I have a secret to share — I've never once tasted a piece of fruitcake. For years I have seen the dense dessert adorned with neon candied fruit sitting on top of the table at holiday parties, but I just couldn't bring myself to try it. I know that a lot of people love it, but with the bad rep fruitcake's been given over the years and the urban legend that it never goes bad, fruitcake has yet to pass these lips. Because of its questionable shelf life, have you ever wondered if it is safe to eat fruitcake while you're breastfeeding or pregnant?
According to North Carolina State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture noted that most commercially prepared fruitcake will last two to three months in the refrigerator without spoiling, and for up to a year if stored in the freezer. This is because traditional fruitcake recipes use dried or candied fruits and nuts, and the low moisture level makes it difficult for microorganisms, which includes foodborne illness-causing bacteria, to reproduce. NC State also noted that if the recipe includes fresh fruit, it significantly shortens the cake's shelf life.
In short, if it is freshly prepared or one that has been stored properly, pregnant and breastfeeding moms can safely eat fruitcake.
But what if the fruitcake contains alcohol? Homemade fruitcake recipes often contain brandy or rum. It is a long-held belief that alcohol cooks out of baked goods, but this is not completely true. According to Andrew Weil, M.D., the director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, Clinical Professor of Medicine and Professor of Public Health at the University of Arizona, even after an hour in the oven, baked goods retain 25 percent of their alcohol content. If the fruitcake is soaked in alcohol after baking, it will retain almost all of the alcohol content.
When eating fruitcake that contains alcohol this holiday, you should use the same judgment you would if it were a mixed drink or a glass of wine, instead. If you are passing on the cocktail, you may want to pass on the fruitcake, as well.