Such a Nice Fruitcake!

Johnny Carson said it, although I never believed it. Every year he began the Christmas season by reminding us that “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.”

Of course his little joke wasn’t based in fact. Every year, multitudes of fruitcakes march like overzealous Nutcrackers into the heart of the holiday season, overflowing store shelves and filling up catalogs. How essentially good ingredients — fruit and cake — can be combined into a ‘treat’ both gummy and dry is beyond me, but the fruitcake people have managed it. I prefer not to waste my holiday calories on something that appears to have been circulating since the days of the Roman Empire, and I’ve always wished Carson were right. If only one fruitcake existed, it would be easier to escape the ghastly conconction.

Behind every fruitcake, of course, lurks a fruitcake-baker, and over the years various friends tried to convince me they’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. Despite their opinions, I never wavered in my conviction that 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 fruitcakes, I was following in my father’s footstep. If co-workers or business associates gave Dad a fruitcake, presenting it to him with smiles so big you’d think they’d just handed over the keys to a Mercedes, Dad always responded graciously. He’d thank the givers profusely, then rid himself of the cake as soon as their backs were 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 put one into a gag-gift exchange, counting himself lucky if he received a fishing lure or risqué necktie in return.

As the fruitcakes piled up, he always gave at least one to my grandparents’ neighbor, Sadie. One memorable Christmas, Sadie’d had enough. She gave the fruitcake to my unknowing grandparents and, ever willing to share, Grandma sliced up the cake and presented it to my dad. “Sadie! Such a nice woman!” she said. “See what she gave us — a fruitcake! Have a piece! Have two!” 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, after lugging home the biggest fruitcake we’d ever seen, he suggested leaving it in the pantry for a year to 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 any better or worse than any other fruitcake. That was the year my frugal father began tossing out any fruitcake that came through the door. Under normal circumstances, wasting 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.

Edward Gorey’s Fruitcake Toss

It seems we were on the cutting edge. As more people became willing to admit their distaste for traditional fruitcake, the good folk of Manitou Springs, Colorado caught on and ritualized the tossing of the fruitcake. Their Great Fruitcake Toss became a Chamber of Commerce event involving catapults, relay teams, high school science classes, and spatula races. Even out-of-town visitors could participate; local motels provided personalized, heavy-duty fruitcakes to anyone wanting to join in the fun.

Eventually, I discovered fruitcake-free zones scattered around the world, but once I moved to Texas, there was no avoiding that apotheosis of fruitcake production, Corsicana’s Collin Street Bakery. 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 friends discovered I’d never eaten a Collin Street cake, a fruitcake party was arranged. Everyone brought their own version of fruit-and-cake, with the famous Texas fruitcake rounding out the menu. There were 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 concoction of apricots, dates, and pecans that fit in nicely.

After a few hours of coffee, desserts, and chit-chat, the Collin Street cake was sliced and passed around. I ate my portion, graciously agreeing, as my father would have, that it was very nice: even as I  thought to myself, I’ll not be buying one of these things. When the hostess asked if anyone would like to add a fruitcake to the order she was placing, I declined. And that, I assumed, was that.

And so it was, until the day I found an unexpected parcel slip in my mailbox. In those pre-Amazon locker days, the manager accepted shipments, but we had to dig through the boxes ourselves. After several minutes of looking, I couldn’t find my package. Hearing my sigh of exasperation, the manager looked around the corner. “How could you miss it?” she said. “It’s right in front of you.”

And so it was. On a box imprinted with a scene that combined frontier Texas with a romanticized winter landscape, I saw my address, and the words Collin Street Bakery. Balancing the box on one hand, I realized it had to be one of Corsicana’s finest: a traditional fruitcake in their famous red tin, studded with pecans and weighing nearly six pounds.

Convinced someone from the fruitcake party had decided to play a joke, I opened the box. The enclosed gift card  bore the name of a friend who lives in England. The fruitcake wasn’t a joke occasioned by my criticisms of the ghastly concoction, but a lovely, seasonal gift sent from the Fruitcake Gods by way of England to affirm Johnny Carson’s truth: You cannot escape The Fruitcake.

After calling my friend to thank her, I carried the cake to my mother’s apartment, and brought it out after dinner. “Oh!” she said. “A fruitcake — and from the Collin Street Bakery! Wherever did you find this?” While I served coffee and cut a few slices, I explained it had been sent as a gift, and laughed as my mother channeled my grandmother. “Oh!” she said. “I remember Jean. Such a nice woman. So nice of her to send you a cake!”

While I picked my way around the candied cherries and citron, Mom made her way through three slices. “It’s too bad,” she said. “I wish your dad was here. He always did love a good fruitcake.” Thinking of the multitudes of fruitcakes my dad had disposed of, I grinned as I gathered the empty plates, knowing that Dad would have been proud to see me tucking the remnants 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. Just for a moment, I paused, then said, “I’ll leave it here. Jean will be pleased to know I shared it with you, and the next time I get an urge for fruitcake, I’ll just stop by and cut myself a slice.”

Comments always are welcome.

157 thoughts on “Such a Nice Fruitcake!

  1. I have lived a sheltered life. I hadn’t realized I am not the only one who would just as soon pass on my chunk of fruitcake. (I feel the same way about chocolate cake BTW, give me a piece banana cream pie any day! If I’m going to eat those empty calories, I might as well enjoy it.

    1. Oh, my. I’m about to play advocate here and say, “But if you had MY chocolate cake, your view would be different!”. Actually, I have an aunt who adores fruitcake but can’t stand the taste of chocolate. To each her own — or his, for that matter! I’m not so fond of banana cream, but coconut cream’s another matter. And who doesn’t love a good apple pie? My grandmother always put apple or cherry pie on the breakfast table instead of cinnamon rolls or such. Good memories.

    1. I will join you, Mick. I love a good fruitcake. The difficulty is finding or making a good fruitcake. My mother’s recipe for fruitcake is a good one but I have been known to use that good recipe to make a terrible fruitcake. My children hate fruitcake. They missed out on the fruitcake-loving gene.

      1. You’re right that ‘good,’ ‘bad,’ or ‘pedestrian’ makes a difference where fruitcake’s concerned. It seems to me that it’s easier to make a bad fruitcake than a bad cookie, but that could be my prejudice surfacing again.

      1. Whether the lovers or haters of the cake are in the majority, the darned things have built businesses (Collin Street) and the tourism industry (Colorado). Can it be that there’s actually room for differences of opinion in this world? Who knew!

    2. Majority or minority doesn’t matter — everyone should get what they like at Christmas! The variety of what passes for fruitcake is so broad that even I can find one I like. It’s a concoction of dates, dried apricots, and pecans. Period. Quite good, really.

    1. LOL, and again, we’re right back to finding (or having had one handed down; ) a really good recipe in the first place… Nothing like a commercial kitchen to mess with traditional (good!) ingredients, hey?

      1. I suppose family traditions play a role, too. My mother never made fruitcake and my dad despised it. On the other hand, many of the cherished tastes of Christmas for me might seem ghastly to others — the taste of cardamom, or potato sausage, or a certain jellied meat dish. I just received a shipment of what we called rusks from a bakery in the UP of Michigan. When I saw they made a double-baked toast with cardamom, there was nothing to do but engage in a little online shopping. The so-called Trenary Toast (the town is Trenary) is just like Grandma’s — and it has a shelf life of 365 days! That’s hardtack territory, but it’s great for dunking.

        1. Ooh boy Linda; you say Cardamom and I automatically smell (and taste!) Speculaas, aka Dutch Windmill Cookies… Yum!! Mmm, Headcheese, not so much, lol. But your ‘twice-baked’ Rusks/ Trenary Toast sound very much like Melba Toast/ Biscotti… Guess every culture likes a dunk-able snack that can travel (or babies can teeth on, hey?; )

    2. “iIt’s the laughter I was after,” said the accidental poet. And in truth, there’s a so-called California fruitcake I enjoy. It’s nothing but dates, dried apricots, and pecans held together by a token, heavily spiced batter, but it’s quite good. I’d still rather toss the commercial versions in the trash.

      To be honest, I don’t have a clue what a Christmas pudding is. I have memories of singing “Bring us a figgy pudding,” and I suspect that it’s steamed, so I at least have heard about it, but I ‘m sure I’ve never tasted it. I’ll have to look up some recipes and see what it involves.

  2. I see that in the post’s previous lifetime—can it really be eight years?—we discussed the use of fruitcake to mean an eccentric or even crazy person. You said you weren’t aware of the word used that way by itself, but were certainly familiar with the phrase nutty as a fruitcake, where the existing sense of nutty as ‘crazy’ permeates the whole phrase. This time I wondered how far back fruitcake stood on its own in that sense. Pulling Wentworth and Flexner’s 1960 Dictionary of American Slang of the shelf, I found the one and only citation given for that meaning of fruitcake dated to 1952. It was “an escaped fruitcake,” from the movie “Pat and Mike,” which I’ve seen and which stars Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.

    1. Time flies when you’ve having fun — or even when we’re not, I suppose. It’s always interesting to see who commented in past years. Some still are around but quit blogging, but more than I would have expected have died. Whether anyone ever has died of fruitcake ingestion, or of being felled by a fruitcake, I can’t say.

      It’s amazing to me how many Johnny Carson bits have stayed in my memory through the years. As for ‘fruitcake,’ an associated description of California as the home of ‘fruits, nuts, and flakes’ comes to mind. I’m not sure when that was popular, but I’d guess the 1970s.

      1. I’ve noticed that the followers of a blog tend to be of roughly the same age as the blogger, so as a long-term blogger gets up there in age, it’s increasingly likely some of the followers will have died.

        The earliest Google Books hit I got for a California “fruits, nuts, and flakes” search was 1981.

    2. Ah yes I thought the phrase fruit cake was intentionally being used to describe a flamboyant person. It Seems like the original comment was intended to disrespect someone in particular.

  3. Dear Linda
    I was brought up in a fruit cake free zone, so didn’t eat my first piece of fruit cake before I lived in Montreal – and I loved it. But for me, fruit cake is not associated with the holiday season. It’s a cake for every season.
    Thank you very much for telling us about the fruit cake traditions. I didn’t know anything about it.
    Wishing you a wonderful holiday season, enjoy your fruit cake
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    1. It would be interesting to see the sales numbers for a place like Collin Street bakery. I’d guess that they’re up from October-Febrary, and decline in the summer — just because so many people do associate it with the holiday season. I suspect for many people it’s the making of the fruitcake that’s important. We had our own baking rituals, but they involved Christmas breads and cookies rather than cake. No matter — it’s the tradition that counts. A happy season to you!

    1. Of course — and the more nuts, the better. The nuts are part of what finally made a type of fruitcake a part of my life. It’s nothing more than dates, dried apricots, and pecans — with a cinnamon/nutmeg/clove batter to hold it all together. Now, that I’m able to like.

  4. A true soulmate! I too hate fruitcake (as well as the cake’s close cousin, mince pies); in fact, anything cloyingly sweet is totally abhorrent to me. But I have never eaten a fruitcake in Germany, I didn’t know they existed there. Maybe Mr. Weidmann had his own special recipe which he took to America?

    What is even worse is plum pudding, a true English Christmas delicacy. I once, long before `I had ever tasted one myself, sent one to my mum in Germany for a present. Much later she admitted that after one bite it had gone straight into the bird food box.

    An English Christmas is not Christmas without plum pudding, mince pies and a slice or two of good old brandy soaked Christmas cake.

    1. Now, mince pie is something else. I do like that, although I don’t like the versions with meat, and it has to have plenty of raisins and nuts. Is your plum pudding what another commenter called Christmas pudding? I don’t think I’ve ever had that, but I did once give in and try ‘sugar plums.’ Whether they were traditional I can’t say, but they were ghastly.

      It’s strange; I don’t think of most fruitcakes as sweet. I do have a version I like, but it’s made mostly of dates and apricots, along with nuts. The various candied fruits just don’t appeal. As a friend once advised, the trick is to drink enough brandy to make the fruitcake palatable!

    1. Well, then. We have a perfect situation, since I’ll be more than willing to share any fruitcake that comes my way with you. Do you have a favorite? Or will any fruitcake do?

    1. So many of his skits were memorable. He was a truly funny man, and if he ever was snarky or sarcastic, I don’t remember it. We shared a birthday, too, which made him even more special to me when I was a kid.

  5. I was well into my thirties before I began to appreciate fruitcake. And yet, as Gallivanta alluded above, it really depends on the fruitcake. The only truly good ones I’ve ever tasted were from Kentucky, with a strong bourbon flavor. We ordered one from Collin Street a few years ago but it was too bland.

    1. It certainly does depend on the recipe, and the baker, as well. I don’t like the taste of bourbon, so that eliminates some for me. And as you say, far too many are dry and/or bland. It seems that one ingredient for an outstanding fruitcake is patience — all that soaking with liquor — and that’s just not possible with most commercial varieties.

  6. SO sorry you’ve never had a home-made, real Egg-and-Butter-laden Golden Fruitcake, Linda!! They are traditionally wrapped in several layers of cheesecloth and religiously baptised every seven days in a rasher of rum in the time between baking and consumption. My mother’s version came from The Better Homes & Gardens, 50th Anniversary Edition: the Light Golden Fruitcake Recipe… Speaking of which, I should check and see if it’s also in my (newer; ) B H & G edition…

    1. That does sound tolerable. I do make and enjoy something called California fruitcake. It’s nothing but dates, dried apricots, and pecan halves with a spiced batter to hold it together. It’s not really a cake, but it’s darned good. Mom and I used to make a fruitcake cookie, too. Any cookie that starts out by soaking raisins in liquor has something going for it.

  7. I truly enjoyed this post. My mother was gifted with a small fruitcake and the recipe to make the cake from an elderly neighbor. My mother loved the cake and began making it for the family and as gifts every year. Some of us liked the cake and others didn’t. Mom continued to make “her” fruitcake. We, as a family had a baking day in December. Mom’s fruitcake was often the last thing placed in the oven. She asked her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to help her make the fruitcake. I am not sure if any one of them will ever make her fruitcake on their own. I do know that four generations of our family shared their love by making fruitcake together. Mom is gone but we have so many beautiful memories of making fruitcake and sharing love with her.

    1. The tradition of giving the recipe along with the gift is a nice one. Some of our family’s favorite recipes arrived that way, and I still use a few of them. I especially enjoyed hearing about your ‘baking days.’ We did the same, although in our case it was cookies and candy, and my mother loved the process so much her baking day could turn into a week.

      Whether any of you ever makes a fruitcake hardly matters; the memory of making those cakes, year after year, is wonderful. I do suspect that, should one of your family make one of those cakes, it will taste just like love.

  8. I am a fan of fruitcake. i have had very good fruitcakes and quite indifferent fruitcakes, but none truly terrible. We don’t have one at home, but if I am visiting (fat chance with COVID this year) and I am offered a slice I am quite happy to scoff it down,

    1. Then we’ll put you in the “Favors Fruitcake” column. It’s funny how things stick in our minds. When you mentioned visiting, and being offered a slice of cake, I had a sudden vision of the lovely homes you’ve showed us, where your group gathers for some truly elegant bird-watching and socializing. The best holiday gift ever would be getting to do that again.

    1. My grandmother always served a good cheddar with her apple pie, and we often found it on the breakfast table, along with her homemade breads and sausages. I’m glad this brought laughter. I posted it in ‘humor,’ and hoped it would contribute a little lightheartedness to the day.

  9. Being of German descent, we always had fruitcake at Christmas. It was very special for my parents, but none of us kids would eat it. Probably because of the fruit. I do have a Collin Street tin of cake in my pantry right now. I recently heard that friutcake, baked in smaller cupcake sizes are being used for hikers and long distance runners because of its dense calories and portablility.

    1. Using fruitcake in provisioning makes sense, especially if the recipe’s long on fruit and nuts. Given some of the ‘energy bars’ I’ve tasted, I’d take almost any fruitcake over those. I still have my Collins Street tin, but right now it has embroidery threads and various sewing notions inside. You can find tins anywhere these days, but decades ago no one ever threw one away. The cakes were tasty, but the tins were useful.

  10. If you look in the dictionary under the word “artificial,” there is a picture of a fruitcake.
    Even the word fruitcake sends chills down my spine.

    I worked in an ice cream parlor when I was in high school. It was the forerunner of Baskin Robbins, but locally owned under the name Ashburn’s Ice Cream. Ice cream sales were slow in winter, so to bolster lagging sales at Christmas, we sold Claxton Fruit Cakes, from Claxton, Georgia.

    Now I was a poor high school kid, trying mightily to keep gas, oil, and insurance in my car (for without a car, you were also without girls). We were allowed to eat anything we sold while working, for free. Needless to say, I ate a ton of fruitcake to save money.

    That should be all that is necessary to explain my pure terror when the word “fruitcake” is uttered. I’d rather drink curdled buttermilk.

    1. I’ll use buttermilk in cooking, but I don’t drink it, and your mention of curdled buttermilk says it all. I did laugh at your mention of fruitcake as the very definition of ‘artificial.’ I want to believe that so badly I’m not even going to look it up.

      I’ve never heard of Claxton fruitcakes, but at least they helped you keep body and soul — and car — together for a while. Maybe the market for fruitcakes is larger than I’ve realized. One thing is certain; making one of those babies can be expensive, not to mention a lot of work. If a fruitcake’s required, ordering one isn’t the worst solution. But if I go into an ice cream parlor and they have fruitcake on the menu, I’ll stick with the ice cream.

  11. My family had no big fruitcake fans and my father was very anti-fruitcake, so we rarely had it. If it appeared on the table most of us would take a polite bite or two and deal with it later. Soon after Loretta and I were married she announced she would make her special fruitcake at Christmas. I’m no fool, so I said great. But I dreaded that fateful time when the thing came out of the oven.

    Turns out it was pretty good. It had just enough cake to hold things together, was heavy on the pecans, and had a nutty, crispy top. She only makes it every 10 years or so, and we both think that’s about the right frequency. The problem is it’s so big we can’t eat it all so we have to freeze it and eventually get tired of it or else give some away. Giving away fruitcake is dangerous. You feel like you need to put it in a brown paper bag on the doorstep, ring the bell, and run.

    Loretta’s fruitcake isn’t soaked in rum, brandy, or anything else. I’ve always been suspicious of that tradition. The alcohol looks too much like the proverbial spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down.

    1. It sounds like Loretta’s version is at least akin to the one I’ll make from time to time. Mine is nothing but dates, dried apricots, and pecan halves, with just enough cinnamon/clove/nutmeg seasoned batter to hold things together. We may be on similar schedules, too. I tried to remember the last time I made it, and it’s been a good while. I know I haven’t made one since Mom died, and that was 2011. Maybe 2021 will be the year.

      Your point about the brown paper bag’s a good one. Getting rid of fruitcake is a little like trying to move along zuchinni at the end of the season. I’ve never quite understood why it became a corporate gift of choice, or why it lingers. At least no one’s started a Fruitcake of the Month Club.

  12. What an entertaining post, especially the line about your father’s eating the fruitcake that came home to roost! The best part of this post is your recounting the details around your father’s influx of fruitcakes and his methods of disposing of them. Best is the fruitcake you opened a year later only to find it tasted the same. That’s scary.

    I have always hated fruitcake along with mincemeat. My husband’s grandmother Margaret made such pies for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I had never tasted mincemeat until I married into the family. I didn’t like it either and I do have eclectic tastes.

    Thank you for taking the time to write this post.

    1. One of the best parts of writing this post was remembering the risque tie Dad got in a gift exchange one year. I don’t know if you came across that particular fad; the ties were a cross between high fashion and truckers’ mud flap nudes. He may have worn the tie to poker games, but he surely didn’t wear it in my mother’s company.

      I do like mince pie, but I generally prefer the sort that’s heavy on raisins, apples, and nuts — and a good dose of rum. Any mince meat pie that has meat in it isn’t to my taste. I suppose a pie without meat isn’t close to traditional, but I’ve always preferred edible to traditional.

  13. Oh my goodness! I was greatly entertained reading this! You seemed to be a very observant child – I love how you knew your father so well. And what one of us didn’t adore Johnny Carson? Somehow I escaped fruitcakes until I was in my 40’s. My husband’s step mother from Louisiana gave them to each member of the family every year. Daddy told us to be sure and thank her, that a lot of time and expensive ingredients went into them. I’m always open to trying new things, but these were awful. Her variety of holiday cookies were not good either. I wondered if it was just that she wasn’t much of a baker (I on the other hand totally rock baking!). But a few years back, a neighbor had afternoon tea and fruitcake was offered. I decided to try it again. All of the other “ladies” ate their slice and remarked on how lovely it was. I choked it down with a lot of tea. Still, despite my awful experiences, if I saw a Collin Street Bakery fruitcake, I might have to try a slice. Surely there has to be a decent one out there somewhere?!!

    1. That’s one of the things that ‘gets’ me about fruitcakes. They are filled with expensive ingredients, and they do take a lot of time to produce. Given all that, you’d think they’d be guaranteed to be good, but apparently time and expense aren’t enough to produce a pleasing fruitcake.

      It is true that some people just aren’t good in the kitchen, whether baking or cooking, and that might have been the case with your fruitcake guru. On the other hand, you did give it another try (and good for you!) and still weren’t impressed, so it might just be the nature of the fruitcake that isn’t so pleasing.

      I can just see you on your mythic quest for an edible fruitcake, wandering bakeries and catalogue listings, ever hopeful. On the other hand, we could just bake cookies and be happy!

    1. I did make a quick run to yon search engine and asked whether there was a French fruitcake. It seems the answer’s both no and yes. There’s no fruitcake like our American abominations, but there is something called spiced bread that sounds quite good. Of course, French and Franco-American aren’t quite the same thing — do you have any special treats that really ‘make’ Christmas for you?

  14. I happen to love fruitcake – the boozier the better. Lol. Loved your story, though, I think it captures most people’s feelings about this yearly ‘treat’.

    1. It seems that fruitcake evokes strong feelings on both sides, as well as a whole lot of politeness on the part of people who keep their opinions to themselves to avoid hurting feelings. That’s actually very nice, and entirely in the spirit of the season — and there’s always a little toddy to help ease the fruitcake down!

  15. Your post revealed and made abundantly clear your and your father’s distaste for fruitcake. I withhold my opinion because I do not have much experience with this kind of seasonal baking product. I suspect that the cause of a distaste for something lies in the saying: Too much of a good thing. Too much wine, too much TV, too much fruitcake.

    1. Granted, too much of anything can lead to distaste, but I disliked fruitcake from my first bite. That was too much of a bad thing, in my opinion! The only other food that brought such an immediate dislike was Brussels sprouts. I’ve tried preparing them every way in the world, but I still don’t like them. I wonder sometimes if there are physiological reasons for some of our likes and dislikes — at least when it comes to food, scents, and so on. The good news is that fruitcake isn’t necessary for survival or good health!

  16. I do not like fruitcake and will never eat it. One of my Aunts always made a green concoction she brought to all family gatherings. Nobody ever knew what it was or was ever brave enough to taste it. Some of us speculated it glowed in the dark or perhaps was a living entity. After every party she wrapped “It” in foil and took it home, only to have it reappear at the next social event. My personal belief is that she created the green monster once and recycled it at every gathering for the next 40 years. Could it still be alive today buried in some landfill?

    1. Now I’m intrigued. The only green food that showed up at our dinners was lime jello with crushed pineapple and cottage cheese. It’s was classic 1950s fare, but it lingered as long as my grandmother, my mother, and her bridge pals lingered. Thank goodness ‘green’ means lettuce, today. As for your ‘green,’ who knows what that was. Maybe it was the Fruitcake Monster. If I run into a green glow out in the marsh, maybe I should throw it a fruitcake.

      1. This green “Thing” was definitely not Jello and nobody thought it was any type of pudding. It looked like a green version of drywall joint compound but never hardened when exposed to air. I’m afraid if you fed it fruitcake it could morph into something you might see in a bad horror movie.

  17. “…a grim excuse for a dessert” is a perfect description. That sinking feeling when you realize that politeness demands you eat a chunk of this semi-petrified conglomerate. It really seems to be a unique dietary tragedy, doesn’t it. The only tradition that seems remotely comparable is perpetrated by some communities over in Minnesota – – that once a year subject people to lutefish. That’s one point in favor of fruitcakes, they may be full of livid preserved fruit, chock-full of food dye and sulfur dioxide, and soaked in cheap brandy, but at least nobody has thought to stick in gelatinous lunks of stinky fish that’ve been steeped in a barrel of lye. I hope I haven’t given anyone any ideas here.

    1. Oh, Lordie. Lutefisk. When I lived in Salt Lake City for a year, there was a Lutheran high school filled with kids from Norwegian and Swedish backgrounds. They had a special cheer they used at football games:
      Lutefisk, lutefisk, lefse, lefse —
      We’re the mighty Norskies! Ja, sure, you betcha!

      It doesn’t matter if you serve that fish with cream sauce or butter, it’s just as bad. I do remember my grandparents salting cod, but they might have been doing it as a favor for someone, since it never showed up on our table.

      They say that a good slather of butter or some whipped cream improves fruitcake, but I’m not willing to do the research.

  18. Great fruit cake story, Linda. Once in a while a homemade fruitcake is worth eating. My mom used to make it and we got our share of fruitcake as gifts. Sometimes those gifts ended up out on the squirrel feeder station. I wonder now, if they enjoyed the alcohol content. I probably haven’t had any in 30 years and, darn it, I want some. LOL

    1. The power of suggestion is a wondrous thing! I’ve never thought of fruitcake as squirrel food, but why not? Even if they didn’t enjoy the candied fruit, the nuts would have been just the ticket. Who knows — maybe hanging outdoors for a few weeks would cure it and make it more palatable, like hanging a quarter of beef.

      Speaking of real treats, by an odd sequence of events I ended up with something called Trenary Toast, from a bakery in Trenary, Michigan — in the UP. It’s just like the rusks my grandma used to make — a double-baked toast that comes in Cinnamon and Cardamom. It’s great for dunking in coffee or tea, and has a shelf life of a year. Despite all that, it’s not so hard that you can’t eat it undunked. It’s a marvel: just sweet enough, and no fat to speak of. If you happen to see it anywhere, I recommend it.

  19. My mother still has red tins from Corsicana fruit cakes that she regularly fills with homemade goodies when she gets on a baking spree. I guess I must be weird — I happen to like fruitcake! Not the nuts, just the cake and the candied fruit. Go figure — I happen to like candy corn, too! But it was such a treat when some relative would send us the Corsicana cakes during the holidays. I know a LOT of people despise fruitcakes though, and I got a kick out of your dad’s efforts to rid the house of unwanted ones!

    1. Lots of people like fruitcake, although it’s hard to know which kind of fruitcake they like without a little more discussion. Me? I like the nuts, but not the candied fruit. Different strokes, and all that. We’d do pretty well sharing a slice, since we like different things.

      What I really like are the tins. They’re so useful for so many things, and not just baking. They’re especially nice for embroidery floss and desk supplies. The Corsicana tins are much better than the discount store versions, and even my dad was willing to keep some of his treasures in their tins.

  20. I love your history of the never ending fruitcake! Reminds me of my English friend who makes it every year for gifting. One recipient of her loaf shaped fruitcakes had his gift shellacked and used it for years as a doorstop!

    1. Dor, that has to be one of the funniest stories yet. The loaf shape would be perfect, and as heavy as some fruitcakes can be, it would work just fine as a doorstop. Maybe I should set aside some of my varnish and give it a try the next time a fruitcake comes my way!

  21. After reading each comment here, I am more determined than ever to make my first fruitcake. I remember a family friend giving my aunt some of the fruitcake she baked when I was a girl. It was a big deal because she told my aunt she’d soaked the cake in some of her husband’s whiskey. The cake disappeared into the kitchen food cupboard, never to be seen again, but I know my aunt had thin slices for a long while after. None of the children were ever given fruitcake because we did not not rank. But I remember the taste and being fascinated by all the pretty stained glass fruits.

    This is the year for my first fruitcake. I suspected it would be expensive but seventy-eight dollars for the nuts (everything except pecans) and most of the fruit gave me a severe case of sticker shock. I am determined to shop for the best ingredients without going broke, and since we are a family of two persons this Christmas, perhaps the cake will be shared with all the family members who won’t be here to eat my cake at our table. I thank God for the US mail. Here’s to the mighty fruitcake!

    1. I hadn’t thought of it, but your description of ‘stained glass fruits’ is just right. Especially if whole red and green cherries are used, and the cake is sliced thin, they do shine. And that is one great advantage of fruitcake; it’s easy to slice it thin, so it can be shared with more people, for a longer time.

      That helps to make the expense more tolerable, too, as they can be costly to make. But what fun that you’re going to give it a try. I’m sure it will be delicious, and you might even start a family trandition!

      1. Thank you for your observations. The pineapple adds to the stained glass effect, making eating thin slices a delight.

        Be well.

  22. Harry and David advertised that they had solved the fruitcake dilemma. Someone sent me one. They had not solved it. Mine took a record for speed of delivery to the trash. This was great and I have not done fruitcake for 40 years.

    1. Just for grins, I visited H&D to see what they were offering this year. There are three varieties, reasonably priced — and no, I’m not going to give them any business. It’s interesting that even a company that bills itself a source for high-end gifts feels the need to offer both a ‘traditional’ and fancier versions. Maybe there are employees across the country still taking revenge on their bosses — with fruitcake!

      1. LOL! Who knew fruitcakes had such a reputation? My grands, aunts and even my mother loved the homemade fruitcakes they baked or received as gifts. Perhaps homemade is the way to go. Fingers crossed!

    2. You made me laugh! I will have a proper look at my Harry and David holiday catalog with an eye out for their fruitcake. I wouldn’t mind receiving one since I never have before. Why did you trash it? You could have sent it to me. LOL.

      Be well.

  23. Sshhhh….don’t tell anyone but I have somehow escaped The Fruitcake. I’ve never tried it. My mother didn’t like it and if anyone ever gifted one to her, we never saw it. She was a master magician when it came to making things she didn’t like disappear. Given my age (hint: I remember that Johnny Carson bit), it is a mystery to me that I have never tried fruitcake and no one has ever given me one (plenty of cookies and other sweets, yes, but no fruitcake ever adorned the gift pile or my table). From the sounds of it, that might be a good thing? Or not? I see in the comments that some folks love a good fruitcake.

    I thoroughly enjoyed your post. A lot of good humor here. :)

    1. You do seem to be the outlier. As you say, that can be either a very good thing or a sad reality, depending on someone’s personal view of the things. I did smile at your description of your mother. The ability to make unlikable things disappear is special; I can think of a few things I would ‘poof’ away if I could.

      A little good humor — holiday cheer, if you will — seems more important than usual this year. If someone wants to read about the two ‘Ps’ (you know what they are!) there are plenty of opportunities. Fruitcake and snooping around gifts seem like better options.

    2. Hey Robin, I’m sshhhing but laughing as I read the lovely comments. I cannot back out at this late stage. I ordered $78 worth of nuts and candied fruit for this major first. Fruitcake, a goose and a duck are three of the things left at the top of my bucket list. My the fruitcake gods send little fairies to help me. The baking begins this weekend.

      Thanks for enjoying this post. I appreciate your comment. I’d serve you a slice and a cup of holiday tea is you were my neighbor.

      Be well

    1. I hadn’t heard that song, and it’s delightful. It also occurred to me that I’ve never tried fruitcake toasted and well-buttered. At least in the abstract, that sounds terrific, just because toasted anything, well-buttered, usually is pretty good. If I happen to meet a slice this year, I’ll try to arrange a little toasting session.

  24. My dad loved fruitcake so much, at the end of the season he’d buy about 10 to put in the freezer when the cakes went on sale for half price. This way he had enough to last until the next Christmas!

    1. Now, that’s a fruitcake fan extraordinaire! Was there a special brand your dad liked, or did any kind of fruitcake make him happy? I’ve been trying to remember whether I have any seasonal treats I stock up on, and the only thing that comes to mind is Bluebell peppermint ice cream. Before that goes off the shelves, I will buy an extra half gallon — but only one. It’s so irresistable I know better than to buy more.

    1. I’m with you on that one. I love nuts in any form, but that fruit isn’t very appealing. I’m fairly sure it gained a foothold in fruitcake solely because of its color. I’ve never known anyone who was willing to eat more than one of those candied cherries.

  25. I’m with you. I can give the fruit cake a miss without a twinge. What I deeply miss, however, are the wonderful mincemeat pies my dad made back in the days when NoneSuch mincemeat came in jars and was simmered in a pot on the stove, permeating the house with what was, for me, the smell of Christmas. He made latticed crusts, cutting out the lattice strips using the wheel that turned the beaters on our gigantic, double-barrelled egg beater. One of my earliest memories was of him in the kitchen of the apartment we were living in while their first house was being built. The table had an oil-cloth table cloth and he was rolling that egg beater with its brilliant red handles it across the pastry dough to cut the strips for the top crust. At some point in my teens, NoneSuch changed the formula, and reduced that wonderful jar of fruity, raisiny goodness to a dehydrated, foil-wrapped brick and they jacked up the price. Mincemeat pies (and cherry pies) were still made, but they could not compete with those wonderful pies of my childhood.

    1. Guess what? That NoneSuch mincemeat still comes in jars — I think I might have one in my pantry. I use it as a base, adding more raisins and apples, as well as chopped nuts. You can get either the original or rum-infused. I just looked, and both are available on Amazon, and it looks like some of the Walmarts carry it, too. The price is right, too. I may pass on the fruitcake, but a good mince pie’s a necessity for Christmas, just like pecan is for Thanksgiving.

      Those red-handled kitchen tools were great. My grandmother had a whipping bowl for cream — the kind that had a screw on lid so things didn’t splatter. It had red handles, too, although by the time I came along the red was pretty worn.

  26. Another thing we have in common! Ugh. If you substituted enough candy and fruit with apples and pecans to make it taste like fresh apple cake, I’ll thank you for it. I guess that would work. But fruitcake doesn’t add calories.

    1. I make an apple cake that’s a dream — a one bowl production that doesn’t even require sifting the flour. Once I dig out the recipe, I’ll send it to you. It’s so, so good. It’s especially good with cinnamon ice cream (or even vanilla, if the cinnamon isn’t available). There’s no ice cream in the world that could improve fruitcake.

  27. I found myself nodding in agreement and chuckling throughout your entire post. Fruitcake…now that’s quite a subject, you either love it or hate it. Can’t stand it myself and I laugh heartily at the fruitcake jokes. Back in the day when we lived in Oklahoma and Kansas, we used to get mail order catalogs from Collin Street Bakery. Into the trash bin it went (now days I’d recycle it). No way would I give fruitcake as a gift.

    1. It does seem from the comments here that love or hate are the usual responses. Only one person said she’s never had it, so at least someone has escaped the fruitcake. It’s kind of odd that I’ve never gotten a catalogue from Collin Street. I suppose it’s because I’ve never ordered from them, or most of the food gift companies. That’s fine — they should send their catalogues to people who might buy from them!

  28. Hahahahaha.
    I have successfully avoided eating fruitcake for the sake of manners for my entire life minus one bite as a child.
    To your dad’s experiment with the pantry for a year, there is a sealed fruitcake that has been passed around my husband’s family for over a decade, maybe two. We track the name of the recipient and the year on the back of the box. The recipient sometimes forgets to send it along the next year and it goes missing until suddenly – poof! There it is in your hands Christmas morning as you laugh and groan and plot who you’ll send it on to next year.

    1. What fun — playing Pass the Fruitcake. We didn’t have a tradition like that, but there were certain package decorations that were just too nice to toss. If you received a gift with one of those decorations, it was understood that you’d put it on someone else’s package the next year.

      Avoiding fruitcake can be a challenge at times. It’s hard to remain polite with some of its more enthusiastic promoters. At least once, I escaped by pleading I’d already eaten far too much at dinner, and wanted to take my fruitcake home to enjoy later. It worked.

  29. I shall make fruit n nut cake soon and feed it with good amount rum. I don’t use candied fruits and fortunately we don’t get them either. Hahahhaha.

    1. Dried fruits are fine — dates, apricots, apples — but those candied things aren’t so appealing. They do look nice in a cake, but any ‘food’ that is only for decoration doesn’t appeal to me. If they aren’t available where you are, you’re free to celebrate their absence!

  30. Oh my gosh – this post is hilarious! My dad always had to have a homemade fruitcake – mom made it & he drenched it in bourbon (neither of them actually drank alcohol, so the trips mom would make to the other side of town to purchase the bourbon are the stuff of legend). They would make it a month or so in advance, and then it would last forever because he was the only one in the house who liked it (until I married Mike – he thought it was great too). Ah memories!

    1. I laughed at the thought of your mom sneaking to the other side of town for her bourbon. My own mom used to make a cooked that required soaking a pound of raisins in as much bourbon as they’d soak up. She’d send me to buy the liquor, and the looks I’d sometimes get when I asked for just a pint of the stuff were priceless. I’m sure some of them thought I was headed straight to the parking lot behind the store to begin indulging.

      Have you ever made your mom’s fruitcake for Mike? Some of them are so labor-intensive and expensive to make it’s just not worth the return.

      1. I never have – he doesn’t really eat sweets so it would take him an extra long time to eat it. However, you’ve given me the idea that maybe I should make it for my DAD. Hmmm…

  31. Loved this post! Your father set a wonderful example of how to handle unwanted gifts, especially fruitcakes. Like you, I’ve never met a fruitcake I actually like, even though I’m a huge fan of both cake and fruit (angel-food cake topped with fresh strawberries is delicious and as close as I ever get to eating an actual fruitcake.) I’m not surprised that the year-old cake tasted exactly like the fresh ones…but impressed with the way you foisted the latest one off on your mom!

    1. Personally, I think we could use a little more circa 1950s style politeness these days. At the very least, there’s no need to hurt the feelings of someone who’s put a good bit of effort and love into a gift — even if it’s the last thing in the world that we want. I never think of unwanted gifts without thinking of Ralphie’s bunny onesie in A Christmas Story. I’ve had a few of those in my time!

      I couldn’t get much past Mom, but I did manage it with that fruitcake. It can be hard for me to keep a secret, but I kept that one. Part of your comment did take me back to a favorite Christmas dessert. Mom would make meringue shells, and then fill them with ice cream and topping: peppermint ice cream with a chocolate sauce, or lemon curd with blueberry compote. I haven’t made them for years, because it’s so humid down here, but if we get a good dry spell, I just might. If not, there’s always angel food cake with strawberries.

    1. Isn’t that a wonderful illustration? His were just black and white, at least as far as I know, but a lot of people have done some colorizing and such. I received this variation as a Christmas card from a friend who knows exactly how I feel about fruitcake, and it was perfect for this post.

  32. Great telling of your father’s way of dealing with the fruitcakes that came his way. Were I within shouting distance I would have been happy to relieve him of each and every one. It’s always been beyond my understanding that they get such a bad name. I love them and it is only by Mary Beth’s concern for my health that I don’t eat them year round. Maybe I’ll keep one at work so she won’t know. :) It’s no surprise that the year old cake was still the same as when new. I’d guess that were civilization to end, visitors from another planet would wonder at the one that survived all else.

    1. You need one of my ‘fruitcakes.’ It’s hardly standard, and that’s what makes it good. It’s nothing but dates, dried apricots, and pecans, and just enough spiced batter to hold everything together. There’s not a candied cherry, citron bit, or sugar-soaked pineapple in sight.

      I laughed at your thought that The Fruitcake could endure even the end of civilization. Most people say the roaches will be the survivors, but if fruitcake hangs around, too, it suggests that even the roaches won’t eat the stuff!

      1. I think even Mary Beth would approve of your fruitcake. I’ve had rum soaked fruitcakes and figured the alcohol would embalm the cake, especially if it was wrapped like a mummy. :)

        1. I’ve never seen that one! It’s hilarious. I was going to say I could have used it a few decades back, but I’m not sure the crowd I was hanging with would have found it amusing. Some would have, but not all.

  33. We just bought a fruit cake yesterday from a bakery we know in Dunedin that does good ones. We buy them from there any time of year. Specifically, iced fruit cake .. I love the icing!

    1. I’ve never heard of an iced fruitcake. That suggests your version might be different from the ones I’ve run into here. What kind of icing is it? A drizzle? Cream cheese? Inquiring minds want to know! Does the bakery have a website, so I can take a look?

      1. You asked about iced fruitcakes. This might answer your question…United Kingdom

        Dundee cake
        In the UK, fruitcakes come in many varieties, from extremely light to rich and moist.

        The traditional Christmas cake is a round fruitcake covered in marzipan and then in white royal icing or fondant icing. They are often further decorated with snow scenes, holly leaves, and berries (real or artificial), or tiny decorative robins or snowmen. It is also the tradition for this kind of cake to be served at weddings as part of the dessert course. I am familiar with the idea of iced fruitcakes because of books that I have read over the years that mention them.

      2. Here’s a photo of the one I bought, we’re at our motel so it’s still in its wrap. It’s standard here for shops to sell both iced and un-iced. Iced cakes have marzipan base layer and royal icing top layer. The cake is rich brown, looks lovely. We’re used to their cakes – they’re always good! Here’s a link for the photo. Couplands have a website.

  34. How fun to read the different responses, quite varied as I am sure you anticipated! I really didn’t like fruitcake as a child but now do, although it is nut-less since my wife get headaches from them. I make it using a recipe from my mothers, and so it is a bit of a time with mom moment. But even better (way better) than fruitcake is the making of lefse at Christmas. I was so intrigued to visit Norway some years ago and realize that lefse was something eaten year round! Loved the post!

    1. See? You’ve just offered up yet another variation: nutless. It’s a shame they affect your wife badly. I don’t know quite what I’d do if I suddenly weren’t able to eat pecans. On the other hand,I was allergic to walnuts for years; now, I’m over that, and glad for it.

      Another commenter mentioned lutefisk as something just as — memorable — as fruitcake. I had to agree with that. Lutefisk is another one I’ll say “No, thank you” to. But lefse? It’s the best! When a Texas friend had lefse for the first time, she said, “They’re Norwegian tortillas!”

    1. Smiling is good. I didn’t hope to convince any fruitcake lover to give it up, let alone convince a fruitcake hater to give it just one more try. I just was hoping for smiles — glad I brought you some!

  35. I love this, Linda! There was always a fruitcake at Christmas — the hospital guild sold them so my mother had to bring home one or more of them. Claxton fruit cakes — they still make them, probably not local. I’m not sure they were ever eaten either. I was never a fan, but a few years at book club, someone brought a Claxton fruit cake and it was surprisingly decent. I can’t say I’d rush out to buy one but it wasn’t bad. On the Great British Baking Show masterclass series, they always have a fruitcake (or two) during the Christmas programs. They look so good. But I have a feeling it might just be because they are so pretty. Still, if Mary Berry or Paul Hollywood offered me a piece of one of their cakes, I’d try it. (Loved the revolving fruitcake story!)

    1. I’d never heard of Claxton fruitcakes, but another reader from the northeast mentioned them. I’m sure the world is filled with fruitcake companies, all making decent profit from the uniquitous gift/treat. It’s interesting that your hospital guild sold them. I’ve always thought of poinsettias as the standard Christmas fund-raising profit. You’re certainly right that some fruitcakes are attractive as can be. That’s probably why so many sell to people who’ve never tasted one!

  36. Interesting to see how traditions set in so firmly, like, the Christmas Fruitcake as a must-have for Christmas. And, interesting that your Dad had defied tradition. A jolly good one, Linda. :)

    1. Thinking about it, it seems that Dad didn’t so much defy tradition as work his way around it: quietly, and without upsetting anyone. There’s a lesson there, methinks. When it comes to embedded traditions, I’m thinking I might revive another one this year. Mom always made big Santa sugar cookies at Christmas. They were embossed, and decorated with coconut beards, raisin eyes, and red cheeks. I still have the very cutters she used, and I just might make some for the few children I know.

      1. I think I used the wrong word. I didn’t mean defying in a rebellious sense LoL. That’s too strong a word. I’m sure your Dad wasn’t a radical but just tactful. I was leaving that comment right after writing about a nonconformist. :)

  37. A good Raan is hard to beat. I usually buy a leg of hogget (sheep in Aust.) a few days before Christmas and marinate it, bone in, with lost of yoghurt and copious lemon juices, then baked it for hours with all the Indian spices and ingredients. For my kids and grandchildren this was the real deal for Christmas, a way of life almost for the family.
    As for fruitcake. Aldi sells the best one and is just right, not too sweet nor too laden with hard bits of nuts that gets stuck in my ageing mouth.
    Hopefully Christmas will not be stinking hot and no bushfires. The cicadas are starting to trill their songs already. Hopefully it is a good omen.

    1. I still can’t get over lamb as a food. I don’t know why. I suppose it’s unfamiliarity more than an anything. I’ve had lamb curry and some Greek lamb dishes and they were fine, but leg of lamb just seems odd. It may have been learning as a kid that you were supposed to eat with with that too-green mint jelly. But one person’s oddity is another’s cherished tradition, as your Christmas lamb certainly was.

      You know, I still haven’t been into our local Aldi’s. I go past it from time to time, but I’m always on my way to somewhere else, and just don’t stop. I should make a trip just for the fruitcake. If I don’t like it, I could slice it up, put it on a pretty plate, and give it to my apartment’s office staff.

  38. While I had to laugh at Gorey’s Fruitcake Toss, I don’t think I’ve ever met a fruitcake I didn’t like. Yeah, yeah, I know. I’m weird. LOL

    My Granny made one every Thanksgiving/Christmas. It was based on her (from scratch) pound cake and was more pound cake than fruit cake, really. The annual tradition/recipe was carried on by her three sons. Mama helped but it was mainly Dad who did most of the work. Both my uncles were the fruitcake ‘masters’ in their households, with help from my aunts.

    Until Dad tasted his first Claxton fruitcake sometime in the late 70’s or early 80’s. He flipped over it. It was much less work and less expensive, to boot. Being a Southern product, you can find it in just about any grocer starting around Thanksgiving.

    Which reminds me. I need to add it to my grocery list! A slice of fruitcake and a nice glass of wine or a small glass of Jameson’s is something I look forward to during the holidays.

    1. With or without fruitcake, a glass of wine sounds pretty good right now. To be honest, a bottle of wine sounds good, but you can guess where my recently purchased bottle of hill country wine is!

      I can’t quite figure out why I’ve never heard about Claxton fruitcakes. I suppose location has a lot to do with it. When I was younger, I never paid attention to brands, and once I moved to Texas, it was the Corsicana cakes that held pride of place. I think I’d like your Granny’s, since I’m really fond of pound cake. If nothing else, it would be easier to pick out the candied fruit.

      Our traditional treats trended toward cookies and breads, especially the Swedish favorites my grandmother made. I’ve let the tradition slide a bit, but there are a couple of cookies I make every year, just because. They’re “the” taste of the season.

  39. I never cared for fruitcakes until many years ago eating a piece of one from, coincidentally from Texas but I don’t recall the name of the company. Unfortunately, the company was sold and, of course, the quality of the fruitcake soon diminished, partially due to the increasing cost of ingredients. The original cake I liked was virtually solid fruit and pecans — no citron and the small amount of cake was light, not that heavy dark cake most seem to have. That was the only fruit cake I ever enjoyed, as did my mother, those years they were in business.

    1. The fruitcake you enjoyed sounds very much like one I’ve made from time to time. That recipe calls for only dates, apricots, and pecans, and a bit of batter to hold it together. Those heavy, dark ones that seem to be especially common from commercial establishments probably do have a concern for cost as part of their recipe. Of course, once a tradition develops, even a less tasty cake can be loved. It certainly happened with a few of my grandmother and mother’s recipes. No one really liked the dishes, but it wouldn’t have been the holidays without them.

    1. Actually, I’ve often stuffed dates with a cream cheese and chopped pecan mixture as a treat. It’s a perfect solution for a gluten-free sweet, and so good that I like it myself. What’s interesting is that I learned to make it as a grade-school child. Even in the 1950s it was considered special.

  40. Fruitcake is like left over ham or turkey – somehow it just seems to be the only thing in the house that is sweet… I now can’t eat dried fruits so I have a great excuse to refuse both said cake and “mincemeat pies”
    Very traditional fare if you are in the right vintage here in New Zealand along with traditional plum pudding (steamed that is). But often not on menu as it’s summertime in NZ and hot turkey/ham with all the hot vegetables, given way to something great on BBQ @ the beach…
    Catherine in NZ

    1. Barbeque on the beach sounds wonderful. Perhaps it’s the same there as it is here; there seem to be summertime foods and winter foods. I’d never make a pot roast in July, or serve up cold salads in January.

      I do enjoy mincemeat pie, but only the sort that’s fruit-based: raisins, apples, and such. I’ve never had plum pudding; the only thing steamed I remember from childhood was called brown bread. It was a little sweet, too, and I remember putting cream cheese on it. It’s so interesting to learn about the similarities and differences in foods in different cultures. There are days I’d like to taste them all.

  41. Dad was a building contractor and each Christmas he received gifts from folks with whom he did business. We looked forward to some of those, such as a whole smoked ham, a box of Whitman’s Chocolates and a big orange mesh bag filled with nuts.

    Then, there it was. The brick. So solid most knives trembled in fear at its presence on the kitchen counter. The annual Fruit Cake.

    Some of your readers have mentioned the Claxton Fruitcake. From a bakery founded in Claxton, Georgia in 1910. Legendary. Inedible.

    Dad bravely tried soaking it in coffee. To no avail. Suitable for a door stop.

    Thank you for the Christmas memory!

    1. Those Whitman’s Samplers always were part of our Christmas, too — as well as the bowl filled with nuts in the shell and an attached nutcracker. We never had the ‘fancy’ nuts except at Christmas; Brazil nuts and an orange at the toe of my stocking were standard issue.

      Apparently Claxton and Corsicana have competition. I see even the Trappist monks at Gethsemani Abbey are selling fruitcake, along with their fudge. Just for grins, I looked at the ingredient list. It seemed more profane than sacred to me, but they do make great bourbon fudge. I suspect real fruitcake lovers would enjoy it, but I’ll pass — I already have the doorstops I need.

  42. Cute. With grandparents from Frost (just west of Corsicana) you can bet it is a favorite in my family. I ate two all by myself last Christmas. But I understand the distaste. As a kid, I thought they were abhorrent.

    1. I’ve honestly wondered if anyone has done a study of what it is that separates fruitcake lovers from those who’d prefer to avoid it for life. Since so many companies manufacture them, and since so many family recipes are passed down, there has to be quite a variety of flavors, but it seems every variation gets divided reviews. No matter. You love it, and enjoy it. I stick with the cookies, and am happy. It’s a great solution!

    1. I’m sure tradition plays a role for some people. After all, every Christmas I start craving pickled herring, cardamom seed buns, and Swedish Sylta. I’d never make the stuff myself, but if Grandma showed up with a platter full, I’d eat with pleasure!

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