The most commonly heard joke around the holidays has to do with fruitcakes – someone once suggested that there is only one fruitcake in existence and that everyone circulates that singular dessert item every year.
The fruitcake, in other words, became a cultural joke, the subject matter for every stand-up comic every Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanza. But that same fruit-filled cake actually can be a delicious offering if it is done correctly, according to one local bakery.
Ackroyd’s Scottish Bakery in Redford has created its own tasty fruitcake with the goal of changing people’s minds about this annual treat. The bakers there have come up with a new recipe that is beautiful to eat and to gift to party hosts, colleagues and foodies of every kind, according to owner Megan Ackroyd.
In case you don’t believe her, consider how much the fruitcake has changed over the years. Zingerman’s sells out of Robert Lambert’s aged fruitcakes each year. Lambert has vintage cakes going for more than $100. And Date Lady has been hugely popular since they introduced their cakes a few years back.
Ackroyd’s has been selling imported fruitcakes for years, which are in high demand around the holidays. But the bakers there know that a mass-produced product just isn’t the same. That is why they decided to begin baking their own, and the Ackroyd’s fruitcake sold well last year, Megan Ackroyd said.
In fact, Ackroyd’s expects to sell several hundred cakes this season. Surprised? Well, maybe that means it is time that you tried fruitcake again.
“This isn’t our family recipe. It’s not even something we served in my family,” Megan Ackroyd admitted. “That’s due to the fact that most of what we’ve tried in the past wasn’t very good.”
So how do you change fruitcake’s bad reputation for preservatives, oddly color fruit bits and unpalatable flavor? You come up with your own take on the traditional, Megan Ackroyd said.
Everyone in the store put their collective heads together and came up with a new recipe – and Megan Ackroyd herself now admits she is a fan of what they put together.
“What we wanted to do was take the best of the best ingredients and make a great cake that tasted like the ingredients in it,” Megan Ackroyd said. “Our fruitcake has no artificial preservatives. … I’ve been really impressed with it. When I sampled it, I really enjoyed it. I went back to it several times and kept eating it. I was shocked by that at first, but now I really enjoy it.”
Joe Hakim, who works with Ackroyd’s Bakery on its food and marketing, said that many people in the United Kingdom serve fruitcake on special occasions. In fact, it is considered something you’d expect royalty to serve. Creating a fruitcake that lives up to that expectation was the goal, and he believes Ackroyd’s has met that and then some.
“It has that sense of royalty and luxury that goes along with these cakes in the UK,” Hakim said. “We’re trying to dispel that myth (of what fruitcakes are as a joke) and focus on what makes fruitcake great. It’s got dried fruit, nuts, rum – all those things that make fruitcake special in our handmade product versus industrial-made bricks like commercially made ones are.”
Food traditions are incredibly important to Ackroyd’s, which recently celebrated 70 years in business, Megan Ackroyd said. That is why fruitcake had to join other bakery favorites such as sausage rolls, steak pies and baked goods such as tea cakes and biscuits.
“These are family traditions and the holidays wouldn’t be the same without them. A lot of people come to Ackroyd’s to get these traditional products, and we appreciate them,” Megan Ackroyd said.