We never eat fruitcake because it has rum
And one little bit turns a man to a bum
Can you imagine a sorrier sight
Than a man eating fruitcake until he gets tight?
The Chad Mitchell Trio’s version of The Song of the Temperance Union
Ah, fruitcake! The stuff of legends. Derided in song, derided in the media, it seems to be the ubiquitous non-comestible. To tell the truth, there are some very awful versions of it foisted on the public each year. These are the overly sweet, grossly dense, preserved-fruit-laden hockey-pucks-on-steroids available in every supermarket in America. Glacéd, crystalized or candied, whatever you choose to call them, the fruits and citron can overwhelm the taste buds. It is really a mystery why thinking people would purchase these cakes as gifts. It becomes a tradition to laugh over or to moan over. Just think of the waste when the rejected cakes get tossed into the trash. What will future garbologists think of us?
There are many, many verses to The Song of the Temperance Union. They suggest that there is little to be eaten or done, including drinking water and jumping rope, that can’t turn a man into a beast. The fruitcake lyrics might have been apt many years ago, but today, though they can be found, it is rare to find a good spirit-lace fruitcake for sale.
Oh, but you can certainly make a soused version in your own kitchen. Work with whatever fruit or nuts type cake or bread recipe you have. The key to a good soused version, be it done with rum, bourbon, or whatever tipple you prefer, is to have a good cake-to-fruit ratio: smaller pieces of fruit and nuts, easy on the citron, as with a good Italian Panettone cake, and with more cake to absorb the liquor.
The secret to the sousing is to start early. Plan on baking the weekend after Thanksgiving - I'll start mine tomorrow. Fill a spray bottle with your beverage of choice. Once your cakes are out of the oven and cooled, begin the process of spraying them thoroughly on all sides. Store them in air-tight containers or bags. Get them out once a week for four weeks, and spray them thoroughly again. By the holidays you will have a scrumptious fruitcake to give or keep - and keep it will. Some soused fruitcakes, properly kept in the bottom of the refrigerator, have been known to last, slice by slice, remembered now and then for a special treat, for well over a year.