Fruitcake Is No Laughing Matter

Holidays, What We're Eating

This post comes to us courtesy of Yvonne Dae Morrissey, of the family-owned Gramma Ramsey’s Specialty Fruitcakes.


Every year for the last 20 years, I’ve made fruitcakes as holiday gifts. You have no idea how many bad jokes I hear when I tell people that my fruitcake is the gift of choice of my family and friends.


Many blame the much maligned fruitcake’s reputation on Johnny Carson. Back in December 1985, Johnny told his late night TV audience that there is only one fruitcake in the world, it is very heavy, and people keep sending it to each other.


From there it gets worse. You know: fruitcake as doorstop. And did you know that every January a “Great Fruitcake Toss” is held in Manitou Springs, Colorado? The object, of course, is to throw a fruitcake as far as possible, sometimes even using catapults!


Fruitcakes have been around forever. Literally, forever. In biblical times, Moses ate fruitcakes. The Romans ate fruitcakes. In fact, didn’t they find one in Tutankhamen’s tomb? Not surprising, given that fruitcake has an incredible shelf life due to its sugar content.


Here in the U.S., we’re told by What’s Cooking America that the fruitcake’s popularity peaked between 1837 and 1901. Today, there is actually a “Society for the Protection and Preservation of the Fruitcake” — totally dedicated to providing information and links about fruitcake. Even more amazing is that “fruitcake” is Googled more than 246,000 times a month! Sounds pretty popular to me.


As an established fruitcake baker, I am often asked why fruitcake has such a bad rap. Well, many of us have only eaten bad fruitcake. BAD. BAD. BAD. There are so many bad fruitcakes on the market that its reputation is understandable.


I’m here to tell you that there are good — no, great — fruitcakes out there. You can make them. You can buy them. And once you have a slice of great fruitcake with coffee in the morning, or a snifter of brandy or glass of champagne in the evening, you’ll change your mind.


It’s all about the recipe…the ingredients…and using time-honored, somewhat labor intensive techniques. In this blog, I’ll share my expertise with you so that you no longer cringe when you hear the word “fruitcake.” And because fruitcake should generally be baked weeks before it’s going to be served, next post we’ll get started.


In the meantime, got a good fruitcake joke you’d like to share?


About the author: Yvonne, a graduate in Home Economics, has been baking fruitcakes for nearly 20 years. From this family tradition, Yvonne started a baking company specializing in gourmet, brandy-soaked fruitcakes. Using her family’s 100-year old recipe with quality ingredients and time-honored techniques, Yvonne is on a mission to convert modern day fruitcake naysayers to lovers…one bite at a time. Yvonne, who is also a marketing consultant for a Fortune 100 company, has lived in Europe, India and the Philippines, and currently has a home in Door County, WI.

21 comments about “Fruitcake Is No Laughing Matter

  1. Laurie

    I really LOVE good fruitcake. My grandmother was an expert. I have her recipe but I haven’t quite gotten the recipe to my taste. I love plenty of cake, nuts and some fruits.

    I also had an amazing pineapple/macademia fruitcake once, with lots of rum. It was really yummy too.

  2. Cynthia Kasbohm

    I would love a great fruitcake recipe. Would you be willing to share your recipe?

  3. Alcyone

    After a year of two of Carson-worth fruitcakes…..about thirty years ago I made a fruitcake taken from a Reynolds Wrap two-page ad. It was delicious. And moist! Over the years I’ve varied the fruits away from the candied stuff a bit always with great results. The magic bullet? The cake is actually steamed as you use aluminum foil (would I date myself if I called it “tin foil”) to seal the top of the pan prior to baking. One is supposed to line the pan with aluminum foil as well, but a good quality pan will provide enough insulation. The recipe calls for a large tube pan and it does produce a cake even with the top of the pan. Cut the monster in fourths and you have four gift cakes! I love to make this cake just to thumb my nose at the battalions of fruitcake-phobes out there.

  4. Yvonne Dae Morrissey Post author

    So glad to know there are other fruitcake lovers out there! I aim to make more converts. Interesting “steaming” technique…not familiar with that method. Went to the Reynolds Wrap site and a recipe for fruitcake wasn’t posted.

    But there are good recipes out there…we’ll look at some in the next post!

  5. suzzles

    The photo of your fruitcake looks just like mine! I can’t believe it, right down to it’s wrapping of booze soaked cheesecloth! I have been making the same fruitcake that my grandmother made, and her grandmother made, and her grandmother made. The recipe came with the family when they immigrated to America in the early 1800’s. I have made many converts to fruitcake over the years, but I only bless the truly faithful with a entire cake.

    I am so looking forward to future posts in your blog.

  6. Penny

    There is hope for the fruitcake. I sincerely believe that many detractors are actually closet fruitcake eaters. Me? I’m proud to say that not only do I love fruitcake but so does my son. We also love mincemeat pie… Try to find that in a restaurant during the holidays. Not happening. Laura’s pineapple/macademia fruitcake with rum sounds might fine also.

  7. Ken

    I too grew up with my mother making fruitcakes. They were wonderful. About 20 years ago I got her recipe (it was actually cut out of a magazine some 50 years ago, it started falling apart so I xeroxed it) and have been making fruitcakes every year. A good fruitcake is also very expensive to make, between all the pecans and candied cherries and pineapple, cheesecloth and brandy. My family and friends (who appreciate good fruitcake) always look forward to them.

  8. Dan

    I know the “Carson” fruitcake. It came from the stale commercially available cakes which were a staple of the holidays years ago. As I remember they traveled in circular red cans and often a challenge to chew from the moment they arrived. But my father searched out and about twenty-five years ago found a great fruit cake. Unfortunately, with his passing more than ten years ago also was lost the origin of these great cakes. Recently I found and ordered a “homemade” style fruitcake and brought it to the office. It took less than a day for the cake to vanish. The experience has made the prospect of office holiday gifts much easier this year. There is great fruitcake out there!

  9. Yvonne Dae Morrissey Post author

    Wow! I can’t believe that so many of you love fruitcake — and also have great recipes! This is going to be a great experience for all of us and together, we’ll rock the fruitcake world.

    Fruitcake is a traditional treat that I think needs to be brought up to date. In fact, I think it was the first energy bar. Loaded with fruit and nuts, fortified with a whiff of brandy, what better food to bring on the trail hiking or cross country skiing?

  10. Jeff DeMark

    Made me almost want to eat fruitcake…or maybe I would if it was from the writer….good article.

  11. Laurie

    BTW – I think the Macademia/Pineapple/Rum cake came from Neiman Marcus, years and years ago……

    I MUST know about the cheesecloth/booze thing. I bet my grandmother did this and I don’t have that in her recipe. Obviously, it’s a moisture thing?? Tell me, tell me ladies. I also wonder what booze everyone is using?

    My grandmother’s ART of decorating the tops of the cakes was soooo incredible. She made trees, poinsettias, bells, angels, stockings etc. They were soooo detailed. Again, lost with me….sigh.

    My recipe calls for lard too and many people don’t want to eat it because of that. What does everyone use?

  12. Roba

    Fruitcake? Oh ICK !!!! I tried for over 60 years to like it, but it remains one of the worse things presented. No one in my family likes it. Terrible, terrible !
    And yes, we have been anonymously resending the same fruitcake within our family for near 50 years now just for laughs.

  13. Caitlin Sundborg

    Thanks for posting this Yvonne! We feel the same way and have started a charity project this holiday season that aims to overcome fruitcake’s infamous reputation.

    The Fruitcake Project is a crowd-sourced baking project that allows users to pick 5 ingredients that they think would taste great in a fruitcake. Then they donate $15 (which goes towards two animal charity groups) and pick a recipient. Using the most popular ingredients, we bake the fruitcakes and mail them to all recipients before Christmas.

    I would love for you to check it out!

  14. Siobhan

    I’m commenting only so I’ll be notified of the next post. Can’t wait to hear more. 🙂

  15. george

    My mother loves fruitcake, and I buy her one every year. She’ll eat it over time.

  16. Mehul Teli

    I really love fruitcake prepared by my mum. And since its the festive season, my mum and I make it a point to prepare a different treat every weekend for all our guests who pour in. This weekend we decided on fruitcakes. I found this really amazing and simple recipe of the Eggless Fruit Cake, which doesn’t include rum or eggs, a perfect for a family who is purely veg. !!

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  18. Kurt Hilden

    I have always felt that it wouldn’t be Christmas without fruitcake. The cheap drugstore red cans are not really fruitcake! The Royals in Buckingham Palace have the traditional three-tiered cakes. The bottom layer is served at the wedding and the top layer is reserved for the Christening of the upcoming baby. I would love to try that fruitcake and even better, I’d like the recipe. The icing would vary from a fondant to marzipan. I think that the fruitcake will once again be the status symbol of high society and the gourmand. I wouldn’t want the fruitcake of which Johnny Carson vilified.


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