Long live the fruitcake

25 Dec

A beloved but often belittled fruitcake. Sherry Roberts photo.

The box came in the mail Dec. 24. It was addressed to me and came from Eilenberger’s Bakery in Palestine, Texas.

There was a message on the shipping label: “Greetings: From Mrs. Sherry Roberts. Here’s your fruitcake, my love!”

Enclosed was a delicious, round two-pounder in a festive tin.
I had lamented a few weeks earlier, as I have for the last several Christmases, that fruitcakes seem to be no longer available in area stores. You used to be able to buy them at places like Walgreen’s for $5 apiece.

Maybe fruitcakes are in short supply at retailers because sales have decreased. And maybe that’s because fruitcakes are now the butt of so many jokes on late-night TV and elsewhere. They are regularly ridiculed and parodied. More on that in a moment.

I’ve never let popular opinion — or jokes — determine what I like and don’t like. And I’m not afraid to proclaim that I like fruitcakes. That includes the texture, nuts and dried fruit. It goes back to my childhood, I guess, when my parents often received them as gifts.

One of the fruitcakes they received each year was home made, and it came from my folks’ neighbor, “Bunny” Fiala. Her fruitcakes were the best, perhaps because her recipe called for a generous helping of booze. I don’t remember whether she used whiskey or rum, but a piece of Bunny’s fruitcake gave you a warm feeling inside — literally.

My parents are gone, Bunny’s gone and so are her fruitcakes. But the memories of them linger.

Fruitcakes have been around a long time. According to, the oldest reference that can be found regarding a fruitcake dates back to Roman times.

“The recipe included pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and raisins that were mixed into barley mash. Honey, spices and preserved fruits were added during the Middle Ages. Crusaders and hunters were reported to have carried this type of cake to sustain themselves over long periods of time away from home.”

So the fruitcake has a long and distinguished history.

But I mentioned before that lots of people make jokes about fruitcake. The Internet is loaded with them. One website,, lists 20 uses for a fruitcake, none of which are eating:

1. Use as a doorstop
2. Use as a paperweight
3. Use to clean your pots and pans
4. Use as boat anchor
5. Use as bricks in the fireplace
6. Build a house with them
7. Use it to hold up your Christmas tree
8. Use as a pencil holder
9. Give it to the cat for a scratching post
10. Put it in the back yard to feed the birds and squirrels
11. Use to hold up your car when changing tires
12. Slice and use for poker chips
13. Use it to carve your turkey on
14. Use as a replacement for Duraflame log
15. Take it camping with you — use it to weigh down the tent
16. Use it as a seat at a stadium event
17. Stand on it when you change a light bulb
18. Put it in the back of your car/truck for snow/ice driving
19. Use it to replace free weights when you work out
20. Use as book ends at the school library

There’s also a website,, devoted — tongue-in-cheek — to informing the world about the dangers of fruitcake proliferation and its devastating environmental impact. Huh?

“If you care about the future of the earth, the time to act is now,” the website says. “If you receive a fruitcake this holiday season, please keep the tradition alive. Pass it on. It’s the perfect way to say, ‘I care more about the environment than I care about you,’ in a way that fulfills your gift-giving obligation and societal guilt in one step.”

If you don’t have anyone to give your fruitcake to, the site points out, you can send it to The Great Fruitcake Recycling Project and, in turn, get a “I recycled a fruitcake” button.

See? Like Rodney Dangerfield, fruitcakes don’t get any respect.
Except from me.

Copyright 2010 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This piece submitted as a column to The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.

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Posted by on December 25, 2010 in Uncategorized



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