friday feast: fruitcake, nutty as a

“Christmas Morning” by Carl Larrson


Happy December!

So, are you having visions of sugar plums yet? (I’m curious — have any of you actually established a meaningful relationship with a sugar plum?)

Well, the yuletide season is upon us once again — the annual onslaught of frenzied shopping, card scribbling, tree decorating, egg nog guzzling, and my favorite, cookie baking! Yay! We’ve stashed away our pumpkins, eaten the last of our turkey sandwiches, and now it’s time to stuff those goodie bags and fill those tins and trays with holiday treats.

Today, I’ve decided to dedicate this post to the most maligned and ridiculed outcast of Christmas offerings, the fruitcake.

Did you just gag?

Some say fruitcakes were doing just fine until Johnny Carson joked that there really is only one fruitcake in the world, passed from family to family. But the song I’m sharing today proves that poor fruity was the butter of jokes as far back as 1883, when C. Frank Horn composed, “Miss Fogarty’s Christmas Cake.”

Now, Miss Fogarty and I go way back. In my famous high school speech class, where I recited several food poems (including “I Had But Fifty Cents,” which I blogged about last year), I also memorized what I thought was a poem called “Miss Fogarty’s Cake.” In a strange incidence of serendipity, my delivery took the form of a prissy Irish lass pushing hygienic potatoes. Aye, the accent was too authentic for words!

Imagine how my nuts cracked some 30+ years later, when I learned that Miss Fogarty wasn’t a poem, but a song! And it had a chorus full of fruit! This revelation only furthers my long held belief that I was always fated to marry an Irishman, and to live out the rest of my days trying to convince the world that my real name is McJama.

Before I serve up the song, a few words (in hushed tones), about the dear fruitcake. If you are one of those cynical moderno (yes moderno) types with no respect for tradition, now hear this: DO NOT JUDGE all fruitcakes by the mass produced variety.

Make your own, with fresh, creamery butter and good quality fruit (using only those you truly like to begin with), douse it with rum, brandy or your favorite hardcore booze, wrap well in cheesecloth and foil, then let it age at least a week.  Rather than trying to recyle it, you will find yourself hoarding it. Proof of a good cake is in the number of hunky Irish tenors who follow you home. If stored properly in a tin, a fruitcake can last months, or even years. That’s a lot of Irish tenors!


by C. Frank Horn

As I sat by my window last evening,
The letterman brought unto me
A little gilt-edged invitation, sayin’
“Gilhooley come over to tea.”
I knew that the Fogarties sent it.
So I went just for old friendships sake.
The first thing they gave me to tackle
Was a slice of Miss Fogarty’s cake.

There were plums and prunes and cherries,
There were citrons and raisins and cinnamon, too.
There was nutmeg, cloves and berries
And a crust that was nailed on with glue.
There were caraway seeds in abundance
Such that work up a fine stomach ache
that could kill a man twice after eating a slice
Of Miss Fogarty’s Christmas cake.

Miss Mulligan wanted to try it,
But really it wasn’t no use
For we worked on it over an hour
And couldn’t get none of it loose.
Till Murphy came in with a hatchet
And Kelly came in with a saw
That cake was enough be the power above
For to paralyze any man’s jaws.

Miss Fogarty proud as a peacock,
Kept smiling and blinking away
Till she flipped over Flanagan’s brogan
And spit the homebrew in her tea.
Aye Gilhooley she says you’re not eatin’
Try a little bit more for me sake.
And no Miss Fogarty says I,
For I’ve had quite enough of your cake.

Maloney was took with the colic,
O’Donald’s a pain in his head
McNaughton lay down on the sofa,
And he swore that he wished he was dead.
Miss Bailey went into hysterics
And there she did wriggle and shake.
And everyone swore they were poisoned
Just from eating Miss Fogarty’s cake.

Here’s a good white fruitcake recipe for you to try. Batter up!

Read more about “Miss Fogarty’s Christmas Cake” from the New York Folklore Society here.

To demonstrate your newfound support for fruitcakes, listen to the song here.

Finally, to celebrate your ongoing fruitiness with other poetry nuts, check out this week’s roundup at Mommy’s Favorite Children’s Books.

“‘Oh my,’ she exclaims, her breath smoking the windowpane. ‘It’s fruitcake weather!'”  ~ from A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote.

28 thoughts on “friday feast: fruitcake, nutty as a

  1. Fruitcake

    Great post! My favorite part is the comic panel.

    I read “A Christmas Memory” a few years ago. Isn’t it wonderful?


  2. Re: Fruitcake

    Jama — that was from me (Laura @Author Amok), not anonymous. One of these days I’ll figure technology out.


  3. Re: Fruitcake

    Join the fruitcake club!! “A Christmas Memory” is my all-time favorite short story. We watch the video with Geraldine Page every year. Happy Holidays, Laura!


  4. We used to bake huge quantities of fruitcake for my father to give to hapless victims, er, fellow preachers he met on the Sawdust Trail. My older sisters and brothers measured the wet ingredients into a ginormous galvanized tub, then we all took turns (two by two) mixing in the flour. My mother baked it our tiny oven — countless loaves, two pans at a time — and we wrapped the cooled cakes with tin foil. Whew, that was a Herculean task! Worth it? I think not. I hate fruitcake to this day.

    (Inaudible) years later, my sister and I visited one of the houses where we made those fruicakes. The new owners showed us around, and in the garage…the galvanized tub! We’d left it hanging on a nail because we couldn’t fit it into the trailer when we moved, and there it was, waiting for our return.


  5. Wow, what a story. I suppose making fruitcakes in such huge quantities would turn anyone away from them. I think the galvanized tub was trying to tell you something — revive an old tradition! 🙂


  6. :o)
    I’ve never met a fruitcake I, um, appreciated. Maybe I should try to make one…
    Of course, cranberry orange bread could count as fruitcake. Sort of.
    I like that…


  7. Fruitcake

    Elaine M.

    I’ve been reading your posts–but not commenting much lately. It looks as if you had a grand trip!

    I haven’t eaten fruitcake in years. Can’t say as I miss it. I used to bake cookies that were a bit fruitcaky. Actually, I used to spend most of December making all different kinds of cookies to give away at Christmastime. Haven’t done that in a looooonnnng time.


  8. Oh, yes, I love cranberry orange bread (and muffins). Okay, we’ll count that as fruitcake this time, because I like you. 🙂

    Fruitcakes are supposed to bring good luck for the new year (in the old days they incorporated fruit and nuts from the previous year’s harvest). Perhaps you should throw caution to the wind and bake a fruitcake this year . . .


  9. Re: Fruitcake

    I love baking cookies, and like you, used to bake a lot more than I do these days. It was fun sharing them with everybody. Now, I have to be “in the mood” to bake. I’m sure Fruitcakes miss you ;).


  10. My mother-in-law makes fruitcake cookies every year. I can’t say that I like them, but it’s a tradition. I think it’s just that I don’t like cooked fruit that much. Except apples in pie.


  11. Only you could find a way to make fruitcake poetic and fun, Jama! Thanks…

    🙂 Janet@acrossthepage


  12. Fruitcake

    My son and I love fruitcake! I’m retired so I told my son…if anyone gets a fruitcake and doesn’t want it, please tell them that you’ll gladly take it.
    Lucky for me, one of my former co-workers still bakes a delicious fruitcake and gives me one loaf.
    Mele Kalikimaka to all.
    Merry Christmas in Hawaiian.


  13. I did not gag. I like fruitcake. Nay – I LOVE fruitcake. I’ve already made two loaves from my mother’s recipe (which are wrapped in bourbon-soaked cheesecloth and aluminum foil in the fridge). And I have a second recipe for an orange fruitcake that I am likely to make, which doesn’t use the mixed candied fruit, but relies on dried fruits and candied orange peel alone.


  14. Well, now you’re talking! Did you know that highly civilized and cultivated people like fruitcakes 😀 ? What finer pleasure than to savor a small piece, nibble by nibble, with some warm Darjeeling on a winter afternoon? Homemade is the only way to go.


  15. Happy, happy holidays, Jama! *hug* It’s my favorite time of the year and I am getting excited at the thought of Christmas-related posts from you. 😀

    Into the Wardrobe


  16. Hey there, Tarie! How are things going out your way? My teddy bear elves are helping me cook up some holiday treats to share with you. But watch out for that mistletoe!


  17. Now that is one thorough piece on Fruitcake! Funny comic too! I’m not sure I’ve ever tried it, probably because of its “reputation”! :0)
    Kelly Polark


  18. A fruitcake virgin in our midst! Don’t let its “reputation” deter you from trying it. I mean, just think of all that booze and those Irish tenors . . .


  19. Hoarding the Fruitcake

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Jama. A good-quality, homemade fruitcake is something to be hoarded. Actually, the same goes for a good piece of fruit (as opposed to a diet rich in chocolate) and a good steak. I was probably 25 before having my first “real” steak and some years after that, became one of the 25 recipients of Mrs. Sterling’s homemade fruitcake — and found out what all the fuss was about. :o) Lois


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