The Difference Between European Fruitcakes & American Fruitcakes
Like many of the baked sweets we now enjoy in America, we can trace the origins of fruitcake back to Europe. In fact, the first fruitcake recipe on record dates all the way back to Ancient Rome! But that’s a story for another time. Today we’ll be looking into a few examples of European fruitcakes to see how they compare to the fruitcakes we enjoy stateside.
With America usually taking the “go big or go home” attitude towards food, the English Christmas Cake definitely gives us a run for our money!
Traditionally, the Christmas cake starts out simple: a standard round fruitcake. But after that, it’s anything but standard. English Christmas cakes are then covered with a thick layer of marzipan, a rich, sweet paste made out of almonds. They are then slathered in white royal icing and further decorated with Christmas scenes made out of icing. Outside of the Christmas season, you can also find this style of fruitcake served at weddings.
In Germany, fruitcakes (known as Stollen) don’t quite resemble their American counterparts.
Fruitcake vs. Stollen: Flattened with a chewy crust, Stollen is often baked more like a traditional loaf of sourdough bread. Stollen also forgoes the usual candied cherries and pineapple in exchange for citrus zest, candied citrus peels, raisins, and almonds.
Italy actually boasts claim to a few distinct varieties of fruitcake. The most well-known is perhaps the Panettone. Panettone, which hails from Milan, Italy, is typically served around Christmas time (noticing a pattern there?). They are traditionally filled with dried and candied fruits and have a distinctive light, airy texture.
But that’s not Italy’s only contribution to fruitcake. There’s also Panforte, from Tuscany. By comparison, Panforte is far more chewy and dense. Heavily flavored with spices, Panforte literally translates to “strong bread!”
A Polish fruitcake, known as Keks, is somewhat like a mix between a German Stollen and an Italian Panettone. Often baked in a traditional loaf shape, Keks deviates from the international standard of nuts, raisins, and candied fruits, by introducing figs into the mixture. Not surprisingly, the Polish kept with the pattern and usually serve their Keks around Christmas time.
Although we’re a little biased, we think we’ve saved the best for last! The American style of fruitcake has been a holiday tradition for families across the country since the late 1800s. It wasn’t until around 1913 that the Americanized version reached audiences abroad with the advent of modern mail-order food companies.
American fruitcake is far flashier than its European counterparts as it’s most often adorned with colorful candied cherries and pineapples, as well as many varieties of nuts. Traditionally, an American fruitcake comes served in decorated, festive tins, not unlike Collin Street’s DeLuxe® Fruitcake in a Red Holly Gift Box.
As you can see, American fruitcakes stand apart from their European cousins in a multitude of ways. But, while the style of baking and choice of ingredients may vary, one thing is for certain— people love fruitcake. From the spiced panettone of Italy to the fig-filled keks of Poland, families from all over are cutting themselves a slice of delicious fruitcake.
Thinking of Starting Your Own Tradition?
Perhaps you’d like to be like the British royals and on your special day serve fruitcake instead of wedding cake! Now, there’s an idea. A Collin Street Bakery DeLuxe® Fruitcake as your wedding cake? Now, that’s an idea to chew on. While you ponder, order one of our cakes to sample the tasty possibilities.