What a fruitcake?

December 17 of 31 December-ish posts

First, before you read any further and must feel that crushing disappointment of yet another recipe blog that doesn’t seem to put the recipes at the top of the page, while you scroll to the bottom and try to find something resembling an ingredient list, let me be honest and up front: if you’re here looking for a fruitcake recipe, there isn’t one.

I often post recipes. This is not a recipe, this is:

… something I should have cooked in 2022, but didn’t.


You know fruitcake.

Cake. Fruit. But somehow both and neither at the same time.

The cake that is more of a dense loaf full of what should be healthy ingredients but is masked in sugar and spices and alcohol to the point that no is even sure if they should hate it or love it or mock it for the curious monstrosity that it is. Booze-soaked gluten gluing together colourful lumps of sweet, sticky globules that may be candied nuts or sugary, dried fruits, or mystery orbs summoned from the Christmas dimension to haunt our dreams.

I love weird things, though, and I especially love weird foods. A well-made fruitcake is weird and wonderful and a baking curiosity that often defies logic, reason, and sensible palates.

I have never made a fruitcake.

And it seems like it is one of those deserts where there is really only a short window, sometime around Halloween or early November, when bakers should be thinking about fruitcakes that might be needed for the holiday season, when fruitcakes will be tolerated in small doses for the holiday season, and outside of that short window fruitcakes are just not done.

I thought about making a fruitcake in mid-November. We had just come back from New York and I was pondering my next bit of time off around the holidays and thinking I would like to break out the cookie recipe book and get some serious baking done. Fruitcake popped into my head, because while I do admit fruitcake is not everyone’s jam, if you’ve tried good fruitcake you understand how this concoction has survived the eons of time since that first batch of fruitcake was made… some of which may still survive in your grandparent’s holiday stash.

I thought about making a fruitcake in mid-November, and then I went to the grocery store with a list. Yes, I made it as far as the market with an actual recipe that I’d researched online, suffering through hours of endless recipe scrolling, reading heartfelt, keyword-stuffed stories of precious family Christmas memories vaguely connected to the recipe hidden at the bottom of the page. I found a recipe that had ingredients I thought looked like something I could both find at my local grocery market and which collected together resembled a fruitcake I would enjoy.

I thought about making a fruitcake in mid-November, but then pricing out the ingredients in the store gave me some serious pause. Pause. As in pause, put down the bag of dried apricots and step back slowly and carefully from the merchandise. I mean, we keep a well-stocked kitchen, but the collection of fruits, spices, nuts and booze that I needed for this recipe was creeping up well into the triple digits at the cash register.

For my international readers, some comparisons: locally a 10kg bag of flour is worth about $15 right now, a liter of rum is worth about $30, and a week’s worth of groceries for a modest family of three averages at about $200. My fruitcake was going to set me back over $150 in ingredients. Y’know, like almost a week’s worth of groceries for cake ingredients … and all this for a cake that most everyone was likely going to turn up their noses because of it’s reputation. (You know what I’m talking about.)

I thought about making a fruitcake in mid-November, but I didn’t.

To that end, if you have read through this sad-sack story of fruitcake or merely speed-scrolled to the bottom looking for a recipe here’s the rub: I neither made a cake, nor saved the recipe, nor do I have a happy ending to this tale. I just didn’t do fruitcake in 2022.

Maybe that’s a good thing.

Maybe that one time I had great fruitcake will forever be a magical, weirdo memory untarnished in my mind.

Maybe I would have crushed fruitcake, or maybe fruitcake would have crushed me.

This will not be the year I figure that out.

All that said, next year in 2023 when mid-November rolls around again there is one post I would like to scroll to the bottom of and find a great fruitcake recipe. This one? Maybe? Maybe you have a recipe you can post or link to in the comments. Maybe this could be an amazing fruitcake recipe page afterall? And like all those terrible recipe blogs, we can keep it hidden at the bottom of the page, tucked into the comments for someone to find after scrolling right to the end of the heartfelt story. Maybe.

One Hundred (Incredible) Years

I found myself in a local drugstore this weekend, standing in the greeting card aisle, picking out a birthday card.

The selection was limited.

Limited, not because the store was lacking in birthday cards, but because there was only one option with the correct age number printed on the front: 100.

While we’ve spoken on the phone numerous times, I hadn’t seen my grandmother in person for well over a year. This, even though she lives a mere dozen kilometers away in a care home near the neighbourhood where she lived most of her life, a fifteen minute drive away from my front door. Fluctuating restrictions due to the pandemic have had us teetering on the knife edge between “probably shouldn’t” and “definitely cannot” go for a visit.

Yet for a birthday celebration, her with double-dosed vaccinations and us with one each, we spared a bit of caution and met her in the grassy courtyard for a sunshiny visit and a cupcake.

It’s not how any of us imagined celebrating a century of life.

One hundred years is such an unfathomable span of time for most of us that to tell folks that a loved one has reached the milestone evokes reactions ranging from clapping and cheering to dropped jaws and gasps of astonishment.

“One hundred?! Really?” They say. “That’s incredible.”

Because it is incredible.

Within some of that hundred years I’ve had plenty of overlapping time to experience the influence of this woman I call my grandmother.

She loved to walk and did so every day of her life, until she couldn’t anymore, and then still tries to walk as much as she is able up and down the hallways of her care home. I don’t know that she was ever a hiker or explorer, per se, but I can’t imagine that she ignored those countless trails running through the creek ravines near her old house, some of the same trails I now run.

With the exception of a small patio, her entire backyard was a vegetable garden and my oldest memories of visiting her in that house were of my grandparents fussing with weeds, and tinkering with soil. The rhubarb plant now growing strong in my own garden was a cultivar of her plant and after fifteen years I still consider that I’m just minding it for her.

And as long as she was in her own home she never fell for the trendy upgrade to an electric stove, remaining in my mind the one and only cook who stuck by gas and her good sturdy kitchen tools. I missed out on the family cast iron collection, a regret I’ll have for a long time because the culinary gene skipped a generation (right over my mother) and all credit for my interest in making food goes back to that lineage, pots, pans, and genetics all.

But there it is. I don’t know how to celebrate a century of life in these times other than to acknowledge it. Just say, wow.

A piece of cake.

A conversation in the sunshine.

A card with a giant one-zero-zero on the front.