Sunday, November 22, 2020

Fruitcake--Only For the Brave

Thanksgiving will soon be behind us, and most people's thoughts will be turning toward Christmas. One tradition in some families is to make fruitcakes. I'll confess that is not one of my favorite things to eat, but I did taste some once. Once. That was enough for me. In my recently-released novella called The Fruitcake Scandal, my heroine gets in trouble with some church ladies because of her fruitcake. Before I tell you more about that, let's talk about fruitcake history.


Recipes for the heavy cake go all the way back to ancient Roman. A recipe from 2000 years ago included pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, and raisins mixed into a cake made out of barley mash. In the Middle Ages, fruitcakes with honey, preserved fruit, and spices were popular. 
Crusaders and hunters were reported to have carried this type of cake to sustain themselves over long periods of time away from home. In Europe during the 1700s, a ceremonial type of fruitcake was baked at the end of the nut harvest and saved and eaten the next year to celebrate the beginning of the next harvest, hoping it would bring them another successful harvest. Plum cakes, a fruitcake made with butter and sugar, were banned for a while in Europe in the 18th century because they were thought to be "sinfully delicious"—too rich and tasty. From the 19th century on, fruitcake became a traditional wedding cake in England.


Fruitcake was extremely popular between 1837 and 1901. A Victorian “Tea” would not have been complete without the addition of the fruitcake to the sweet and savory spread. Queen Victoria is said to have waited a year to eat a fruitcake she received for her birthday because she felt it showed restraint, moderation, and good taste. It was the custom in England for unmarried wedding guests to put a slice of the cake, traditionally a dark fruitcake, under their pillow at night so they will dream of the person they will marry.

Today, fruitcakes are popular in many countries. In Germany, it is called stollen and has powdered sugar on top. Poland and Bulgaria call it keks, while Italy has panforte or panettone. Fruitcakes are made with a lot of rum in the Caribbean. The fruit is soaked in rum for months before baking—keep the kids away from that one! Portugal has bolo rei—a cake which has one fava bean inside it. Whoever gets the piece with the bean is supposed to buy the cake next year! Vietnam has a fruitcake called banh bo mut that’s made for the Lunar New Year.


Fruitcakes have traditionally been soaked in liquor because they can then last for months or even years. Sometimes a cloth soaked in alcohol is laid over the fruitcake to preserve it. Since alcohol kills bacteria, it slows down the spoiling process, allowing the cakes to sometimes last for years.

December 27 is National Fruitcake Day, but then a little more than a week later it’s Fruitcake Toss Day on January 7. :) Each year, Manitou Springs, Co, has a contest to see who can throw fruitcakes the farthest and with the greatest accuracy. People build catapults, slingshots, or just hurl the cakes by hand. That sounds like fun.

Here's a recipe for a Vanilla Wafer Fruitcake from the What's Cooking America website. I have not tried it, but you're welcome to if you're brave enough.


1 pound vanilla wafers (cookies)
1/2 pound red cherries, candied and cut in half
1/2 pound pineapple slices, candied and cut in small wedges
1 pound walnuts, pecans or combination of both, broken in half or coarsely chopped
1/4 pound raisins*
2 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 (5-ounce) can evaporated milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
Whole red 
cherries, candied (garnish)
Pineapple wedges, candied (garnish)


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a large bowl, crush vanilla wafers. Add cherries, pineapple, nuts, and raisins; mix well.

In another bowl, beat eggs; add sugar, evaporated milk, and salt. Add to fruit mixture and mix well.

Cup Cakes: Spoon batter loosely into cupcake pans using paper or foil liners which you have sprayed lightly with oil spray. Bake in the center of the oven for approximately 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Cake: Pack into a waxed paper-lined 10-inch tube pan. Decorate top with reserved candied whole cherries and pineapple. Bake approximately 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes. Run a sharp knife around edge, turn cake out of pan, then back over again so decorations are on top.

Cake and/or cupcakes can be made ahead and frozen; taste improves with age. Yields 1 large fruitcake.

I'll end with a fruitcake joke: What is history like a fruitcake?

Because it's full of dates. 😂

How about you? Do you like fruitcake? Do you have a short fruitcake story to share with us?

The Fruitcake Scandal is included in A Christmas Romance Collection. Just 99 cents! Free KU.

Get in the mood for Christmas with six heart-warming holiday romances from best-selling, award-winning authors!

Here's what The Fruitcake Scandal is about:

The Fruitcake Scandal by Vickie McDonough

Pastor Clayton Parsons waited a year to bring his fiancée, Karen, to his new church post. They plan a Christmas wedding, but in the meantime, Karen helps the church ladies with various projects, including a bake sale. But revealing her fruitcake recipe could spell disaster for her future with Clay. 

Vickie McDonough is the CBA, EPCA & Amazon best-selling author of 50 books and novellas. Vickie grew up wanting to marry a rancher, but instead, she married a computer geek who is scared of horses. She now lives out her dreams penning romance stories about ranchers, cowboys, lawmen, and others living in the Old West. Vickie’s books have won numerous awards including the Booksellers Best and the Inspirational Readers’ Choice awards. When she’s not writing, Vickie enjoys reading, doing stained-glass projects, gardening, watching movies, and traveling. To learn more about Vickie’s books or to sign up for her newsletter, visit her website:


  1. Thanks for the post! I have had some fruitcakes that I enjoy, though I haven't made any. I think the key might be to leave out that "fruitcake" dried fruit medley that relies on citron. I did think it was interesting that the recipe you included used vanilla wafers!

  2. Did you know that fruitcake is often used as the wedding cake in Canada? I don't know if it is the case now, but back in the 70s when I had a Canadian roommate she told me that and she loved fruit cake. I gave her the fruitcake I was given at Christmas and she feasted on that and others she got from friends LOL. I have tasted homemade fruitcake and it's not as bad as the ones bought in tins around the holidays. Great post!

  3. I love fruitcake. Probably because my grandmother made wonderful fruitcake. Her recipe was quite old. My mother never learned how to make it. That along with Grandpa's root beer recipe are lost forever. The worst fruitcake I ever had was made with soft candies like orange slices. It was gag worthy. A friend sister made it and he gave us some every Christmas for years. We were so happy when they quit making it. I also love all the other international versions of fruitcake you mentioned. Thanks for the fun information.

  4. I love fruitcake. I've given up sugar and flour, though, so I won't be buying any this year. My only hope is someone tempts me with a slice. I'm planning to give in.

  5. I haven't had fruitcake for a while but there's only a couple recipes I like. I hadn't seen a recipe using vanilla wafers.

  6. Oh, Vickie, I love this! I remember my grandmother making a fruitcake using vanilla wafers, and I loved her fruitcake, so it brought back great memories. She also gave me a recipe for fruitcake cookies that are really good. I can also remember driving to Corsicana, Texas from Dallas when I was younger and buying fruitcake at the Collin Bakery there. My dad loved them.

    I think I might have to try this recipe since I don't have Mimi's. Your story sounds good, too. I'll have to check it out.