The Fruitcake’s Revenge

Got Fruitcake?

Johnny Carson said it, and I believed it.  Every year, shortly after Thanksgiving, he began the Christmas season by reminding us, “There’s only one fruitcake in the world. It’s been passed around from person to person since time immemorial, and it doesn’t matter how hard you try. You’ll never escape The Fruitcake.” 

I knew his little joke wasn’t factual. Every year multitudes of fruitcakes marched like overzealous Nutcrackers into the heart of the holiday season, overflowing store shelves and filling up catalogs.  How essentially good ingredients – fruit and cake – could be combined into a “treat” that was both gummy and dry was beyond me. But the fruitcake people had managed to do it. Even though I preferred not to waste my holiday calories on something that appeared to have been circulating since the days of the Roman Empire, people kept pressing fruitcake on me.  I wished there were only one. It would have been easier to escape the ghastly conconction.

Behind every fruitcake, of course, lurks a fruitcake-baker, and over the years first one friend and then another tried to convince me she’d finally discovered the secret to truly good fruitcake – soaking the raisins in bourbon, pouring brandy over the finished cake, substituting walnuts for pecans, eliminating the candied pineapple. No matter the adaptation, my opinion never wavered.  Fruitcake was dense, dry and tasteless, except when it was gummy, sticky and tasteless. It was a grim excuse for a dessert and a terrible holiday tradition.

When it came to the matter of fruitcakes, I was my father’s daughter. When co-workers or business associates gave Dad a fruitcake, presenting it with a smile so big you’d think they’d just handed over the keys to a Mercedes, Dad would respond graciously and rationally. He’d thank the giver profusely, then rid himself of the cake as soon as their back was turned. Sometimes he sliced it up and left it in the coffee room at work. Sometimes he gave it to the postman. Now and then, he’d put one into a gag-gift exchange and count himself lucky that he’d traded the cake for a fishing lure or risqué necktie.

With multiple cakes to dispose of, he never failed to give at least one to my grandparents’ neighbor, Sadie. One memorable Christmas, Sadie turned around and gave the cake to my unknowing grandparents. Ever willing to share, Grandma got out her best plate, sliced up the cake and plopped it on the table in front of my dad, saying, “Sadie! Such a nice woman! See what she gave us! A fruitcake! Have a piece! Have two pieces!” And so he did, my poor father playing the role of the good son, eating the fruitcake that had come home to roost.

One year, he came home from the office lugging the biggest fruitcake I’d ever seen. After a little discussion, we decided we’d leave it in the pantry for a year and see what happened. In the end, nothing happened. We opened the fruitcake a year later, sliced it up and gave it a try. It didn’t taste one whit better or worse than a “fresh” fruitcake. As I recall, that was the year he stopped trying to be polite and began tossing out any fruitcake that came through the door. Under normal circumstances, tossing food wasn’t allowed in our house, but as my ever-reasonable father pointed out, fruitcake doesn’t meet any of the normal criteria for food.

As it turned out, we were on the cutting edge. More and more often, people “just said no” to fruitcake. When the good folk of Manitou Springs, Colorado caught on, they ritualized the tossing of the fruitcake. Today, The Great Fruitcake Toss has become a Chamber of Commerce event involving catapults, relay teams, high school science classes and spatula races. As a particularly nice touch, local motels provide guests with personalized, heavy-duty fruitcakes, making it possible for them to take part in the competitions.

Eventually, I moved away from home and began discovering little fruitcake-free zones scattered around the world.  But once I moved to Texas, there was no avoiding fruitcake aficionados or that apotheosis of fruitcake production, the Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana. As the Handbook of Texas notes, the place has quite a history.

 In 1896 August Weidmann, a young German immigrant, opened a bakery on Collin Street in Corsicana, with financial backing from Tom McElwee, a local cotton buyer and opera-house proprietor. Weidmann’s specialty was fruitcake baked by a recipe he had brought with him from his native country. McElwee suggested the trade name DeLuxe Fruitcake for the product.
In 1906 the business was moved to a location on Sixth Avenue, and there McElwee opened an exclusive hotel on the second floor of the bakery. Enrico Caruso, John J. McGraw, and Will Rogers were among the celebrities who stayed at the hotel at various times. In 1914 a Ringling Brothers circus troupe, in Corsicana for a performance, bought dozens of DeLuxe Fruitcakes to give as Christmas gifts to friends and relatives all over the United States and in Europe. As a result, the bakery received an overwhelming number of orders from the recipients for more cakes, and the company’s mail-order business resulted.

When new friends discovered I’d never eaten a Collin Street cake, a fruitcake party was arranged.  Everyone was to bring their own version of fruit-and-cake, with the famous Texas fruitcake rounding out the menu. There were some delicious offerings, to be sure – pear tortes and mincemeat tarts,  apple-raisin-and-walnut cakes,  povitica and panettone. I brought along my California fruitcake, a lovely concoction of apricots, dates and pecans that fit in nicely.

After a couple of hours of coffee, desserts and chit-chat, the Collin Street cake was sliced and passed around. I ate my portion, graciously agreed that it was very nice, and thought to myself, I’ll not be buying one of these things. When the hostess asked if anyone would like to add a cake or two – or six – to the order she was placing, I resisted the group’s urging and declined. And that was that.

Or so I thought, until the afternoon I stopped to pick up my mail and discovered a form tucked in among the bills and grocery ads, telling me I had a parcel waiting in the apartment office. When I walked in, the manager already had seen the package and waved me into the mail room. Digging through the mass of boxes, I couldn’t find it.  Peeking around the corner, I asked if she was sure it was there and she started to laugh. “What?” she said. “How could you miss it? It’s right there in front of you.”

And so it was.  On a lovely box imprinted with a scene that appeared to be a cross between frontier Texas and Victorian England, I saw my address and the words “Collin Street Bakery”. Laughing, I balanced the box on one hand. Judging from its heft, it was, indeed, one of Corsicana’s finest – a fruitcake in that famous red tin, studded with pecans and weighing about six pounds.

Convinced one of the fruitcake nuts had decided to play a joke, I opened the box and discovered an even more amusing truth. The enclosed gift card bore the name of a friend in England. The cake wasn’t a joke occasioned by my fruitcake-criticism, but a lovely, seasonal gift – sent from the Fruitcake Gods by way of my friend to remind me of that basic truth of life: You cannot escape The Fruitcake.

After calling my friend to thank her, I carried the cake down to my mother’s apartment and brought it out after dinner. “Oh!” she said. “Fruitcake! From the Collin Street Bakery! Wherever did you find this?”  While I made coffee and cut a couple of slices, I explained it had been sent as a gift and laughed again as my mother channeled her mother-in-law. “Oh!” she said. “Jean! Such a nice woman! So nice of her to send you a cake!”

As we tucked into it, I picked my way around the candied cherries and citron while Mom made her way through three slices. “My,” she said. “I wish your dad was here. He always did love a good fruitcake.” “Umhmmm…” I said, as I gathered the plates. I thought of the multitude of fruitcakes my dad had disposed of, and how proud he would be to see me nestling the rest of this one next to Mom’s coffee pot. 

“You’d better take your fruitcake with you,” she said, as I headed for the door. “Oh, that’s ok,” I said. “Jean will be delighted to know I shared it with you. Whenever I get an urge for fruitcake, I’ll just stop by and cut myself a slice.”

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  1. I’m just laughing!!!! Brilliant!

    PS I kinda like the pecan cake from that bakery that starts with an “E” I think it is, in Palestine, TX. :) Daddy used to order it for Christmas, but he liked certain fruitcakes, too, though!

    • Wendy,

      If I can make you laugh, I’m happy! And that would be the Eilenberger Bakery . They do bill their product as a Texas Pecan cake because it has a much higher proportion of pecans – all to the good, in my opinion.

      I do have a recipe for a fruitcake cookie that’s marvelous. It has red and green cherries and citron, but many more bourbon-soaked raisins and pecans, plus a good bit of nutmeg, clove and cinnamon. They’re yummy! If you want the recipe, I’ll send it along. I guess the Christmas season has begun!

      Linda

  2. Hello Linda:

    In Panama, fruitcakes are part of our midnight Christmas dinner, as well as pears, apples, grapes, sweet red wine, a special bread called “Moña”, eggnog, and turkey.

    We usually buy our Christmas fruitcake at SmartPrice, a U.S. chain of club warehouses which were once part of the PriceCosco empire.
    If there is not a fruit cake on the table, it’s not a Christmas dinner, and I’ll leave at that.

    That’s the only month of the year we eat fruit cakes. On any other month, it just doesn’t taste right. It’s all in my head, I know.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts about this special cake made with fruits.

    Warm Regards,
    Omar.-

    • Omar,

      I’d like your Moña. I looked up the recipe, and it’s very much like a rich brioche, or challah. At least, that’s what it looks like to me. My grandmother (the one who cut up that fruitcake for her son!) made wonderful saffron buns each Christmas.

      As you say, there are special foods that we associate with various holidays. Because of my Swedish background, the signal that I’m ready to start thinking about Christmas is a sudden obsession with pickled herring! Other Christmas foods for me are fudge, eggnog, stollen (another fruited bread), various butter cookies and decorated sugar cookies. Funny how we never associate broccoli with holidays!

      And you’re right about the fruitcake. It had to be on the table, even if no one ate it! Funny, how these things develop. Well, may all our cakes be sweet, no matter what form they take!

      Linda

  3. To my everlasting shame I have to admit that I kinda LIKE fruitcake with a cup of really good coffee. But people always did think I was a little bit strange.

    • Richard,

      The truth is, there are plenty of people who like fruitcake. They wouldn’t be selling tons of the stuff if there weren’t. What’s strange is that my favorite holiday cookie has many of the same ingredients, yet I find it so much more appealing. C’est la vie, I suppose. Or, vive la différence. The important thing is to have a cup of really good coffee and something!

      Linda

  4. I’m with you and your dad on fruitcake — at least the one you remember that lived 180 degrees away from the one your Mom remembers! Fruit pies are much harder to resist!

    • Janell,

      Isn’t it funny to compare the stories people tell about the past? Now I’ll never know, but I do wonder – did Dad conceal his fruitcake crimes, or was Mom just not paying attention? Whichever, I never told her the truth about all those fruitcakes.

      Actually, she must not have been fond of fruitcake in those days, or Dad would have just given them all to her. Parental mystery #739!

      You’re absolutely right about those pies. The Christmas pies never varied: apple, mince, pumpkin and pecan. And every time the cakes and pies were on the table, Dad would ask me, “Pie are square?” “No!” I’d say. “Cake are square. Pie are round!”

      I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful. I’m hearing rumors of really cold up there – winter is icumen in!

      Linda

  5. hmmmm…my MIL must have brainwashed me. Just a few years into my marriage, I came to find her fruitcake was quite tasty. I’m with you in that the canned name brand is rather dry and one tastes like another. However, we always stop on the way to Dallas to visit. We almost choked “sans” fruitcake in our mouth when we saw the price of the dinky cakes going for $35 a round!!!

    We did walk out with the pecan brittle, though. Why, we even introduced blog celebrity Andy the traveling armadillo to it last spring when he stayed with us for a month.

    I always liked Johnny Carson. He always had his fingers right on the pulse of the American heartland. Funny post.

    • Georgette,

      I discovered one possible reason for the similarities among tinned fruitcakes – the move to ingredients such as modified corn syrup. I can’t find the blog entry now, but there is one that traces changes in ingredients for commercially-made fruitcakes. In the beginning,companies like Collin Street used ingredients that more closely resembled those we use at home. Perhaps they built their reputations on better-tasting cakes, and then things started going downhill.

      Funny you should mention the pecan brittle. It just made an appearance at my meat market last week – a sure sign of the approaching holidays. Pralines are nice, but I prefer the pecan brittle because it has more nuts.

      I vaguely remember Jack Parr, but Johnny was must-see tv at our house. My mom and I were watching the night of the famous tomahawk throw . Now, that’s reality tv!

      Linda

  6. OK. I’m trying very hard not to laugh out loud any more than could be considered a cough or a mild asthma attack because I’m reading this at work and really — that’s a bad spot to read anything this funny or this well written. Talk about fruitcake karma — you have it in spades!

    My mother was one of the few, the proud, the fruitcake eaters. Each year we would get our Claxton fruitcake. She’d try to pawn it off on us and neither my dad nor I would bite. Literally. Then of course, another would come as a gift. Even she would tire of it!

    Many moons later, as an adult orphan, I saw a display of Claxton fruitcakes at the store. I almost bought one for old time’s sake, just to see if they were as wretched as I remembered. And then I thought, “No. I like that memory of wretched!”

    Hadn’t heard that Johnny quote — so true!

    • jeanie,

      Now there’s a thought – I could start adding tags at the top like “NSFW – humor”! I’m glad you got a kick out of it. I certainly enjoyed remembering all this – and when I found the Gorey illustration – well, that was just too perfect. I still laugh every time I look at it.

      I’ve never heard of Claxton Fruitcakes – I see they’re in Georgia, and I also see that the city of Claxton claims to be the fruitcake capital of the world. I suppose we’ll have to let Claxton and Corsicana figure that one out on their own.

      I love your story of being tempted toward another fruitcake, “just to see”. I went through the same thing when Hostess folded. I hadn’t had a Twinkie or Chocolate Cream Cupcake in at least 30 years, but knowing they were going to disappear, I just had to compare the reality to the memory. The Twinkies were fully as bad as I remembered, and I only ate half of one, but the chocolate cupcakes were at least passable.

      Here’s to your mother and mine – fruitcakes may come and fruitcakes may go, but our memories linger forever.

      Linda

  7. “He always did love a good fruitcake.” This line had me hooting!

    I don’t have many memories of fruitcake, simply that I wondered why the Garfield comic strip (et al) poked such fun at the . . . phenomenon . . . straight up until the moment I had a bite of my first one. I gave it another couple of tries over the years just in case some friend or another had indeed perfected the recipe, but I just don’t think there’s a way to perfect something that should never have been more than a fleeting notion to begin with.

    • Deborah,

      Poor Mom. She usually was on top of things, but I guess she missed it with Dad and fruitcake. ;)

      Phenomenon’s the right word, I think. There’s even a Snopes entry on fruitcake, for heaven’s sake – having to do with a humorous recipe that made the rounds for a few years. The point was that, once you have the brandy for the cake, the more you pour into yourself, the better the cake tastes.

      Once upon a time, I did hear that, in days of olde when cooks were bolde, fruitcakes were a way of preserving baked goods without refrigeration. I suppose if you pour enough brandy on them it would work. But we have refrigerators now, and freezers, too, so we should be able to focus on taste, not practicality!

      Linda

  8. Linda, what a delightful smattering of stories! I must be the lone person in the world who really likes fruitcake, though I can take it only in small doses. And truly, the Collin Street Bakery carries just about the finest fruitcake ever — if you don’t like that, you really don’t like fruitcake. How the poor fruitcake got saddled with such a lousy reputation is anyone’s guess!

    • Debbie,

      So you’re a Collin Street fan, too! It really is interesting to see how many people have bumped up against those cakes. Since they’re sold only by mail order or at the three stores, it takes a little effort to actually get one.

      I just learned something else I didn’t know. After Johnny Carson made his crack about there only being one fruitcake in the world, fruitcake sales took a dive. Apparently business gift-givers, especially, didn’t want their recipients to think they were making a joke! An article in the San Antonio times said Collin Street helped keep the industry alive during that down time.

      Who knows? Maybe Johnny Carson was partly responsible for the poor fruitcake’s diminished reputation!

      Linda

  9. I must admit…I’ve never met a fruitcake I could really like. But, I loved your tale of fruitcakes old and new.

    I would think the tins would make great gag gifts. Given to someone you know who doesn’t eat them and they wouldn’t even need a cake in them…Just a weight…Emmm…Never mind.

    • Gary,

      A nice bag of flour would work, or sugar. The weight would be just about right, and it wouldn’t make any noise at all as you handed over the tin. ;)

      We used to have a lot of fun with those gift exchanges and gag gifts. I can’t remember the last time I was involved with one of those – I guess it would have been in my office-working days. Since I’ve moved out on the dock, a lot of things that are normal parts of corporate life just don’t apply.

      Hope your Thanksgiving was great. The Friday after I was sort of in your area, down on Hall’s Bayou.The color is just setting in – we have some trees around here now that are becoming vibrant, especially in the sunshine. We didn’t get a drop of rain with this last front, but maybe later in the week. We’ll hope!

      Linda

      • Or maybe turn the tin into a fruitcake kit…With all of the ingredients and let the recipient decide what went in…For me….Just the brandy will do.

        Thanksgiving was great…35 members of our family at my 79 year old mom’s house. She is threatening to make it her last…We’ll see if she can break tradition next year.

        The red oak in my backyard is at peak and starting to drop leaves this weekend. Should we ever get a rain they’ll all fall down. Still none down my way even though it’s rained all around me….

        • Your mom is a young’un. If she’s in good health, I’ll bet she won’t be able to give it up quite yet. But now that I think of it, Mom would have been about 80 when she said “No Mas!” She’d still snap a green bean or two, but was happy to say enough with the pie baking and turkey roasting.

          Most of the tallows are dropping here now, but there are some spectacular Bradford pears, Japanese maples and such. And the cypress finally are turning. December 1 – my goodness!

          Linda

  10. When I saw your title The Fruitcake’s Revenge, I first thought of the sense of fruitcake as ‘a crazy person.’ Then I realized that that’s slang to the second power (if there is such thing). The ‘crazy person’ sense of fruitcake must have come from the phrase “nutty as a fruitcake,” where nutty had earlier developed its own slang sense of ‘crazy.’

    In any case, although fruitcakes may have driven you nutty, the fruits of that nuttiness include today’s post.

    • Steve,

      Slang to the second power? That’s good! Actually, I never thought of “fruitcake” as “crazy” while I was writing this. I’ve often heard and used “nutty”, or “nutty as a fruitcake”, but “fruitcake” on its own isn’t an expression I remember. Time and place determine so much when it comes to slang.

      You did remind me of an old expression my dad and his friends used to make use of – “Well, that’s the nuts”. I discovered the phrase comes from poker, where “the nuts” is the best possible hand, the unbeatable hand. If Dad was working on a project and got stymied, he’d often say, “Well, ain’t that the nuts?” That is, the engine or whatever held the unbeatable hand. Now I wonder if the shorter phrase “Aw, nuts!” might be related.

      Well, that’s a long way from cake-baking, although I certainly can imagine my Dad thinking “Well, that’s the nuts” when Grandma set that fruitcake down in front of him!

      Linda

  11. Love this fruitcake story. Actually, you have never eaten any that was made by a German that knew how to cook. Her fruitcakes did not stand a chance once it was cut. I have my aunt’s recipe and someday I will make it. The cake is moist, does not crumble, is not gummy, does not stick to your teeth, and you will not want to stop with just one slice. It is ultra delicious.

    The Collin Street Bakery bless their pea picking hearts has the crappiest cake that I have ever tasted. How they continue to sell those cakes is beyond me.

    • Petspeopleandlife,

      You’re right – I’ve never had a German-made fruitcake, although I’ve been in Texas long enough to have had some fine German food and to have learned that those ladies can COOK! What amazes me is the variety of cakes that people are willing to call “fruitcake”. I did notice that Collin Street sells an apricot and pecan cake that sounds very much like my apricot, date and pecan cake, which is scrumptious. But I’d still put mine up against theirs, and expect to win.

      The good news for Collin Street is that there are plenty of people who do want their cakes. From what I’ve read, they have the international market pretty much sewn up. That’s where fruitcakes shine. If you ship a fruitcake off to someone in Pango Pango, you don’t have to worry about it going bad in transit! But I suspect if I had your aunt’s fruitcake in front of me, I’d take it over Collin Street any day.

      Linda

      • Indeed you would. It is even better than chocolate cake. But your cake receipe sounds very good and it coiuld easily be called a fruit cake. I don’t think that a fruitcake needs 15-20 ingredients to be called a fruit cake. Colin Street is just not good. Somehow those people made a name for themselves and poeple don’t know that other companies make really cakes that are even better.

        Are you up to posting your cake receipe? I make pumpkin bread which really is not cake but my adult children love the stuff and I make then about 3 each for christmas. (mine has no eggs, no butter,. (Made with canola, sunflower, or safflower oil, pumpkin, sugar, flour, soda, salt, spices, dates, raisins, pecans, apricots.)

        • I’d be happy to share the recipe. I’ll put it in a text file later tonight or tomorrow and send it along to those who’d like to see it. It’s not actually a fruit CAKE, but a fruitcake cookie. The recipe makes a huge amount, and they keep a good while. They’re moist and spicy, and taste like Christmas to me.

  12. Receiving this post in my email inbox was like getting a holiday gift in the mail…but not a fruitcake, thank ye very much.

    • Martha,

      Now, that tickles me. Who doesn’t like a little gift or two – and who among us isn’t ready for a little relaxation and holiday spirit?

      But no – no fruitcake. Just a fruitcake story, to help us remember how much we enjoy it, or don’t!

      Linda

  13. I shake my head in wonder……. forgive me, but it appears to be yet another case of your countrymen/women taking a perfectly good recipe and turning it into something totally different. The English/Australian style fruitcake is definitely not dry. Oh no! Well, maybe the chain store type ones are these days, full of non-real ingredients as well. But a true CWA (Country Women’s Association) fruitcake is a joy to behold – and consume! Oh but for the tyranny of distance, I would deliver one to you myself :-)

    • eremophila,

      I’m becoming fruitcake-educated, for sure, and one of the differences I’ve noted between the cakes that my friends make and what you pick up from a commercial venture is time and patience. A friend in England makes Christmas cakes, as I believe she calls them, and she begins a full month or even more before Christmas. They’re constructed, steamed, marinated, turned, marinated, turned… And by the time the knife gets applied, they’re lovely, luscious concoctions. It’s slow food, writ large. It’s no wonder in this fast-food society many of our traditional foods are being transformed. We’re getting the fruitcake we deserve!

      Wouldn’t it be fun to share a bite of your CWA fruitcake? One of my only real frustrations with blogging is that I can’t meet everyone I enjoy so much online!

      Linda

  14. LOL … I have tasted more awful fruitcakes than good ones… that being said, I do enjoy fruitcake very much … especially my grandmother’s! She made both a light and dark one, because not everyone in the family liked just one version … the darker one had more spices in it. Both of her variations had LOADS of pecans (to me part of the key) … we have tried to recreate it, but have not reached it yet. I know not to give it as a gift, unless it is to a true fruitcake lover. It is just more for me to enjoy throughout the year!! Guess now, I am going to have an “envie” for a slice, and nary a one can be found at the moment!! :D Thanks for the chuckle!!

    • becca,

      I’d forgotten that distinction between dark and light cakes. My fruitcake cookies would qualify as dark because of all the spices, and it’s primarily bourbon-soaked raisins and pecans with a sprinkling of citron and cherries. Even some of my non-fruitcake-loving friends like the cookies, so I make them every year. The hardest part is finding the citron, but this year I found all the ingredients before Thanksgiving.

      And now I know – your “envie” is my “hankering”! This is the time of year when I have an envie for a lot of things – certain cookies, eggnog, pork-and-potato sausage (much like a Swedish boudin!)
      Apparently our memories involve our taste buds as much as our brains!

      Linda

      • Linda — by any chance, does your cookie recipe include condensed milk? I tasted some fruitcake cookies years ago with condensed milk — and have been on a search since for the recipe.

        YES, our memories (or at least mine ;-) ) do involve my taste buds … sometimes more than my brain!! LOL

        • A couple of folks have asked for the recipe, so I’ll send you a copy once I have it typed up. I still make mine from a batter-splattered 4×6 card, so it’s probably time to update anyway.
          It doesn’t use condensed milk, though. I’ll ask my cookie guru if she has such a recipe tucked away – she has nearly a thousand cookie recipes!

  15. Love that last line – so practical. Those tins take up so much room…for a long time…

    Actually, I LOVE fruitcake – Collins bakery is good – a bit sticky, but lots of fruit (they have a store in I45 halfway to Dallas/Houston now – you can get samples and ones that are a bit lopsided)

    My favorite is actually a Texas Pecan Cake fruitcake from Palestine’s German Eilenberger Bakery (since 1898. They had all the ancient machines there you could see…and they are not gummy at all) Actually Eilenberger’s was sold to an out of state company that desperately wanted the recipes and closed the original location – but it was reclaimed by the family and is back up and running – mostly done by hand.
    If you are in Palestine to see the dogwoods or ride the old train, stop by the tea room. ALL their bake goods are wonderful – they even would make special cakes and cookies for my dad after he became diabetic. Here’s their site: Eilenberger Bakery

    My husband has the 1950’s vintage recipe from his mom. It starts with a huge ceramic bowl bought just for making the Christmas fruitcakes. We have the bowl, but haven’t ventured into making the cakes. We don’t know what we would do with it all – no matter how good it is…there’s a limit to what you can eat!

    • phil,

      I just learned that Collin Street’s opened that additional location. It might be worth a trip, if they give samples. I wouldn’t be willing to plunk down dollars for a commercial cake unless I could taste it first, even though they have a couple of specialty cakes that sound appetizing.

      I didn’t know anything about Eilenberger’s until Bayou Woman mentioned above that her dad used to like a cake from Palestine made by some company whose name began with “E”. Now I’ve got the history, and your recommendation. I’ve never been up there to ride the train, even though I keep muttering about it. I suppose I’d wait until dogwood season now, but it’s good to know there’s another attraction up there to be explored.

      I love that the family got it back, and that they still understand real customer service. Your tale of them making specialties for your dad reminds me of our old-fashioned meat locker – hang the beef as long as you want, and get the custom cutting and packaging you want. Talk about the good old days!

      I understand about that bowl. I gave up the ceramic one for stainless, just because of the weight, but it takes a big one. I wish it would rain for a couple of days – and get cold – so I could really get in the mood for baking. Even after all these years down here, I still have a hard time understanding that it’s nearly Christmas when it’s in the seventies and the trees all have their leaves!

      Linda

      • FYI. The train usually makes a Polar Express run around Christmas for kids and families. It used to also do a trip with a mystery theme entertainment at times. You can ride just one way if there’s someone to give you a ride back to your car.
        And I agree. Hard to get moving on the decorating when it’s 80 and flowers are still blooming.

        • If they ever do an E. Gorey run, I’m on that train! As for decorating – I actually cut out a paper snowflake this morning. I need to download some patterns – I thought snowflake chains would be a good decoration for my friend’s room at rehab. She’s going to be there through the New Year, so there’s a need for some holiday cheer that no one will steal. ;)

          • Snowflakes – very cool ( hmm, you fit right in with post that’s simmering….)
            If you go to Palestine – take camera – it was quite an affluent RR town in the past – lots of big Victorian homes – some in excellent repair. And an old brick school that citizens rallied to save – now a museum and a park.
            Maybe set up the manger scene for a start – it’s made up oaf animals/angels over the years – some from my Grandmother…and a few animals from around the world which my parents found on trips. Have to admit setting it up has always been one of my favorite things since I was little

  16. My father LOVES fruitcake. It was my mom’s special gift to him every year because none of the rest of us would touch it. She would lovingly skulk to the liquor store each year to get the bourbon (well, surely not EVERY year because it only needed some of the bourbon, not all, & other than this cake we were all teetotalers). She was always afraid she’d meet someone she knew.

    One year she went to the ABC store clear across town & still ran into an acquaintance! She would bake the cake with the bourbon in it & then my dad would wrap it up in towels & soak the towels with bourbon. Smelled like an entire distillery. My husband loves it too. I won’t touch the thing myself!

    • The Bug,

      You’re exactly right. Depending on how many batches of cookies I make, one bottle of bourbon lasts two years. Well, except for the year Mom got a sudden taste for whiskey sours and it only lasted one year. That’s what she and Dad would nurse along during their bridge games. I guess she was feeling nostalgic.

      Isn’t it fun to make special treats for people, like your mom did for your dad? And it’s even more special when folks go to the trouble of making something they don’t like. Of course, as one of my friends says, it’s always better to make holiday treats you despise, because there’s less chance you’ll eat them all up and have to make another batch to give away. ;)

      Linda

  17. I love panforte. But the packaged fruitcakes of my Midwestern childhood were pretty nasty.

    Thanks for the Gorey drawing. He’s dear to me.

    • Martha,

      I’ve heard about panforte, but never tasted it. I took a look at some recipes and the addition of that chocolate puts it in the “must try” column immediately.

      I know it’s not the same, but its similar to a date-nut roll my mom made. I haven’t thought about it in years. It’s one of those old-fashioned recipes that began disappearing about the same time tuna hotdish and molded jello salads lost their caché – except it hasn’t disappeared. There are multiple online recipes, and I’m sure I can find the exact one with a little looking.

      Isn’t Gorey wonderful? When I found that combination of Gorey and fruitcake, I couldn’t believe it. Glad you enjoyed it, too.

      Linda

      • I love, love date bar cookies. Maybe your Mom’s creation was similar. All lovely, lovely holiday treats.

        You really must try the classic panforte, too. That would be without chocolate. It’s really worth the effort to find one. Imported from Italy would be a fine idea!

        • I’ll make the panforte part of this year’s celebration, and report back! I suspect it’s not in local stores, but I’ll be making trips into Houston and can find it there. Thanks for the tip!

  18. This has really given me a good chuckle :) I love the way you’ve woven all these ghastly sounding fruitcakes into your story – they are obviously destined to be sticking around you throughout this life and the next ones! Christmas is the definitely a good time for recycling things…but it can end with trouble…

    • thinkingcowgirl,

      My dad’s been gone for over thirty years, but if he were here today I could tell him he wasn’t tossing out – he was recycling or regifting!
      You’re right though – you have to be careful about who you pass things on to. There’s nothing worse than handing a gift back to the person who gave it to you originally!

      I thought of you today when I picked up the mail and found a mail-order catalogue advertising crumpets and scones, among other things. ‘Tis the season to market foods – maybe they’re going for the non-fruitcake-eating crowd!

      Linda

      • You can’t beat a good crumpet dripping with butter and honey :)

        I don’t know if sending Christmas cards is a big thing in the US but it’s out of control here! It can get pretty expensive as the post has really gone up. Sometimes it just seems like a big old waste of paper. We started recycling cards – re-making them the following year – but you have to make sure that you pencil mark who sent what or they could end up right back where they started! I’m trying to ignore the frenzy this year – everytime something over-excited comes on the telly I start deep breathing!

        My dad liked fruitcake it was a favourite. But like some of your other commenters I don’t think it’s like what you describe. I’ve got really fussy about cake – anything mass produced just doesn’t cut the mustard! Luckily there are quite a few artisan bakers and trusty WI stalls around here so if I can’t be bothered to make one it’s easy enough to get teatime satisfaction. I’m like you about fruitcake though – give me a Lemon Drizzle anyday!

        • For a while people got enthused about electronic cards, but this year I’m going back to paper ones. There’s just something about them that’s so – traditional? Memory-laden, anyway. In my growing-up years, the cards were an important part of decorating, and we always saved them for art projects through the year. Besides, it’s nice to have something you can touch and hold. This probably explains why I’m still sticking with books instead of a Kindle.

  19. Lots of smiles here! Our family fruitcake was spicy, dark, moist, not too sweet, and full of raisins, dates, nuts, and candied peels (orange and grapefruit). Yes, there were a few red and green candied cherries, but very few. I was astonished when I went out into The World and discovered those other “fruitcakes”!

    Often I’m brought up short when I’m chatting with Mom and one of us mentions a memory from years ago, and she tells me that my memory is incorrect. I’ve learned not to argue, but it’s a bit unsettling to have totally opposite recollections, as you and your mother did about your dad and fruitcakes!

    • NumberWise,

      Your cake sounds good, although I’ve never been too fond of the candied peels. That may be another instance of homemade being better than purchased. I’ve seen a lot of recipes for candied peel this year, and it isn’t really that hard to do. I am a little partial to orange peel dipped in dark chocolate.

      Your story of discovering the “other fruitcakes” reminds me of a story a friend told me about his first year at Scout camp. The boys were served rice one night, and he put gravy on his. Some of the other doused theirs with sugar and then poured milk over it all. To hear him tell it, it was a little like two primitive tribes bumping into each other in the jungle, looking one another over and thinking, “What the….?!”

      Alternate memories of the same event or behavior patterns really intrigue me. I’ve never understood why some people get so upset that Matthew, Mark and Luke include different details in their stories. They just were sitting on different sides of the table. ;)

      Linda

  20. Oh, did this bring back memories! I actually remember my mother making one at Thanksgiving, drowning it in some liquor of one sort or another, and then placing it into a can till Christmas. I remember trying it and finding that all I could taste was the alcohol she’d used on it. Awful, it was really awful! I put fruitcake right up there with mincemeat pies and eggnog for noxious holiday fare not fit for human consumption! I often wonder if some of these traditions didn’t come from times when refrigeration wasn’t an option and you needed a way to preserve the treats for traveling or mailing. ;)
    ~Lynda

    • Lynda,

      Clearly, the preservation aspect of all that alcohol was a big advantage. From what I’ve read, if you’re going to combine brandy, sherry, bourbon or whatever with cake, it’s important to let the spirits soak in over time. Obviously, your mom did that. Maybe it just needed a couple more weeks to soak! When I make my fruitcake cookies, the raisins sit around in bourbon for a couple of days. Eventually, they soak it all up, and the flavor’s pretty mellow.

      I do like mincemeat pies, but only the fruit variety. I tried a meat mincemeat once, and didn’t like it at all. I like eggnog, too, but both of those are purely Christmas/New Year’s treats. One serving, once a year, and I’m happy.

      You must have something that “makes” Christmas for you when it comes to food. You lived in Cali – I’ll bet you’d like my fruitcake that’s just apricots, dates and pecans. There’s just enough batter to hold everything together – luscious!

      Linda

      • Maybe you will share the recipe, and then I could make it gluten free? ;)

        You know I am trying to think of what that something could be… but, it sure isn’t coming to mind. There are things I miss from holiday meals. Pies with REAL crust, REAL stuffing, REAL buttery rolls made with milk. But I miss all that because I simply can’t have it anymore. :|

        Oh wait! I used to like it when the neighbors made cookies and shared them with Bob’s parents. I always made sure to get this cookie that seemed to be layered with peanut butter and chocolate and a sprinkle of flaked pecans over the top. They were cut into bars. I liked the Lemon bars with powdered sugar on top too, Oh yes, and the sugar cookies with real buttercream frosting. So I guess the answer would be THE COOKIES! ;)

        • I’d be happy to share the recipe. And I’ll send along another recipe for a macaroon-like oatmeal cookie that ought to be just fine for a gluten-free diet, if you can find oats that are labeled gluten free. (I had no idea they could be contaminated with wheat during processing, etc.) The oatmeal macaroons are delicious, and for some strange reason they always cured sea-sickness. I’m not sure what that’s about!

  21. I’m not that fond of fruitcake, but find plum pudding even less appealing. My wife’s family had a holiday tradition of hiding an almond in the pudding, and we all had to eat until the almond was found. The finder won a prize (usually chocolate), even while we all found ourselves in agony, the pudding landing in our stomachs like a ton of bricks. This tradition has since been left behind, or rather transposed, with almond now being hidden in butter tarts, which I love!

    • Allen,

      I’ve never eaten plum pudding, but one year I discovered a confectioner selling sugar plums, and gave them a try. They weren’t very good. Why children might dream of them on Christmas Eve, I haven’t a clue.

      Christmas meant traditional Swedish foods for our family, and Grandma’s baked rice pudding (with a meringue top!) always had an almond buried in it. I can’t remember what the significance of finding it was – I only remember I did find it one year and everyone made a fuss over me. Perhaps that was the point – Swedes don’t usually make a fuss over anything, so it could be that being fussed over was the prize!

      Linda

      • Oh yes, I know a little of that Scandinavian understatement, but perhaps I have said too much.

  22. That bit you mentioned about how the commercial fruitcake perpetrators had changed ingredients over the years — they don’t put brandy in their fruit cakes either. An English blog friend makes a kind of fruit cake that she starts about a month ahead of time, then periodically douses it with brandy and leaves it sit until the day. The way the recipe sounds, after about the second bite, you’d be so snockered you wouldn’t mind what was in it!

    What I will miss are the pies. My dad always made the best pies — mincemeat, cherry, apple, pecan. He had a pumpkin pie recipe that used coffee creamer, which he would garnish with a halo of pecan halves — I should be as rich as those pies were! One of my earliest memories is of my dad cutting strips for a lattice crust using the wheel of this big egg beater we had — it made them look like they’d been cut out with pinking shears. His mincemeat pies were to die for. He used the old “Nonesuch” mincemeat that came in a brick. You’d have to rehydrate it by simmering it in a pot. One of my favorite ways to stink up a house — LOL! Alas, he has macular degeneration and about ten years ago, he got to the point that he couldn’t see what he was doing and he had to stop cooking.

    I’ve toyed with the idea of trying my hand at it, but you can’t get the old Nonesuch brick of mincemeat any more, and what you can get is priced higher than giraffe’s ears!

    • WOL,

      First, the mincemeat information. I used to use the Nonesuch, too. When it disappeared, I started looking around and now I order Norfolk Manor English Traditional Mincemeat from the Vermont Country Store. Here’s a link to the very page. It is a tad pricey, but since I only make it once a year, I spring for it. The 14.5 ounce jar is a little slim for a 9″ pie, but I adjust by adding some rum-soaked raisins and sometimes chopped nuts, and it does just fine.

      I think your English blog friend is the same one who finally helped me find the place I stayed in London so many years ago. She mentioned Islington, and I remembered that the guesthouse was near Islington Station. A little google-mapping, and there it was. It’s been renamed and refurbished, but it still was recognizable. I presume they have the heating system in better shape. ;)

      It was sad to see my mom lose her ability to cook. She always enjoyed it, and was so good at it, but the time came when inattention often did her in. She’d forget an ingredient, or forget something was in the oven. I became rather good at rescuing dinners, and encouraging the despondent cook.

      I’ve never heard of a pumpkin pie made with coffee creamer. I have a feeling I’d like your dad’s pies!

      Linda

      • I’ll have to see if I can’t hunt up that pumpkin pie recipe and post it on my blog — as a public service — LOL! My dad grew up during the Depression. There were five children, a girl and four boys. At some point when he was growing up, they owned one of those little “mom and pop” grocery stores. My grandpa would get whatever job he could find, and while he was out working, my grandma would tend the store during the day. Because she was occupied with the store, she delegated the household chores to the kids to do after school. My dad was supposed to dust and sweep, and my aunt do the cooking, but she hated cooking. She traded with my dad and he did the cooking. He’d wear my grandma’s apron tied up under his armpits so as not to mess up his school clothes. His friends saw him through the window in that apron, and teased him unmercifully about it. They’d call him “Ruthie” — he was always getting in fights! But he really liked cooking — in fact, he’s the one taught my momma to cook — She grew up on a farm and never learned to cook!.

        • What a great story – there’s a whole lot of adapting to circumstance going on there. It’s the very essence of what we called “making do”, or “making the best of things”. That kind of attitude toward life wasn’t awful – it really was a sign that a good bit of creativity was taking place!

  23. Fruitcake toss?! That takes the cake! I’m firmly on your side when it comes eating the stuff. No thanks.

    When I was growing up, it was the tin of Danish butter cookies. At first, we thought the huge tin quite a boon. My favorites were the ones with raisins in them. Didn’t take long before so many of my dad’s friends were giving them to us that we groaned at the sight.

    • nikki,

      They not only toss, they catapult the things! I did notice some revisions to the rules this year – they no longer have the four-pound heavyweight toss, and now the over-60 set has their very own category! I suppose I should note this is the 17th year for the event, and there is a canned-goods entry fee, to support a local food pantry. ;)

      I’m supposing you mean that ubiquitous dark blue tin of cookies. We had those two, though I’d forgotten the ones with raisins. We only had them if someone gave them to us as a gift, though, as the traditional Swedish butter cookies were a must-have. Mom must have made a hundred dozen of those things. I still remember them sitting in tins and such out in the garage, where they stayed nicely cool in those Iowa winters.

      Linda

  24. I enjoyed this immensely! I have to say that I am not in the camp of the fruitcake afficionado either, lol. However, I do have a friend who loves fruitcake and will take as many of the misbegotten things as people are willing to give her. She puts them in her deep-freeze so she can enjoy them throughout the year. Ugh.

    • leilainparadise,

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the story, even if you don’t like the cakes! And I especially like your use of the word “misbegotten” to describe them. Piling fruitcake into the freezer for year-long enjoyment certainly is taking it to another level, but as they say, to each her own.

      My dad always explained the mystery of people who like fruitcake to me this way: fruitcake-eaters were put on earth so that cookie, candy and pie-eaters would have more to enjoy. ;)

      Enjoy the upcoming season, whatever’s on your table!

      Linda

  25. My goodness, I just realized I haven’t even seen a fruitcake for years. I have been blessed!

    • montucky,

      See? You really are off the beaten path! You live in one of those fruitcake-free zones! Count your blessings, friend!

      Linda

  26. I suppose Fruitcake was invented because some pioneers needed something that would travel well. And, it also served as a very sturdy building material. Ugh. Just cannot eat the stuff.

    • Jean,

      I’ve got a photo of some kin out in front of a soddie in western Nebraska. It wouldn’t take much imagination to see those blocks of sod as nice, uniform bricks of fruitcake. It’s sturdy, that’s for sure. Not only that, experiments have proven that raccoons won’t touch the stuff. ;)

      Linda

  27. Such a great post… Love it! I’m currently in a “fruitcake-free zone,” and was raised in one. When I moved to the States, it was a very curious tradition and creation to me. :)

    p.s. Love the insertion of the E. Gorey image, I adore him and his work.

    • FeyGirl,

      The good news is that fruitcake isn’t necessary for a perfectly satisfactory holiday season. In that sense, it’s rather like snow. I love a white Christmas, and all of Texas nearly went crazy when we had one a few years back, but I don’t have to have snow to enjoy the day.

      So you’re another Gorey fan! I first “met” him through PBS’ “Mystery”. Do you know the show? It was one of my favorites, and this was the introduction. I can’t believe it was one YouTube – but of course nearly everything is on YouTube. ;)

      Linda

      • I ADORE Gorey…. I have one of his prints, and have been stalking some of the limited edition lithographs for YEARS. His oeuvre is so vast. Did you know he also did the poster / design work for the ’70s Broadway “Dracula”? Fantastic. Wish I could’ve seen it.

        There’s a wonderful book titled “The Elephant House: Or, the Home of Edward Gorey” that shows his Cape Cod home, and provides fascinating insight into the man and the artist. It’s a great thing to own, if you like his work.

        • Thanks so much for that recommend on “The Elephant House”. I’m going to look into it.

  28. I enjoyed this a lot, Linda! I didn’t know there are people, who do not like a fruitcake. I have never tasted one (I think. One never knows what names are used for which cake in different parts of the world), but I have heard a lot of people appreciating it.

    A similar thing happens to us around Diwali, when people like to pass around sweetmeats they got as gifts. Everyone is so fed-up with the entire collection, no one really eats them, they just pass it on the next gift-giver. I wonder who eventually eats them!

    • Priya,

      Believe it or not, when I began searching today for the date nut roll that my mom used to make, I found the nearly exact recipe on an Indian food site. The lady whose recipe it is lives (or did live) in Mumbai, and her recipe was included in a collection of sweets for Diwali!

      We didn’t roll ours in poppy seed, but in very finely ground pecans. And pistachios weren’t included – I never ate a pistachio until I left Iowa. Still – what an amazement to see such similarities between cultures.

      As for that taste for fruitcake, I suppose it’s like anything else. People have their preferences, and even the best of the cakes may not appeal. I’ve always taken that as a perfectly good reason to bake with abandon during the holiday season – I wouldn’t want anyone to be left without a sweet that appeals to them!

      Linda

  29. I have eaten one fruitcake in my life that was actually quite good. It may have contained more brandy than usual, and was chased with good coffee, which may have made all the difference.

    A fun holiday post, with your always very readable style.

    • Teresa Evangeline,

      A nice brandied cake, with good coffee and conversation, sounds wonderful. On a cold night, with a fire to go along with it all, it could come very close to perfection.

      I do love the seasons of Advent and Christmas, the darkness of solstice and the coming of winter. Of course we don’t get the sort of winter you do, so that’s an easy thing to say. But there’s nothing like gray, cold and dark to make the simpler pleasures worth more than anything you could buy on Black Friday. ;)

      Linda

  30. I could never remember who it was who said that about there only being one fruitcake. Of course, it would have been Johnny Carson.

    My grandmother made fruitcakes and the memory of those is special, much like Omar describes way up there. I have politely tasted others but have always believed that perhaps it was the store-bought nature that made them less than authentic and less than memorable, at least in a pleasant way.

    Each year I think of making one myself, although I do not have my grandmother’s recipe, since very little of what she made was written down. Then I think that I wouldn’t presume to give one as a gift or ask others to share one, since fruitcake is one of those things we love to hate.

    I guess what I’m saying is, I’m undecided on fruitcake, much like I am on pumpkin.

    • Hippie,

      Johnny Carson was smart and funny, rather than shocking, tasteless and funny. I miss him.

      I still have the memory of my grandmother baking, just dipping into the flour or whatever with barely a second glance. I suppose the dailyness of it all made it almost reflexive. I measure like crazy when baking, but add thinners and such to my varnish without a thought. When someone asks how much of this or that they should add, I can’t answer. Or, the only answer I can come up with is “add as much as it needs”. Funny.

      And I think we have a consensus emerging here that “store-bought” vs “home-made” is a big issue with fruitcakes. It’s analogous to the tomato issue. There is no comparison between a vine-ripened, sun-warmed tomato plucked fresh and eaten in the middle of a garden and those red rocks they try to palm off on us in the stores.

      But pumpkin? Oh, my. Pumpkin bread. Pie. Soup. Roasted pumpkin. Pumpkin seeds. I can’t imagine a pumpkin latte, though. A pumpkin frappucino? Maybe. ;)

      Linda

  31. Linda; What a delightful entry and so perfect for getting into the holiday mood! I totally agree with your assessment of fruit cakes: not my favorite, either. I have tried a few varieties over the years and, ugh… heavy, chewy, sticky… sort of like munching on a 10 pound gummy bear cake. My great-grandmother used to make fruit cakes that people oohed and aahed over, but then she started months in advance and the cakes were liberally soaked with some kind of booze (I was too young to be allowed to try any so I have no idea if it was good or what was in it) and I think that the alcoholic additive was a major part of the attraction.

    Back when I was young and first married, my ex-husband & I had a St. Bernard named Ralph who was an incorrigible food thief and I remember the Christmas someone gave us a gift, which was dutifully put under our Christmas tree. Some time later, we returned to the room (the Scene of the Crime) and found the wrapping torn open and a few meager crumbs on the floor- accompanied by an incriminating smear of St. Bernard slime. In the midst of the wrappings was a small note: “Hope you enjoy the fruit cake!” Hubby and I sighed with relief! Dodged that bullet! We had to dissemble a bit to the gift-giver: “Oh, YES! The FAMILY enjoyed it! Thanks so much!” Well, Ralph the St. Bernard was a member of the family, wasn’t he?

    Christmas fruit cakes always remind me of Pee Wee Herman’s holiday special in which he was presented with so many fruitcakes (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLl_2ZmrRkQ) he used them to build and addition to his Playhouse. My Mom though that this was so funny, she taped the episode for me- I mostly liked the hunky construction workers…. after all- you need lots of muscles to build with fruit cakes, don’t you?

    Anyway, I always enjoy your blogs but this one shines! Thanks for the giggles! ~ Beth

    • Beth,

      ‘Tis the season, isn’t it? What you describe as your great-grandmother’s preparation sounds to me very much like what Sandi does. She talks about Christmas “puddings” rather than cakes, but she steams them, like brown bread, and always gets a head start so she can douse them a few times with brandy or something. The nice thing about my fruitcake cookies is that soaking the raisins in bourbon first means no need for extra attention after the fact. Easy is good!

      Love the story of Ralph. He certainly was a member of the family, so I think you’re ok as far as that goes. What tickles me is that I did try once to get my backyard raccoons to take care of a fruitcake, and they wouldn’t have a thing to do with it. I know raccoons like marshallows and Pepperidge Farm Cookies, so I don’t know what the problem was with the fruitcake. Maybe it had a hint of alcohol and they didn’t like that. Has Sammy ever had a taste of the cake? Somehow, I imagine he’s more discerning than Ralph!

      The good thing about building with fruitcake blocks is you don’t need mortar – they stick together by themselves!

      I’m glad to give you some giggles. It’s a good way to begin what’s going to be a special season for you!

      Linda

      • Linda;

        You may be right about my great-grandmother, who was half Welsh and half Pennsylvania Dutch; it wouldn’t surprise me if she didn’t make an old-fashioned steamed pudding. Either way, she was an amazing cook! She never used a cook book, so her daughter, my grandmother asked her to write down some of her favorites and I have some of those hand-written notes. One of the surprises was her recipe for homemade bread, which contained “potato water”. All I can say is that it must have made a difference because her bread was beyond compare!

        Gee, I didn’t think that racoons turned their noses up at many things; either your racoons aren’t gourmets or they had better pickings at someone else’s trash can before they came to your fruit cake. What you needed was a Saint Bernard. I can tell you from experience that they love to eat just about anything that is edible (like bird seed) and many things that aren’t usually considered edible (like crayons, which made for very colorful landmines in the yard) and still ate dog food like it was going out of style.

        Sammy has never had fruit cake; although Bernese Mountain Dogs are closely related to Saint Bernards, he has a much more delicate palate when it comes to food. (When it comes to things not usually consumed, he has the same lack of discriminating taste…. it’s best left unsaid….) But he has sampled some holiday goodies. Last Easter I filled some plastic eggs with jelly beans for the grandkids and after a few jelly beans hit the floor, Sammy followed them around like a shadow, with his head down, brow wrinkled with worry lest he miss a jelly bean, and his rather large maw shaped like an “O”- all the better for quickly sucking up errant beans. I could just see by the expression on his face that he was thinking; “Oh, puh-lease drop some more!!!!” He also happily consumed a mini Three Musketeers candy bar at Halloween, wrapper and all. It had been accidentally bumped off a table top and Sammy was on it like a flash- Athos, Porthos and Aramis didn’t stand a chance.

        It would be interesting to see how long a fruit cake structure would last; with a good roof, it might hold up for some time. Too bad Pee Wee didn’t do an a la “This Old House” series on it so we could watch its progress.

        Yes, I am very much looking forward to December, what with so many young grandchildren! The littlest are toddlers and preschoolers now; such a wonderful age for experiencing the holiday season! ~ Beth

        • Potato water! Of course! Grandma made potato bread, too.We do share so many tasty memories. I know you’re passing them on to those kids!

  32. Full disclosure first so I can run and hide when people throw their fruit cakes at me: I like fruitcake :-)

    However, and this is important, I must stress that I like the English style fruitcake which is the one I grew up with, and is nothing like the American version. Even though we’ve lived in the States for about 15 years, I’ve never tried the Collins Bakery version. Thank god!

    Last Christmas Mr F and I bought a fruitcake for a neighbor as our contribution to her Xmas eve dinner. We were shocked to discover it was just a wet gooey mess of fruit – nothing like the fruit cake we’d known and enjoyed. We were so embarrassed when we got home and our son told us Johnny Carson’s story about the fruit cake no one wants…

    • rosie,

      You can be our token fruitcake lover! Actually, there are several people who’ve surfaced here who like fruitcake, although their definition of what makes a good one can differ. On the other hand, if people throw fruitcakes at you – well, maybe there will be an English one in there somewhere.

      That really is funny about your son telling you the Johnny Carson story. More than anything else, that story has kept Johnny alive in memory. Well, that and his encounters with animals. And his role as the Great Karnak. If he were still on tv, I might not have thrown mine out. ;)

      Fruitcake or no, here’s to a great holiday season, and lots of treats we do enjoy!

      Linda

  33. Ah, the ghastly fruitcake. Whoever was it thought citron was something to eat? Gawd. British and Canadian Christmas cake, however, is a different matter. That, I gladly eat, if it’s on offer (which is rare in these parts).

    • Susan,

      I suddenly realized as I read your comment that I didn’t have a clue what citron is. So, off to the wiki. The first thing I read in the disambiguation made me laugh out loud: “Not to be confused with Citroën”.

      As it turns out, the word applied for centuries to lemons and limes, as well as the citron itself. It looks a bit like a Meyer lemon, but those are delicious and prized around here, and they probably wouldn’t be confused with their more bitter cousin.

      As a matter of fact, Pliny the Elder had a word or two about the citron. Talk about understated: “There is another tree also with the same name of “citrus,” and bears a fruit that is held by some persons in particular dislike for its smell and remarkable bitterness; while, on the other hand, there are some who esteem it very highly. This tree is used as an ornament to houses; it requires, however, no further description.”

      So there. I’ll bet Pliny wouldn’t like fruitcake, either.

      Linda

  34. Oh my, what a rich and delicious post. Seems like you’ll have to escape to Cowtown to avoid the fruitcake. We certainly don’t have such deep-rooted Christmas traditions as yours. But if you spent one Christmas here, you’ll definitely appreciate the fruitcake more, for you’ll miss the festivities, the decorations, the traditional food …. Yes, the malls are busy and there may be some more lights here and there, and turkey dinners at some homes, but mostly it’s just another occasion of going down a shopping list. I’ve enjoyed your humor… even better, no calories!

    • Arti,

      That’s right! All the flavor, none of the calories! What could be better? And as for traditions – you do have Zoolights. I found out about that while I was prowling around looking for information on your elephants. Actually, those long, dark nights and lots of snow are what I miss about the Christmas season. The year we had our Christmas eve snow still is talked about. Maybe I can find a way to repost about that – it’s still one of my favorite Christmas memories.

      On the other hand, when it comes to good traditions and good memories, there’s always this!

      Linda

      • Yes… thanks for the reminder, Linda. I posted this on Christmas Eve last year, and had since uploaded Chris de Burgh’s music on my iPhone. A Northern Nativity … so moving. Thanks!

  35. My mother and all her friends (in NZ) always made a fruitcake for christmas every year. They were always home made, dense dry and covered in almond icing which is disgusting. Then all the women would visit each other and eat slices after christmas with a cup of tea. Miserably we children were always dragged along and I got very good at not catching my sisters eye when we were pushed forward to say thank you very much Mrs Dent your cake was ,lovely (choke) . Your story did bring back memories for me. What lovely writing.. many thanks.. cecilia

    • cecilia,

      It’s amazing to me how these fruitcakes seem to lurk in every part of the globe. (I nearly typed “in every corner of the globe”. I just realized that’s a nonsensical expression. Globes don’t have corners. But I digress…)

      I’ve come across what I imagine to be that almond icing a time or two, and I agree with your assessment. The thought of going from house to house, sharing varieties of cake is remarkable enough on its own. For a child? Oh, my. I remember those days of being dragged along and given instructions to be polite. And you’re right – looking at the floor was a good option.

      Thank you so much for your sweet words. I’m glad you enjoyed the post – and I’ll not foist another cake on you!

      Linda

      • I am deeply grateful for you resisting further foisting. We were always good for my mother, she was fierce! Have a lovely day Linda..c

  36. I had a friend who made me a fruitcake for Christmas. I ate the whole thing while reading Arthur C. Clarke’s “2010: Odyssey Two” over my Christmas work shutdown. This is a precious holiday memory for me that none of you (fruitcake) haters can ever take away. :-)

    • Claudia,

      Now you’ve got me laughing. I recognize the syndrome. The first thing that popped to mind was the two-pound pack of Oreos I put away while live-streaming coverage of Hurricane Ike in a motel room in Tyler. ;)

      I tell you – we make our memories where we can, and some of the — most idiosyncratic — are some of the best in the world. Here’s to a season filled with some new, good ones!

      Linda

  37. Every year, I stare in disbelief at the mountain of fruitcakes displayed at each of our local supermarkets. My immediate thought is the same one I have when I see the pallets of candy in the weeks before Valentine’s Day and Easter: “That’s all going to get eaten in the next month or so.” Well, in the case of the fruitcake, maybe not eaten, but consumed in some manner — purchased, presented, and passed around. I don’t get it (and hope I never do).

    I laughed at your reference to keys to a Mercedes, and the experiment with the year-old fruitcake.

    • Charles,

      Isn’t it amazing? And the funniest thing is, there always are sales of leftover candy after Valentine’s Day and Easter. I never have seen a sale of leftover fruitcakes! That’s a puzzlement worthy of your best posts!

      Who knows? Maybe someone is out there building little houses with the things. There are mysteries in life – sometimes it’s better to let them be.

      My dad was a great one for saying, “I wonder what would happen if…?” As the years pass, I’ve begun to realize how deeply he influenced me.

      May you always live in a fruitcake-free zone!

      Linda

  38. Okay, I know I am getting in here to the discussion a little late but what came to my mind as I laughed my way through your post was one of the first fruit cake “alternatives” that I had back in the 80’s (I think it was)… the original Ya-Hoo !! cake… the cake was dense like a fruitcake but it has cherries, Texas pecans and chocolate chips in it. And the original one comes in the shape of Texas and covered with Pecan halves. I haven’t had one in a long time but it was an amazing thing if I still remember it now. Oh, I just looked it up… here is a link to the company … they still make the cake plus quite a few other items, including …. fruitcake…. yikes… they are out of Sherman, TX….

    http://www.yahoocake.com/The-Original-Texas-Ya-Hoo-Map-Cake/productinfo/TY15/

    Maybe I will order one this year for old time’s sake….

    • debbie,

      Oh, my gosh! In the first place, no comment is ever “late”, but when you show up with hot-off-the-presses information like this – well! I am just beside myself. Not only does that look good, I am a complete sucker for chocolate and cherries. Adding pecans is just another plus. I might have to have one of those myself. In fact, depending on their shipping, I can just imagine myself sending one of those off to my English friend who sent the fruitcake that started this whole thing off. One of those cakes with a copy of this blog entry and all the comments would make quite an unusual gift.

      Yes, I think I’ll have to have one of those cakes. It would make a fine dessert after some chicken pot pie. ;)

      Linda

      ADD: Just checked overseas shipping rates. It was a good idea. ;)

  39. Ok, I just had to leave a comment in favour of the cake you call fruitcake, and we, the Brits, call Christmas cake. Funnily enough, it seems all the supporters of the ‘dreaded’ cake have eaten the British version, or are British! I even saw mention or the revered WI, (Women’s Institute.)

    I loved this Linda, so cleverly written….but if you ever make it over to the UK again you must have some proper Christmas cake, not laced with bourbon, nor weighed down with tropical fruits or strange nuts like pecans, but full of moist, juicy grapes in all their guises, far away spices and plenty of black treacle. Oh, and not to forget the weekly sprinkling of brandy before being topped with almond paste and royal icing!

    A true fruitcake should have memories woven into every bite, not be used in target practice nor as a building material! lol

    • Sandi,

      First I had to find out what treacle might be. Now I have that sorted out – and know that I have to use the black treacle for the cakes, not any of those golden syrups or whatever. (NB: In Cambridge, Massachusetts, there is a treacle tasting society, so we’re not completely uncivilized over here!)

      As for the WI, I see they just made “The Telegraph” today with their new activism vis-a-vis the green belts – and Camilla is a member now. I suspect their recipes are worthy of royalty, and I’ll also bet my friend who moved from Staffs to Wales is a member.

      I agree that the thought of memories woven into every bite is a good one. But with all that brandy sprinkling, however will you remember the construction of the cake? Tell you what – if I ever get over there again, I’ll schedule it for the holidays and give you proper notice, so you can have a cake ready for me. In the meantime, I’ll just have a tot of brandy. ;)

      Linda

  40. Oh my goodness – haven’t you touched a collective (sweet-toothed) nerve here…..I was only able finally to stop a smoker friend from very good-heartedly making me a smoke-flavoured Xmas fruit cake each year when the dentist told my husband that if he didn’t stop eating sweet stuff, his teeth would fall out…..just the excuse I had been waiting for all these years!

    • Anne,

      I have it on good authority that there also are those who appeal to nut allergies, incipient diabetes and fears about poisoning by artificial coloring to head off those fruitcakes at the pass!

      However, I’ve also learned that your Christmas cakes aren’t precisely the same as our commercial fruitcakes, and that the esteemed Women’s Institute can provide guidance for anyone wanting to do it up right. Actually, I’ve surfaced a half-dozen members of the Women’s Institute. From what one friend told me, they are upholders of standards in the best British tradition! There are days when I’m happy to see someone hold up standards of any sort, and Christmas cakes isn’t the worst way for that to happen!

      Linda

  41. Oh my! I have not thought of fruitcakes in a long time! I will be handed my share of ‘rom popi,’ an eggnog/rum sort of drink, and I will remember to be thankful that no one handed me a serving of fruitcake to go with it!
    great post!
    z

    • Z,

      I imagine fruitcakes of this sort are few and far between down there! Now I’m curious about the treats that are common during the season. You’ve named one – maybe there are others you could tell us about!

      Of course, in the end, it’s the eating and drinking, the sharing of food, that counts – not the nature of the food itself. Enjoy the sharing that lies ahead!

      Linda

      • thanks! unless in the city, i see very little change during holidays. christmas and easter remain religious holidays, and even when i’m a guest in someone’s home, i rarely see an open exchange of gifts.. i see evidence of new shoes, new clothes, but the focus is on the history of the event, which of course, i appreciate greatly!
        last year we left my friend’s house around ten thirty at night to go to christmas ‘dinner’ at a nearby cousin’s house. we had white wine, turkey and trimmings and dessert, all ‘traditional’ as in the usa. at midnight, everyone stopped and shook hands/hugged, then resumed eating or visiting!

        new year’s eve? now that’s a great tradition! i’ll be sharing that one again soon!

        hopefully no fruitcakes will find their way here!
        thanks,
        z

  42. OK, then, looks Iike we’ll have to divide the world into fruit cake lovers and haters! l always loved fruitcakes back in Australia. Here in Chile, the supermarkets are currently full of “pan de pascua”, which is not bread (“pan”) at all, but is like a very solid and dry fruitcake. lt’s
    better than it sounds. Really…

    • Andrew,

      There are a lot of variations on fruitcake that beat the American commercial varieties by a mile. And of course, homemade anything tends to be better than commercial anything, unless someone really doesn’t know their way around the kitchen.

      However! I just made a discovery at our farmers’ market yesterday than gladdened my heart. Two women – one Columbian, one Argentinian – have begun a homemade empanada business! They have beef and chicken (both Columbian and Argentinian), spinach and cheese, corn, humita and so on. And, they have the wonderful sweet ones as well – guava and cheese, dulce de leche & banana, dulce de leche & figs. I tried the beef, the chicken and the spinach and cheese, and nearly died with pleasure – they know their business!

      There used to be a wonderful empanada shop in my Houston neighborhood, years and years ago. I ate lunch there often. Now, I can get back to something far better than the standard tuna salad!

      Linda

  43. When I saw the title to this post, I smiled and thought of you!

    http://lornastearoomdelights.com/2013/02/17/fruit-cake-and-fruit-scones

    • And a lovely fruitcake that was, too. I must admit I was a little disappointed she didn’t provide the recipe for the scones, but as she noted, she’s still working on perfecting them. Perhaps in time.
      Now I’m in the mood for my fruitcake cookies!


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