The recipes for the heavily fruit-laden, sometimes boozy fruitcakes we associate with Christmas today have their roots in the Middle Ages. Dried fruits and sugar were expensive imports, so using them in large quantity was strictly a special-occasion endeavor (hence fruitcake as a traditional wedding cake option). Plus, in the days of hard-to-regulate wood-burning ovens, successful cake baking was a tricky undertaking.
Vermont-based Old Cavendish makes all-natural, small-batch fruitcakes laden with unsulphured fruit, cashews, and walnuts. Cold-aged in brandy and orange liqueur, Old Cavendish bakes precisely the sort of fruitcake that wins converts, and puts a resounding end to fruitcake bashing. Buy online at OldCavendish.com ($5 to $76).