Monday, December 14, 2009

Advent Calendar Day 14: Fruitcake (Memory Monday 2)

Is there no one who loves fruitcake?

I do. Kind of. If it’s moist (= has lots of booze). The fruit must not be old and the nuts should also be in top condition; pecans are the best.

All right, so I’m a self-proclaimed fruitcake expert.

Because I started making fruitcakes when I was 12 years old.

That was the year my mother broke her wrist when we all went ice skating.

You need a really strong wrist to make a good fruitcake.

The men in our family (my father and brother) were almost totally helpless in the kitchen.

So it was up to me to keep the tradition going.

Fruitcake baking in our house was done on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Step one: Put the butter and brown sugar together in bowl; stir until thoroughly combined into a mixture of smooth consistency. This was where the elbow grease came in. (A mixer would have been a wimp-out and also posed the danger of a mixture that was too lumpy or too liquid to support the fruit.)

Ladies and Gentlemen, there is no need to worry about flabby upper arms if you make enough fruitcakes. I stirred and stirred and stirred. I used my left hand to support my right arm. I changed to stirring with my left hand. Then back to the right hand. After what seemed like hours, that “smooth consistency” was finally achieved.

The rest was pretty easy. The only tricky part was to bake it for exactly the right amount of time; too much would ruin the taste and too little would leave it with no structural integrity.

And structural integrity is important. Because for the next month – and this is why fruitcakes are baked on the Friday after Thanksgiving – the liquor of choice would be added in generous doses every other day. And if the fruitcake is underbaked, that equals a runny mess.

My family showered praise on me that Christmas for producing an outstanding first fruitcake. My Smugness Coefficient skyrocketed and my nose didn’t come out of the air for a full week.

My mother and I must have made a few fruitcakes during my high school years; these were probably cooperative efforts.

I don’t make fruitcakes any more. I have one labor-intensive dessert to make for Christmas – kolaches – and that is enough. Plus my mother-in-law makes a killer fruitcake (sooo moist … mmmmm).

(Whew! At least there are a few people out there who like a good fruitcake: Miriam Midkiff of Ancestories, Alex of Winging It, and Karen Packard Rhodes of Karen About Genealogy.)


  1. LOL I have never had fruitcake! I should try it one day...I'm not sure if I have ever even seen fruitcake in person. Now those kolaches sound good!

  2. Your recipe with the "hootch" is just what I remember (my Mom's). Want to say it was rum???

  3. Herstoryan - I hope your first experience with fruitcake will be a good one! Oh, and kolaches - that's a whole big subject! Mine are the "Bohemian" (= Czech) kind, which is like a sweet yeast biscuit with filling; the "Slovak" rolled dough kind are really delicious, too.

    Carol - Some years (probably most) it was rum, though my first one might have had brandy. I thought I was such a hotshot when I got to add the booze!

  4. Maybe you have heard of "Cottage Sauce?" I have never tried a fruitcake before even though Mom always buys them, but this year ALL member s of the family down to the great-grandchildren had to try it with dessert. i think she and my brother were thinking the whiskey would entice us, but even being my grandmother's "hidden" recipe didn't help.

  5. Tri-State (to steal a line from Noel Coward, can I call you "Tri"?), if cottage sauce is the same as whiskey sauce, I love it. I suppose a good sauce could make even the driest fruitcake taste good, but if it is already moist and boozy, that would be a super-rich dessert.