HOLIDAY/FRUITCAKE- Let them eat fruitcake: From joke to welcome treat?
They've launched thousands of stand-up comedy careers, but fate may finally be turning in favor of fruitcakes. Could it finally be time to stop re-gifting the holiday treat and perhaps trying– gasp– to eat it? Some retailers think so.
"They're actually getting more and more popular," says Jamie Montgomery of Chandler's Bakery. "Last year was our biggest year with them."
But not all is rosy for the candied fruit, flour, rum (or whiskey), and nut concoction that Charles Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewit called a "geological homemade cake."
At HotCakes, the gourmet eatery in Barracks Road Shopping Center, veteran fruitcake maker Lisa McEwan says she has made a "really delicious style" with dried fruit. Not this year, though. One major problem is that fruitcakes have a "limited range of customers," she says.
BreadWorks' Preston Avenue baker, Kim Denning, says that much of a fruitcake's unpopularity stems from its reputation: "Everyone makes jokes about fruitcake. I hate to say it, but there's been a decline in interest. Unless people try ours, they don't know how good it can be."
With 11 different kinds of fruitcake at prices ranging from $3.19 to $27.95, Foods of all Nations may just be Charlottesville's fruitcake central.
"We didn't carry a lot last year," says employee Jenny Herring, "but this year we have more because we had more demand for it."
But can the dense brown confection shed the stereotype that comes along with being, well, a fruitcake? Can it rebound from the years of jokes and ridicule, and return from its exile in the dark recesses of Charlottesville's fruit cellars and pantries?
As McEwan says, fruitcakes have "their own mystique," and it may not be long until they regain– or perhaps simply attain– a little respect.