Liquor Can Fix Even The Least Appetizing Christmas Fruit Cake

The humble Christmas fruit cake has been striving to survive its poor reputation since Johnny Carson infamously joked, "There is only one fruitcake in the entire world and people keep passing it around." These dense cakes, filled with all manner of dried fruits, can last for months, or in some cases, even generations, but at a price: Their doorstop-like texture.

If not properly stored, fruit cakes can develop a rock hard texture that might encourage you to throw it out onto the street. This is why they are often infused with alcohol in order to soften them. Traditionally, fruit cakes are "seasoned" with brandy, rum, or sherry, in a process that involves brushing the outside of the cake with your spirit of choice and then wrapping it up. As the cake sits, it will absorb the alcohol, which will soften the cake and help to preserve it. This might be done several times over the course of weeks or even months before enjoying it. But, if your cake hasn't been seasoned and you don't have six weeks to spend prepping it for the holidays, there's another way you can use liquor to revive it.

Simply steam your fruit cake to bring it back to life

The texture issue with fruit cake is one of its detractors' biggest arguments against the dessert, but if it's properly treated with alcohol, this issue can be easily fixed. There's a fast way to get your fruit cake to absorb alcohol and therefore its softening effects, but it might sound a little silly at first: Steam your fruit cake in the spirit.

Poke holes in your cake and add it to a hot saucepan with half a cup of the same spirit you would have used to season it like brandy or rum. Cover, and allow the liquor to infuse into it. (You can also baste your cake with the alcohol to speed up the process.) And voilà! Your fruit cake will come out warm, moist, and fragrant.

Mixing fruit cake with some kind of alcohol actually dates back its origins in Roman times (we weren't kidding about their longevity). Back then, fruit cakes were made with honey, dried fruit, wine, and barley. But, a version closer to the one we know today likely comes from Medieval Europe, when warm fall spices were gaining popularity. The cakes later made their way to America, and with the advent of mail-order food delivery services in the early 20th century, the dessert became even more popular as a commercial food product. Though fruit cake fever has dwindled in recent years, the Christmas dessert enjoyed newfound trend status as recently as 2022.