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Love em or hate em, fruitcakes are here to stay

Sherri Paul Thigpen shows the ingredients she has let marinate overnight, which is the first step in making her fruitcake. Thigpen says this batch will make 100 fruitcakes. Photo by Jodi Marze

Sherri Paul Thigpen shows the ingredients she has let marinate overnight, which is the first step in making her fruitcake. Thigpen says this batch will make 100 fruitcakes.
Photo by Jodi Marze

By Jodi Marze

Picayune Item

People are either thrilled to get them or thrilled to give them away.

 

Jimmy Buffet sings about them and he says there is a little bit of them in all of us. He finds the term relatable to relationships. Religion, government administration and thought processes.

 

What is it? Fruitcake.

 

With origins in ancient Rome, the fruitcake is a both a holiday and wedding tradition in a variety of countries and a variety of ingredients.

 

What once began as a barley mash mixture with pomegranate seed, pine nuts and raisins, evolved during the middle ages when honey, spices and preserved fruits were added.

 

Another turning point for the cake was during the introduction of sugar and sugar fruit products from the American Colonies. The availability of sugar enabled the fruitcake to be more affordable to make.

 

The version we are most likely familiar with today features a lot of candied fruits and is credited as the American fruitcake.

 

Sherri Thigpen of Paul’s Pastry acknowledges that the cake can be polarizing.

 

“People who love it, really love it. People who do not like it, really do not like it,” she says. “With that being said, we have a strong customer base for it. The same people continue to come back every Christmas, which is the only time we make it.

 

Paul says the cake is very labor intensive and takes much longer than a sheet cake would.

 

“Even the ingredient preparation takes longer,” she says. “The first batch of ingredients includes pecans, dates, raisins and 50/50 fruit mix. It marinates in rum overnight. We add the second batch of ingredients the next morning. It takes about 15 minutes to incorporate and another hour and a half to scale out for baking. The final step is baking the cakes for three hours at a low temperature, so it doesn’t dry out.”

 

In comparison, the typical sheet cake takes 28 minutes to bake after mixing ingredients, Paul said.

 

Paul’s Pastry makes their fruitcakes in one, two and three pound portions.

 

“We are currently finishing the mixture for our last batch of the season,” Paul said. “We sold 100 so far this year, which is more than we anticipated, so we are mixing this last batch. While it is true that we sell many more king-cakes than fruitcakes, we always get good comments on our fruitcakes. “