Fruitcake. This time every year, somehow or other we're faced with it. Up pops a sticky-sweet loaf laden with bright green cherries, whether you want it or not. Luckily, fruitcake has an Italian cousin, the panettone, which our editors are much more fond of. It's a light, fluffy, buttery bread that lacks the boozy density of fruitcake.
If you're ever wondering about the fundamental difference between fruitcake and panettone, know this: while one was created out of necessity, the other was created out of love. It's not too hard to figure out which is which -- do you really think the fruitcake stemmed from romance? We didn't think so! Let us elaborate.
Fruitcake, the infamously loathed loaf, is a dense brick of spirit-soaked cake studded with neon candied fruits, nuts and spices. It was invented when Europe received a massive amount of cheap sugar in the 16th century, and people began using it to preserve fruit. The stuff became so abundant that no one knew what to do with it, so they threw it in cakes. Simple as that.
Legend has it that panettone, however, was created in the 15th century when a young man from Milan fell in love with the daughter of a baker named Toni. He baked a moist, sweet bread filled with raisins and candied fruit and presented it to the girl's father in the hopes of winning him (and her) over -- and of course, he called it Pan de Toni (panettone). The sad part? No one knows whether or not he got the girl. The good part? Now we have panettone.
If you're looking for a great panettone, there are seemingly endless brands to buy. To make things easier for you, our editors have tasted their way through them and picked our three favorites. An added bonus? We've even got a fruitcake that we recommend! Check out the slideshow below to see our four star performers in the panettone and fruitcake field.
How do you feel about fruitcake and panettone? Leave us a comment below!
This Italian-imported panettone is superlatively puffy, coated with a crunchy hazelnut glaze, and filled with raisins and perfumey candied fruits. Our tasters described it as buttery and moist with just the right amount of fruit distribution. $28.65 at Il Mercato Italiano
Also imported from Italy, this panettone is heavily scented with citrus -- it's got candied orange, citron and lemon zest in it (as well as raisins). Perugina suggests serving their panettone as a dessert paired with sweet wine, any time with a cup of coffee, or for breakfast (it's amazing made into French toast). $28.99 at Amazon, including free super saver shipping
Nudo, a company that supports a collection of small olive growers in central Italy, has replaced some of the butter in this panettone with delicious olive oil. Though it's lacking some of the butter, it still has a rich, brioche-type texture and is lighter on the sugar and candied fruits than most panettones, for those who don't have a sweet tooth. $25 at nudo-italia.com
We've always been fans of the Beekman Boys, but we have to admit we were skeptical when we heard they came out with a fruitcake for the holidays. But luck has it that theirs was the only of all the fruitcakes we tasted that we liked enough to endorse. It's more like a quickbread than a traditional, dense fruitcake, and it's loaded (but not overloaded) with chunks of ripe fruit that have been soaked in applejack brandy. Though this recipe has been in the making for a century, it's not your grandma's fruitcake. $45 at Williams-Sonoma