Thursday, December 15, 2005


“Oh yeah, well I KNOW all about fruitcake buddy! I’ve worked in Emergency at a hospital, and I’ve SEEN what fruitcake can do to a person!”


In 1972, when I began my baker’s apprenticeship, I didn’t know the first thing about fruitcake. But that Christmas, at the Seattle bakery where I worked, the candied fruit started to arrive, in 30 lb. boxes, with pecans, blanched almonds, and other ingredients. I can still see that huge stack of stuff, sitting in the corner of the storeroom, on the day I asked my boss, Karl Ekelmann, “Okay, so what are we gonna do with all that fruit?”

Several days later I found myself, shall we say, fully involved in the making of the fruitcake, with hundreds of pounds of those ingredients strewn out onto our 5’ x 12’ maple workbench. Karl and I poured the white colored and rum fragrant batter onto the top of the fruit and nuts, and then, began to gently turn the pile into a spicy, rich fruitcake mixture, using the full length of our arms. It was tiring. Basically, a good fruitcake contains mostly fruit and nuts, and very little batter. We finished, hosed down, and scaled the finished batter into round pans and full sheets, and baked it at a low temperature all day. When it was almost finished, we pulled the pans from the oven, one at a time, and topped all the cakes with fruit and nuts we had held out as topping, after, of course, soaking it all in rum and flavorings, and finally, brushed on a sweet and shiny apricot glaze over all the cakes. The making of that fruitcake, all those years ago, on that day, when I was still in my 20s, the spectacle of it, hooked me on fruitcake. I decided to like it.

I worked as an apprentice for 3 years, and then opened “Richard’s Bakery” in Tualatin, Oregon. Later, I opened my second bakery, “Favourites Bakery”, in Portland. Every year, while I was in business, my staff and I would crank out hundreds of fruitcakes, at Christmas time. Since it was an all day affair, I would try to make it fun, have other foods for the staff, maybe bring in a chef to make us something, sort of a Special Christmas Party For Baker’s Only.

In about 1985, after ten years in business, I began to tire of the plethora of “fruitcake jokes” out there, you know, how there is really only one fruitcake, that gets regifted around the world, since no one will eat it, how they make great doorstops, all that. Since I had been interested in fruitcake for some time, by then, I had been trying other fruitcakes every chance I got, and I was not surprised that fruitcake jokes were all the rage, given the many really lousy fruitcakes in the world. After thinking about it, and developing my ideas about it, I wrote a tract titled “In Defense of Fruitcake”, and placed copies of it on my counter for people to take. The basic idea is, if you make it right, use great ingredients, it’s gonna be good. If you make it cheaply, as is done so many times by wholesalers, and well, grannies, trying to save a buck, its gonna be shit. Later, owing to my attitude about fruitcake, and just for fun, I had some stickers made, depicting a big black circle, and slash, forming the newly invented International Sign for “No Fruitcake Jokes.”

Over the years, “In Defense Of Fruitcake” got around. I had sent a copy to “The Retail Bakers of America”, and through them, others found the article. One year, I think it was 1987, I got several small checks in the mail from newspapers around the country, who had reprinted it.

But the coup d’etat was in 1989, when writer Maria La Ganga, of the LA Times, did her research for an article she was doing about fruitcake, and used me, and my tract, as her springboard. The AP came out to my shop and took photos, and on December 13, 1989, the article came out, and was reprinted that year in many papers around the country. In the article, she refers to me as “the father of the fruitcake revolution”. You can imagine what a kick I get out of that. My usual hundreds of pounds of sales went well over a thousand that year. The article is still available to view online at The LA Times archives.

I didn’t get on Letterman, which woulda been a riot, me an’ Dave hurlin’ crappy fruitcakes offa the NBC roof, to see what kind of damage we might generate, but I did get phone calls from all over the country, from DJs, whose attitudes ranged from interested and nice to downright stupid. I would take the calls, negotiate my way through their questioning, and dumb jokes, all the while supporting my position on fruitcake.

When I sold “Favourites Bakery” in 1995, the name went with the sale, so I had to think of another name for my corporation. After very little thought, and since I can be such an impulsive sucka, I wrote “No Fruitcake Jokes, Inc.”, on the application to change the name of the corporation. I kept that name for a number of years, and it did shock and unsettle a few, when writing checks with the corporation name on them, or using business credit cards. Once, at Costco, when I used my “No Fruitcake Jokes, Inc.”, American Express Card, a management person was called over, and he quizzed me. “Sir, uh, what type of business was it that you have?”

Buy a "No Fruitcake Jokes" T-shirt

My story in annoying detail:

In Defense Of Fruitcake
Copyright Ric Seaberg 1985

Are you, dear friend, one of the chosen, the enlightenend, the few........who enjoys a good fruitcake, chock full of the freshest pecans and candied cherries and pineapple, bound only by ounces of deliciously spiced and perhaps liquored cake batter? Then bless you!

Or are you, poor soul, the one who spouts at the mention of fruitcake, “Makes a damn good doorstop”, or “I hope Aunt Ruth brings her fruitcake this year, ha-ha, we need another football!?” Then shame on you!

In 1975, when I opened my first bakery, at age 27, I will admit that I had my reservations about fruitcake. I was young, inexperienced, and although I’d been exposed to quality fruitcake baking, I had not yet “discovered” fruitcake. I may have even, at some time in my life, given in to “fruitcake bashing” myself, joining in with the legion of misguided individuals who smear fruitcake, the naive, the palateless.

Five minutes ago, here at 3:30 a.m., I turned by hand 100 pounds of beautiful cherries, pineapple, pecans, walnuts and blanched almonds into rum flavor and soak, and to be used later as the fruitcake topping. The sight of the fruit mixture and the aroma of the flavors are more than heavenly. I know my assistant, Mary, will arrive shortly and exclaim, in a kind of low, sensual tone.....”OHHHHHHHHH,...........Are we making fruitcake today!!!?

So what’sa matter? How did fruitcake acquire do many foes? Folks who are assured that most people in the group will agree with them as they wince and moan and gesture their fingers down their throats that fruitcake makes a better paperweight than food.....?

Years ago, when Aunt Ruth, and millions of others like her were shopping for their fruitcake ingredients, they found something new on the shelf. Something pretty, something inexpensive..........candied citrus peel!!!! “Wouldn’t that make a fine addition to my fruitcake?”, thought Ruth, “and so inexpensive!!” And so, on that day, millions of pretty, but pretty awful fruitcakes were born.

Marvelous little packages, those Currier and Ive embossed canned hostess gifts, masquerading as fruitcake. Those mountains of chain-store gift boxes for the purveyors of the fruitcake myth. The perfectly merchandised two pound cans of batter laced citron, ready to go for $2.99.

In our business, we sell hundreds of pounds of “real” fruitcake each holiday season. I would like to offer several suggestions if you intend on treating yourself to a fruitcake this year:

1. Try to find an independent baker, whose reputation depends on making “good things to eat”.
2. Be prepared to pay handsomely for a good fuitcake.
3. Chill it before slicing
4. Serve it ceremoniously, sliced thin, with a good quality coffee or tea.

Fruitcake, misunderstood and stripped of it’s former stature by greed and corporate merchandising, needs our help! Enjoy a good fruitcake. Invite some friends! And don’t forget to buy one for Aunt Ruth!

Buy a "No Fruitcake Jokes" T-shirt

My story in annoying detail:


J's Girlfriend said...

What a lovely story! I have to admit I don't like fruitcake, though... But please, do convince me!

Ric Seaberg said...

JG.... Thanks for the note. Ya just have to find a good one, that's all. And try this:....A friend of mine prefers his fruitcake with a slice of sharp cheddar, like Caerphilly from Wales. Merry Christmas JG!

dog1net said...

Most fruit cake is terrible, but now and then you get one that's just fantastic. And so was this post. Well written, amusing, and just the right touch for this time of year.

Ric Seaberg said...

Danke dog, have a great holiday!

angela marie said...

Well, I must admit that I have never had a fruitcake. Stollen (we of the German heritage) stuffed with candied fruit and nuts, but never fruitcake. Thanks for the email that brought me back your way! I hope it is ok to link to this post...if not, let me know!

rocks said...

Great article and post! You had me so close to wanting to try a good one. But alas, I am just a chicken and fruitcake remains on my list of scary foods...right along with refried beans and jello.
have a great holiday season and good job on the fruitcake revival!

Ajay Shroff said...

Nice Blog. Must add this to my daily trail.

Fizzy said...

Hello Angela-Marie sent me.
I love fruit cake and make up to 7 a year for all my family. This involves mixing it by hand as spoons break in the mix. I use between 9-12lb of fruit depending on how many I make.

We cover them with marzipan (held on with marmalade) and then ontop of that we have icing too.

The british custom is to eat it with a slice of cheddar or stilton. But as we live in yorkshire, lovely crumbly wensleydale cheese

ok my mouth is watering ..lovely post

Ric Seaberg said...

Thank you all for your comments. Fizzy your version sounds fantastic. Marzipan! What a great tradition.

Christine said...

What a nice story! Thank you for sharing it. I have to admit I've never had fruitcake, although my opinion of it is that there are bad ones and good ones - just like anything else. Perhaps this is the year I need to try to hunt down a good one....

Michael K. Willis said...

Neat story :-) I've never understood the animosity towards the humble's not my favorite cake but it's not the confection of the Devil that so many people make it out to be either.

Happy Christmas!

PBS said...

Yay for fruitcake; my sister-in-law makes some really good fruitcake! But then again, I've eaten some not-so-good fruitcakes too, like the ones people order from a catalog for Christmas gifts.

Rainypete said...

Three chhers for Ric! Long have I toiled to bring fuitcake out of its dark past only to find great resistance. People are terrified until they try my own hand made fruitcake. A fruitcake that can be cranked out within an afternoon is a scary thing.

Keep up the good fight.

Ric Seaberg said...

Thanks, Christine, Michael, PBS, Pete. I send a warm and wonderful week your way!

Playground in my Mind said...

I really enjoyed your post and the article. The history of the article is wonderful, too. You are a published author!
I like "blond" fruitcake. Can you please tell me the difference between the dark and light varieties. I think it is the liquor, but do not want to be stupid about it.
I agree-great ingredients make the fruitcake. (by the way, are you familiar with the made for t.v. movie Santa and Pete? With James Earl Jones. According to the movie, Pete invents dried fruit and fruitcake. Splendid film;)

Ric Seaberg said...

Playground! Nice to hear from you. Okay well, the higher the oil content, the darker the cake. Brown sugar, rather than white, will also impact the color of the cake, even though it might not look that dark before baking. I always made light fruitcake, but you could hardly see the batter, there was so much other stuff in there. And if you put dark rum in, or other dark colored liquor, that will make a very slight difference. Geez I feel like such an authority.

I gotta get that movie. Thanks for the comment!

Billi-Jean said...

I'm always happy to disover another champion of the fruitcake. I use a recipe (actually just a list of ingredients - it was assumed one knew how to make a cake) that my great-grandmother brought with her frm England, I guess about 90 years ago. Every year I write about my fruitcakes because Iw ant to get the message out :P

Here is my post from this year:

Ric Seaberg said...

Wow, Billie Jean, your fruitcakes look fabulous. I enjoyed reading your entry. Also, I have three words for your son.....JOR-DAN, JOR-DAN, JOR-DAN! I am so impressed with your son's willinginess and interest in your traditions. You da man Jordy!!!!

Isabelle said...

Bravo--I also am defending fruitcake on my blog. I haven't actually made one of my own (my boss is british and makes a killer fruitcake), but my mission was to find out why everybody hates it. And I agree, there's a lot of crap out there. Check out my reviews at

Troglodite said...

I just finished dinner and for desert had a couple slices of the Hostess Holiday Fruitcake - they come in rectangular bars, so I slice off a chunk about a half inch wide and munch away. Actually anything with raisins / cranberries or mixed fruit I find enjoyable. Entenmann's makes a good raisin loaf and another maker does a holiday stolen that only appears for a couple weeks around Christmas. Your bakery saga was kewl reading, thanks - you are a great storyteller


Thanks troglodite! Christmas is comin!