My husband has an uncle who insists that fruitcake is a very civilized pleasure and the best way to go about eating it is in the evening along with a glass of sherry. He’s probably right about that. (He tends to be right about everything else.) I expect most of us could get through fruitcake with a good sherry, although I’m not sayin’ how much sherry it might take to get it down.
Are there a lot of good fruitcake recipes out there? Do people really eat it? I used to wonder as a child because half the ladies of my father’s parish would try their hands at fruitcake and as children, we always felt that the essential business of prizing the green cherries and candied orange peal out, left a sad, barely adequate scaffolding of cake behind, certainly not enough to satisfy us, although the ladies had poured a lot of expensive ingredients in there.
I’ve never come across the smell of fruitcake since. It’s not like I’m looking for it either, but there is something about all that fruitiness, and all that butter and all that sugar and all that rum or whatever it is that goes into fruitcake, that makes for a pleasantly crowded cake pan of a scent. It’s dense, it’s rich, it’s full of half tasted flavors…the closest equivalent I can come up with is By Killian’s Back to Black.
Now I know that I’m not supposed to have this association at all. Instead I’m supposed to think of Amy Winehouse, and her song “Back to Black”, but I’d submit that if you have a taste for anything which is just a little perverse, just a little acquired, you’ll have a taste for fruitcake as well as Amy Winehouse.
Looking at the notes I certainly see why it reminded me of fruitcake. It’s similarly full of ingredients: cherries and raspberries, saffron, cardamom, honey, vanilla, tobacco, labdanum, amber, geranium, bergamot, coriander and a touch of nutmeg and gingerbread. This stuff is foody, alright. You have to like sophisticated density and sweetness. There are a lot of passing impressions you get as you smell this, sort of like the same passing impressions you get when eating fruitcake: that was the honey, that was the ginger and nutmeg, there’s a preserved cherry in there, and some citrus, and surely vanilla that just floated past in close association with cardamom? If you like that sort of mélange, a crowded house of flavors, you will like Back to Black.
Now for the Christmassy aspect – Yes, well, not everyone cottons to ho! ho! ho!-ery at this time of year. If you’d really rather maintain some sangfroid at Christmas parties, but still tip a hat to the sumptuousness of the season, then this is your choice, I’m thinking. Back to Black also has a sense both of sensuality and of itself. You don’t want to mess too much with the wearer of this elegant gourmand. If they don’t want to play charades, leave them alone, they’ll brood, no doubt chicly, all evening, over a glass of whiskey and that slice of fruitcake.