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Old-Fashioned Fruitcake Baking Secrets

Updated on January 14, 2017

Oh, Yeah!

I don’t know about any of you, but to me, the commercial fruitcakes are some of the most terrible things that I have ever tasted. My father used to love them, but he and I used to see opposites on just about everything. Anyway, there really can be an art to making fruitcake, from some of the simplest and most flavorful breads to some of the most wonderful cakes that will literally melt in your mouth. Welcome to Fruitcake 101!

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General Hints for the Holiday Cakes

To chop suet, sprinkle it well with flour while chopping, as it won’t stick to the knife.

To separate raisins and candied fruit, immerse them in a bowl of flour. Rub them until they are coated and separated before adding to your batter.

When your cake is first baked, it could have a hard dry crust. Never fear, as this is normal. During the aging process, the crust and fruit moisten, the flavors blend well, and it ages.

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To Age a Fruitcake

A properly made, old-fashioned fruitcake should keep for two or three months, and that isn’t even counting freezing. You will need an airtight pan to store your cakes in, and these can be found in cooking stores or at the hardware store. Look for some at garage sales, too, as many can be picked up very inexpensively. Then you can make more fruitcake, if not buying tins. Keep the tin with the cake in a cool place to prevent mold, such as your refrigerator, a cellar, or basement. To help the cake last or put it through the mail, soak the outside in a brandy bath. You can paint the brandy on with a pastry brush, by giving it two or three coats. If it molds anyway, just trim it off. Mold will not harm your fruitcake. If you plan to eat it soon, just cover it with plastic wrap or foil. You can actually make it last a year or so with more rum, brandy, or any other kind of strong spirits, as alcohol prevents mold. Then wrap your cake in cheesecloth or some kind of cloth that has been soaked in the alcohol. Then wrap over the cloth with plastic wrap or foil, and place in an airtight tin in a cool place. Another way you can ready the cake for longtime storage is to bury it in powdered sugar in an airtight tin in a cool place. For very long storage, poke the cake with a skewer, and pour a little brandy or rum in the holes. The reason for the airtight packaging is to keep the alcohol from evaporation.

When you first begin making fruitcakes for storage, it is all right to keep a watch on things. In fact, I encourage it to bolster your confidence. Begin by soaking cheesecloth in brandy or rum, and wrap each cake with four lengths of cheesecloth. Then overwrap tightly with plastic or foil. Put it in a tin with a lid and store in a cool area. Every two weeks(mark it on your calendar!), unwrap the cake to take a look and try a small piece. Resoak the cheesecloth, rewrap, and repack the cake. This system is good for an easy six weeks.

To decorate cakes to serve, wait until the storage time and you’re ready to serve. It doesn’t matter if it has been two weeks or two years. Make a glaze by combining a half cup light corn syrup with two tablespoons water in a pan. Bring to a full boil, then allow to cool a bit. Brush the surface crumbs off your unwrapped fruitcake, then brush on the glaze. Decorate with walnut halves, candied cherries, and/or citron, then brush again with the glaze.

Now that you’re armed with all this information for the way that the old time bakers used to do this, make your fruitcake!

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Everyday Fruitcake

Mix 4 ½ cups whole wheat flour, 2 ½ cups rye flour, 2 teaspoons salt, and ½ cup canola oil. Add a cup raisins, ½ cup roasted sunflower seeds, ½ cup roasted almonds, pecans, or a mix(except peanuts), and ½ cup dried fruit, cooked enough to chop, like apricots or prunes. Add enough water to make a dough, about 2 2/3 cups. Knead, then make a loaf. One large loaf is better than two small ones!

Place in a loaf pan and allow to rest overnight. Brush the top with water, then bake at 275 degrees F for 1 ½ hours. When cooled to lukewarm, wrap tightly in foil or plastic and allow to season for at least two days. This will allow the crust to soften and the flavor to improve.

Honey Fruitcake

Mix 2 cups honey with ½ cup water. Then beat in 4 ½ cups rye flour, 4 teaspoons baking powder, 3 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon allspice, and 1 ½ cups dried fruit. Bake at 350 degrees F in two round pans with a pan of boiling water in the bottom of the oven, for about 40 minutes. Age for about a week, wrapped tightly in plastic or foil.

Freezing Fruitcake

Some say that the fruitcakes made and frozen are the best of all, and they’re definitely less work. Just bake, wrap, and freeze.

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White Fruitcake

Combine 2 ounces white raisins, ½ lb. each light citron, candied pineapple and candied cherries, 1 small, grated fresh coconut(save the milk), and one pound chopped, blanched almonds. Sprinkle the fruit and nut mix with 1 cup flour, and set aside. Cream 2 cups sugar with 1 cup shortening. Add alternately to creamed mix, 1 cup coconut milk(add water if nut was short on milk) and 3 cups flour(presifted with 2 teaspoons baking powder). Add 1 teaspoon each vanilla and lemon extract, and then the floured nuts and fruit. Mix well. Beat 8 egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold them in gently. Bake ½ hour at 250 degrees F in a round tube pan(10 x 4 ½). When ready to serve, decorate with citron slices and cherry halves.

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Old Fashioned Fruitcake

Place 6 ½ cups fruit and a pound of nuts in a bowl and pour a cup dark rum over it. Stir, cover, and let rest overnight. For fruit, use your favorite combination—candied pineapple, candied cherries, citron, candied lemon and orange peel, and raisins. The golden or Muscat raisins toss better than the dark raisins. You can even add dates, figs, dried apricots, prunes, currants, etc. For nuts, use pecans, walnuts, almonds, filberts, etc., anything but peanuts.

Cream together a pound each of butter and brown sugar. Add 12 egg yolks(keep the whites). Now add 4 cups flour, a teaspoon each nutmeg, salt, and ground allspice. Then add 2 teaspoons each mace, cloves, and cinnamon. Stir in fruit and nuts. Whip the 12 egg whites stiffly, then fold in. Bake in four 9 ½ x 4 ½ inch or 12 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pans that have been oiled and preferably lined with parchment paper, then lightly oil again.

Brush the tops of the cakes with milk. Use about a 250 degree F oven. Bake 3 ½ hours for the large loaf pans, 2 ½ to 3 hours for the smaller ones. Use the toothpick test to check when done. Let cool for about 15 minutes before you peel the paper off the cakes.

Molasses Fruitcake

Combine 3 cups dark raisins, pitted prunes or chopped dates, 2 cups golden raisins or chopped dried apricots. Add two 16-ounce packages of candied fruit. Stir in rum, brandy, or apple juice if you don’t want to use alcohol. Allow to soak overnight. Cream together 3 cups butter and 2 ½ cups sugar. Beat in 12 eggs, then add a tablespoon vanilla extract, and a 12 ounce bottle molasses. Add a tablespoon each grated lemon and orange zest. Sift together 7 cups flour, 2 tablespoons each nutmeg and ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons each salt and baking soda, and a tablespoon ground cloves. Then add 4 ½ cups chopped walnuts or pecans. Combine with egg and molasses mixture. Bake at about 300 degrees F for 2 hours in floured 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pans greased and lined with baking paper that has been oiled on the top. Use the toothpick test to check when done.

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    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 23 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Missy! A homemade fruitcake is definitely better than the stuff that they churn out commercially. It requires tending and care, and if that isn't done, you're definitely not going to get a good product. I'm sure that you will like that fruitcake from TX!

    • Missy Smith profile image

      Missy Smith 23 months ago from Florida

      This is a great hub to bring back for the season, Deb. I hope I can call you that now. I feel I know you now. :)

      I do not like fruitcake! However, it is probably because, as you have written here, there is a process to making and storing one to make them taste just right, and I haven't tasted a great one of those yet.

      My dad actually found out about this place that is famous for their fruitcakes out in Texas, and he had me order one for Christmas. I'm going to be brave and try it, I'm optimistic that I may like it. The bakery has really good reviews from people who never liked fruitcake until they ate one from there.

      I was unaware that there was different types of fruitcakes until I read your hub. I actually think I would like the White Fruitcake. It sounds yummy, and has ingredients that I like very much.

      Great Hub! Sharing!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 24 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      You might find that you like it, too. My father loved that commercially made stuff, which I hated. A next door neighbor made her own, which turned me on to the finer things in life!

    • Chantelle Porter profile image

      Chantelle Porter 24 months ago from Chicago

      My mom loves fruitcake. I'm going to go be this a try

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      It is in a cool place and infused with alcohol. Like a wine, it ages. One does check on it, too.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      Why wouldn't the fruit cake turn rot if kept two months?

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Understood, Kevin. The proof is in the pudding, so to speak.

    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 2 years ago

      Well Deb, I have never baked so I might become a connoisseur for eating it but once at baking (your cake) I will not become one yet. (grin)

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Oh, Kevin...these are fantastic, really. It will turn you into a connoisseur AND a baker of the finer things in life. Even though fruitcakes take time, they are well worth the effort, which you shall soon discover. I am trying to get caught up, as school(ornithology), really had me tied up. I still have to prove what I know in August, but I know I can do that. Wait until you hear about my some of my goings-on!

    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 2 years ago

      Those all looked and sounded delicious Deb but I think that I might prefer the molasses recipe best. I might try a couple. Since I cannot bake this now - working on Hub, find pie pan, etc. - I bookmarked it. I voted it up, shared and pinned it.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Peg, everything homemade is always so much better, especially that unmistakable taste of love.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      It's been so many years since I baked a fruitcake. I love the basting in rum part and after it has seasoned for a while they are really tasty. Thanks for the wonderful recipes, helpful instructions and storage tips. You're so right about the commercial ones. They are awful.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Susan, you will NOT be sorry with these recipes, time, patience, and the ingredients are all that it required.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Mary, you don't know what you're missing. I felt the same way, as all my father would do was drag the commercially made trash in the house, which was disgusting. My next door neighbor MADE her own every holiday season. Try it, you'l LIKE it!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Vellur, I guarantee that if you have the time, a real fruitcake will be well worth it for you.

    • Susan Zutautas profile image

      Susan Zutautas 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I do enjoy a good homemade fruitcake and miss the ones that my grandmother used to make. I've never tried to make one myself but this year I may just try. Thanks for all your secrets I'm sure they'll help a lot.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 2 years ago from New York

      IF I were to eat fruitcake, there might be one I'd try here. Unfortunately fruitcake is still a joke in my house but your efforts are appreciated. Job well done.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 2 years ago from Dubai

      Very useful baking secrets, bookmarked for future reference. Voted up very useful.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      These fruitcakes are incredible homemade. I'm sure that if you do it once, you will keep on making them, Eddy. Thanks, as always.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      Mmm sounds and looks great Deb and another for me to vote up and save.

      Eddy,

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      You will find it, agaglia. But remember: it is always in the last place that you look...

    • agaglia profile image

      agaglia 3 years ago

      I used to make a fruitcake and it was delicious. There was very little batter, mixed nuts, and the candied fruit. I can't find the recipe, but you have given me inspiration to keep looking :D

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Jackie, I think people are used to those terrible commercially made cakes, and fear that homemade is just as bad. Little do the realize…well, we know the truth, eh?

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Sure look good. I love them but since I am the only one, I never get any. whaaaaa! lol But it is true. How could people not love them, makes no sense. Thanks for sharing though; I will save it just in case!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      If it was not for my next door neighbor growing up, I never would have known the virtues to great things that can be made in our own kitchens, KoffeeKlatch Gals.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 4 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I love a good fruitcake but they are so hard to find. Yours look delicious. I will be trying them. Thanks

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      You're entirely welcome, Vacation Trip. There are so many fabulous recipes out there, it can be mind boggling to look at them all, especially the sweet things!

    • Vacation Trip profile image

      Susan 4 years ago from India

      Great hub. It is simply mouth watering. Thanks for sharing.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Kim, they are amazing. When I was a kid, the next door neighbor sent one over every Christmas that she made herself.

    • Mama Kim 8 profile image

      Sasha Kim 4 years ago

      I have actually never tried fruitcake! ^_^ I had no idea they're traditionally aged for so long!!! Very interesting hub ^_^ voting up!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, rajan! There are so many good recipes out there for those willing to give it a shot. If you make it, let me know how you like it.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Interesting and useful tips and recipes. Would love to try the white fruit cake. Voted up & useful.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Yes, frogy, a glaze is another one of those secrets. I'm glad that you enjoyed the piece!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Yes, By Lori, but that is the real reason that I gave the information for baking and aging. Not everyone knows that.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, europewalker. The essence of the rum has a nice flavor, which is usually used for preservation. Did you hear that a 133-year-old fruitcake was recently auctioned?

    • frogyfish profile image

      frogyfish 4 years ago from Central United States of America

      I have made several fruitcakes similar to your Old Fashioned recipe, but your Molasses sounds great also. I use lots of fruits and nuts and my non-fruitcake loving family members even like it. Thanks for sharing your hints about storage...I make a syrup/sugar/ rum or lemon glaze that works well too.

    • By Lori profile image

      By Lori 4 years ago from USA

      I love fruitcake. But I was buying some candied citrus to bake one with, and the cashier almost threw up just looking at it ! because she hates fruitcake. I think with fruitcake you either love it or hate it ? There are so many recipes, seems a person could find at least one that they like ?!

    • europewalker profile image

      europewalker 4 years ago

      Awesome hub. I am the only one in my family that loves fruitcake. I like it made with a little rum added to the recipe. Thanks for sharing:)

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I'm sorry that you got bad fruitcake. Unless it is made correctly, t is dry, stale tasting, and just overall, rather nasty.

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Although you make the fruitcake look delicious, there is no way I'm trying another piece as the first two I tried in my lifetime were not to my liking.

      You are a creative individual with many talents.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      You are most welcome, idigwebsites. Give it a shot, you'll never know unless you try it.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Tammy! Thanks. I'm going to put a new recipe on there very shortly, too.

    • idigwebsites profile image

      idigwebsites 4 years ago from United States

      Yup, I guess it's optional... Thank you very much for the added tips! :)

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 4 years ago from North Carolina

      Wonderful variations. The every day bread looks really good. Very useful tips!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      If you try it, idig, I know that you won't be sorry. If there is any fruit that you don't like, leave it out, or put in what you do like.

    • idigwebsites profile image

      idigwebsites 4 years ago from United States

      I am also not keen on fruitcakes but the white fruitcakes sounds interesting and delicious. Might have a try. :)

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, rmcleve. I have never tried Christmas Pudding...perhaps I should do research and make some...thanks for the idea!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Bumpsysmum! You are so welcome. Wait until you see the plan that I have for recipes and comments this month. You're bound to find several things that you will like.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks for sharing, Tom. Sorry that the stuff that you had was not worthy. Believe me, I sure know what you mean.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Carol, a lot of people don't like candied fruit, especially the citron. Those things can always be omitted.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hope you try one, Meldz. These are pretty decent recipes.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Eddy! I think you'll like these old-style recipes. They sure have a lot of character. Don't pick one yet, as I have a molasses fruitcake that I found that I will be getting on here soon.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Right, Martin? Homemade recipes sure make a big difference, compared to that stuff that is mass produced cheaply.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      No, Nettlemere, I can't imagine a gravy browned fruitcake, either. Maybe I should research that to find out more.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, whonu! No, you can't beat a real homemade cake, that's for sure. Thanks for taking a look.

    • rmcleve profile image

      Rachael Cleveland 4 years ago from Woodbridge, VA

      Mmmm...You know, so many people say mean things about fruitcake. I've always enjoyed it, especially with dense, moist cake, big chunks of fruit, and dollops of crunchy nuts. I never turn up my nose at a fruitcake, so bring 'em on!

      One exception: I tried Christmas Pudding in England while we lived there, and could not get a taste for it at all...

    • Bumpsysmum profile image

      Bumpsysmum 4 years ago from Cambridgeshire

      Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you! My Gran was a head pastry cook in a well-to-do house in the 1920s and 30s. She went into service at the age of 12 and was taught by the head cook. Her pastry and cakes were to die for, she passed some of her skill on to me but not her fruit cakes, sadly. I can still remember the smell of baking when you entered her house....it made you drool! I will be trying these, thank you so much again. Voted B/A/U

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great recipes but not for me. I'm with Bill on this one i tried it once and told myself i would never try it again.

      Vote up and more !!! SHARING !

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      I like certain fruitcakes but many not. I used to make one with cherries, brazil nuts and a few other things. I guess it is the small fruits I don't like..But you did a good job on this.

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      ignugent17 4 years ago

      Wow ! Looks so good. yum yum. :-)

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      Hi Deb another great one for my recipe book ;I haven't made a Christmas cake for years now but am all prepared to make one tomorrow!!!

      I am going to save this gem in to my Christmas recipe book.

      Thank you so much for sharing and have a great day.

      Eddy.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      An eatable fruitcake, imagine that.

    • Nettlemere profile image

      Nettlemere 4 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      I love a fruitcake but had never heard of a white fruitcake - that sounds interested and worth a go.

      My father remembers fruit cakes which were browned with gravy browning during rationing after the war. Goodness knows what that must have tasted like!

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 4 years ago from United States

      What would any holiday be, without a nice homemade fruitcake on the table? Thanks for the great tips and recipes. whonu

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Billy, it surprised me, too. When I was growing up, my next door neighbor had me BEGGING for it every Christmas.

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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Deb, there is no way I'm eating one of those things. LOL I'm sure your suggestions are great for those who like fruitcake, but this boy had it once and swore never to do it again. :) Have a great weekend at the Lake!