the gods and goddesses.
For any LGBT person who enjoys cooking, especially holiday cooking, making fruitcakes is a fun project for a group of people, because the prep work with the fruits is a lot of work. But it's worth it. And making our own fruitcake is the culinary version of standing up for our rights. It's a case of "gay is good"...literally.
Fruitcake is one of those ancient holiday dishes that have been around since medieval times, or longer -- like wassail, and roast goose. It's probably English, and reflects a time when people were thrifty and preserved the fruits of the season in sugar, so they could enjoy them in winter. When they ate oranges or lemons, they never discarded the peels, but candied them with sugar to save the last iota of citrus savor. This way, the wonderful taste of warm summer could be recaptured in the dead of December.
I got the fruitcake jones when I was a little kid, in a ranch family that loved to do holiday baking. Like certain cookies, fruitcakes can be made weeks in advance, and put away to "season" in a tin, wrapped in cheesecloth that has been moistened with brandy or rum. This year, it's still not too late to make one, if you get busy now and let it season till, say, New Year's Eve.
There are basically two kinds. Dark fruitcakes go heavier on the dark-colored fruits (like currants and regular raisins), with a little molasses in the mix, plus the more robust spices like cinnamon and clove. Whereas light fruitcakes omit the molasses, and float on the lighter-colored fruits like golden raisins and candied pineapple. You can go for the traditional recipes, like the ones in the Fannie Farmer Cookbook. More exotic recipes can be found if you search online. You can bake it in a regular loaf pan, or a tube pan, or any shape you choose. Just make sure you can get it out of the pan cleanly, so it preserves its shape perfectly. Use a Telfon pan, and butter it generously and dredge it with a little flour. Or use Pam for baking. Either way works.
I favor the light fruitcakes, and have learned that you can go creatively wild with any kind of fruits or dried berries. When making the batter, I use orange juice instead of milk for the liquid (you have to add a bit of soda to the baking powder to get the right Ph). Now and then, for the finely diced fruit, I've used a mixture of dried apricots, pears, peaches, apples, pineapple, candied citron, and of course candied lemon and orange peel.
This year I looked around the cupboard to see what I had, and found a package of candied mango strips that had been dusted with chili powder. A friend had given it to me, and somehow it hadn't been eaten. I washed most of the chili powder off, but left some just for fun. A teaspoon of chili powder can give an amazing kick to a sweet spicy cake -- traditional gingerbread recipes often call for it.
For this year's creation, I put the orange batter together with diced mango, golden raisins, dried cranberries, the de rigeur candied orange and lemon peel, and a mixture of chopped walnuts, pecans, almonds and Brazil nuts. Nuts are a must. For spices, I used ginger, allspice, nutmeg and cardamom. I baked it 1 1/2 hours at 325 in a big tube pan, and when it was cool, I sprinkled half a cup of rum over it and put it away in a tin to season for a couple of weeks.
When I got the huge cake out the other day, I sent part of it UPS to my brother. The rest of it disappeared in 48 hours. "I can't believe this is fruitcake," one friend told me as he reached for a second helping.
There's an old saying that eating well is the best revenge. Real fruitcake made by real LGBT people can be one of the best kinds of revenge there is. We can thumb our nose at the homophobes with gastronomic glee. And once you've eaten the real thing, you'll never go back to the store-bought fakes.