Christmas cake is generally assumed to be some kind of fruitcake — you know, that holiday dessert that tends to be the butt of so many holiday jokes. Although, fruitcake isn’t very popular in the U.S., other culture’s traditional Christmas cakes are commonly some variation of fruitcake.
Christmas cake is actually the name for fruitcake eaten in the United Kingdom during the holidays. This type of fruitcake is made differently in every household: some with different ingredients, some in different shapes, some covered in icing.
Not all Christmas cakes are fruitcakes, though. Depending on the culture, they may also be rum cakes, sponge cakes, poppy seed rolls (like Poland's makowiec), and more.
These traditional cakes from around the world are more than just your average fruitcake.
Chile: Pan de Pascua
Thought to have evolved from German christstollen and Italian panettone, pan de Pascua — despite the fact that its name means Easter bread — is a traditional Christmas batter-based fruit cake flavored with rum. It’s served in Chile with a boozy holiday coffee drink called cola de mono, or monkey's tail.
France: Galette des Rois
In celebration of the Epiphany, galette des rois, a flaky cake filled with frangipane (almond filling), is served around January 6th, the twelfth day of Christmas, when it’s believed that the Three Wise Men visited the baby Jesus. A bean was originally baked inside the cake, but now it’s more common to hide a plastic trinket inside. Whoever finds the trinket in their slice of cake is crowned king or queen for the day.
Haley Willard is The Daily Meal's assistant editor. Follow her on Twitter @haleywillrd.