The ultimate in longevity is the Christmas fruitcake. It is a cake made during the holidays with fruits that make it heavier than the stove it is cooked in.

Erma Bombeck


Now that the Christmas season is over and all the decorations are boxed and stuffed back into the attic you breathe a sigh of relief that the house is finally empty and quiet.

Going into the kitchen for that nice glass of wine, your heart goes into a panic. There on the counter is that “damn cake”. Which cake is that? The fruitcake that has been gifted in your family for generations. Just be happy that you did not inherit what is purportedly was the oldest fruit cake in existence dating back to 1794

“There is no doubt…about the fruitcake’s great age. Sawing into it six Christmases ago, I came across a fragment of a 1794 newspaper with an account of the lynching of a real-estate speculator in New York City.”

—“Fruitcake is Forever,” Russell Baker, New York Times, December 25, 1983, Section 6 (p. 10)

Tilly: Lummee. I thought Christmas pudding had won that prize! (Christmas pudding given to Royal Navy sailor 120 years ago goes on display. The tinned pudding is believed to be one of the oldest in the world. Published Dec 11, 2019)

So just what is the recipe for this nutty cake? Well, nuts for one. In Great Britain, you know Tilly’s home turf, their fruit cake dates back to the middle ages due, in part to when dried fruits entered the country from Portugal.

One redeeming aspect the British recipe from so long ago… they also used rum or brandy to help not just the taste buy to help preserve the cake, or bread, as some cooks  called it.

From the mid-1800s to 1901 fruitcake was very popular in England. A proper “tea” during that time would not have been complete without the fruitcake. It is also rumored that Queen Victoria loved fruitcake and would wait a year after receiving one because it showed restraint. It was also the custom in England for unmarried wedding guest to put a slice of cake, under their pillow at night. They believed it would help them dream of the person they would marry.

So just where did this disaster come from?

Tilly: Disaster? Disaster! A good Christmas cake is a miracle to share and enjoy

Well, have a seat folks, it came from ancient Roman times.

Tilly: Why am I not surprised?

Apicius wrote it in his cookbook “De Re Coquinaria of Apicius”. The recipe includes pomegranate seeds.  Pine nuts, and raisins that were mixed into barley mash. Honey, spices and preserved fruits were added much later. Crusaders and hunters carried the “cake” when they left home for a long period of time.

Tilly: Ooh … I love pomegranates and pine nuts and raisins … 

Just what is a common recipe today for this bread?

Tilly: Dunno. You going to enlighten me?

And when did this specialty come to America? Blame Tilly’s relatives who came to my country via the early colonists. Thanks, Tilly.

Tilly: You are so blessed by such generosity.

Fruitcakes became so popular because their shelf. Some, even today believe the best fruitcakes were the ones that had matured or were highly seasoned. The seasoning supposedly improves the flavor, but also made it easier to slice. Today fruitcake sales within the United States totals over 2 million. Fruitcake sailed the world and today is made and eaten in countries from Australia to India, Switzerland and beyond.

Tidbits and trivia about fruitcake.

  1. December 27th is National Fruitcake Day
  2. 38% of people re-gift fruitcakes.
  3. It’s believed ancient Egyptians placed fruitcakes in burial tombs for their loved one’s afterlife.
  4. The heaviest fruitcake ever made weighed 619 lbs, according to the Guinness World Records.
  5. Fruitcake is not just for the holiday season. English wedding hosts serve fruitcakes.
  6. Royals Kate Middleton and Princess Diana each served fruity cake at their weddings.

Tilly: The top tier is usually reserved until the birth of the first child and enjoyed then.

  1. The English developed the tradition of eating fruitcakes during the holiday season. They sometimes called it Christmas cake or plum cake. Englanders eventually brought the tradition to America.
  2. Monks make dome of the best (and booziest) fruitcakes in the world. Kentucky’s Abbey of Gethsemani and the Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, Virginia have solid reputations for making completely edible fruitcakes and have battled for top spots on fruitcake taste test lists for decades.

Tilly: Completely edible? Why would they make cakes that aren’t?

  1. FRUITCAKE HAS TRAVELED TO SPACE. A pineapple fruitcake was taken

along on the Apollo 11 space mission. But it wasn’t sitting cozily in Neil Armstong or Buzz Aldrin’s bellies when they became the first humans to walk on the moon

Tilly: So where was it? I hope they didn’t leave it there for aliens to discover. Maybe it is responsible for climate change …

  1. There are two places that claim to be “Fruitcake Capital of the World” Both Claxton, Georgia, home of two bakeries that together produce four million pounds of fruitcake a year, and Corsicana, Texas claim the title.
  2. The oldest fruitcake company in the United States is the Collin Street Bakery, Corsicana Texas [1896].
  3. Truman Capote turned a fruitcake-baking experience into a fine short fiction, titled “A Christmas Memory

Now, enjoy the fruitcake or plot who you will gift it to next Christmas.

Tilly: Me! Me! Me! I am now so fired up and salivating, I’m off to make a boiled fruitcake.

Olive and Tilly

There’s a little bit of fruitcake left in every one of us. –

Jimmy Buffett












  • Sebestiana

    Well, I could try and change your mind about fruit cake. I make a fruit cake cookie that even folks, that I know, who dislike fruit cake, absolutely love. I make them all year round. You may need to try them out. Want the recipe? Just let me know.

    • Tilly

      Yes, yes and yes – definitely need to try them out! Do send the recipe, Sebestiana! Even better would be a HUGE parcel of the biscuits …

      • Sebestiana


        1- 2/3 c. chopped walnuts
        1-1/3 c. golden raisins
        1 c. prunes, chopped
        2/3 c. dried apricots, chopped
        1/2 c. dried cranberries (can use Crasins)
        1/4 c. dark rum (I use Pussers Rum)
        1 c. butter, softened
        1/2 c. sugar
        1/3 c. packed light or dark brown sugar
        1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
        1 large egg, room temperature
        2- 2/3 c. all-purpose flour
        6 ounces of semi sweet chocolate morsels , melted.

        1. Place first five ingredients in a large bowl. Add rum and mix to combine. Stand overnight in a covered bowl.
        2. Next day, in a large bowl, cream butter, sugars and nutmeg until light and fluffy. Beat in the room temperature egg. Slowly mix/beat in the flour. Stir in the fruit mixture.
        3. Divide dough mixture in half. Shape each into an 12x3x1 inch rectangular log. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
        4. The following day, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Uncover the dough and cut into 1/2″ slices. On a parchment lined baking sheet place the cookies 2″ apart. Bake 13-16 minutes when the edges of the cookies are light brown and the underside is lightly brown.Cool on wire racks.
        5. Once cooled, dip one flat side of the cookie in the melted semisweet chocolate. Once the chocolate is set firm, place in an airtight container. Separate each layer of cookies with waxed or parchment paper and let rest for a few days. The longer they rest the more flavorful they become.
        Yields approximately 4 dozen.
        Enjoy…. I know I do!

  • Jerry Bell

    Ah, my own experience with fruitcake has been a see saw event. As a child, I relished the thought and taste of fruitcake. After growing older, my tastebuds changed and I found I didn’t crave the taste any more, however, I’ve always enjoyed the sight of the colorful cake. Now, after reading this, my taste buds are ready to venture into the world of fruitcake. I can’t promise I’ll like it, but I will try it again when next I see it.

      • Cristie

        I won’t describe my feelings about fruitcake beyond it’s disgusting 🤢 However, I don’t like many dried fruits, raisins are the worst of the worst and feeding them to your children should be illegal. In my jaded opinion fruitcake is one tiny step closer to what needs to be a felony. 🤑🤮🤢

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