105-Year-Old Fruitcake Recipes

Looking to wow the family this season? Bring a Christmas Fruit Cake, à la 1912, to the holiday dessert table.


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Equally loved and loathed, the fruit-and-nut loaf come Christmas is as ubiquitous as hand-knitted Rudolph sweaters covered in jingle bells and puff paint. Here are two vintage recipes, circa 1912, sure to please the fruit cake lovers (and maybe turn the hearts of the haters) at the ugly Christmas sweater party this year.

Holiday tip: Along with your cake, offer your host a copy of Nora Ephron’s Christmas comedy Mixed Nuts — with Madeline Kahn, Steve Martin, and a fruit cake disaster that leads to romance.

The Christmas Fruit Cake:Two Well-Tried Recipes That Are Sure to Give Good Results

Originally published in The Country GentlemanDecember 14, 1912

As soon as December “blows in” the good housekeeper begins her Christmas cookery. The sooner the fruit cake is made the better, so plan your work that you may make this great cake as early as possible. One of the best recipes that I have yet found and one that I have used with great success is as follows:

  • 1 pound of butter
  • 1 pound of sugar — light brown
  • 10 large eggs
  • 1 pound of flour
  • 1 teaspoonful of salt
  • 1 teaspoonful of mace
  • 1 teaspoonful of nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoonful of allspice
  • 1 teaspoonful of cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoonful of cloves
  • 1 pound of candied cherries
  • 1 pound of sultana raisins
  • 1 pound of seeded raisins
  • 2 pounds of currants
  • 1 pound of blanched sliced almonds
  • 1 pound of citron
  • 1 pound of candied pineapple
  • 2 tablespoonfuls of molasses
  • Grated rind and juice of 1 orange and 1 lemon>
  • 1 cupful of grape juice

First prepare the fruit, cutting the citron and pineapple into small pieces. Leave the cherries whole. Wash and dry the raisins and currants. Do this several days before the cake is to be made so that they will be thoroughly dry. Blanch and slice the almonds. Prepare the seeded raisins by pouring boiling water over them and allowing them to drain. Tear into small pieces or cut with scissors. Clean the currants by placing them in a colander and shaking flour over them and rubbing it in carefully. Put the colander into a pan of cold water and rinse them until the water comes off clear. Pick off the stones, dry them in a very cool oven or in the sun. You will be surprised to see how dirty the currants are.

The sultana raisins are the tiny white raisins and are a great addition to the cake if you can procure them. If your grocer doesn’t carry them in stock perhaps you can persuade him to send away for them. Prepare them the same as the other raisins. Sift the flour twice; add the soda, salt, spices, grated fruit rind, nuts, and fruit, stirring well in order to distribute the flour.

Cream the butter until very light, using either a wooden spoon or the hand for the process. Some object to the hand, on the ground that it is not sanitary, but if mother’s hand stirs the Christmas cake that always makes it better. The hand also blends the ingredients better and the slight warmth of the hand creams the butter more quickly than a spoon. Add the sugar gradually, beating constantly. Beat the eggs, whites and yolks together until very light. Add them a little at a time to the creamed butter and sugar. If the mixture shows a tendency to curdle, as it sometimes does, add a little of the flour, but do not add more flour than is really necessary at this time. Next add the molasses, flour, salt, soda, spices and fruit, beating thoroughly. Stir in the fruit juices.

Line a cake pan with three thicknesses of paper, cut to fit bottom and sides. Grease the paper with unsalted fat, preferably oil, as butter has a tendency to make things stick, owing to the salt in it. Let stand 24 hours to ripen before baking. This cake is better if it is steamed before it is baked, a regular steamer or a fireless cooker being used. Have the water boiling when the cake pans are put in and be very sure that the water cannot come over the tops of the pans.

If the cake is made in one large cake, it should be steamed five hours, then baked in a moderate oven for one hour to dry it a little. If two or more pans are used, shorten the time accordingly. The cake is sufficiently baked when it goes back into place when pressed with the finger. After the baking is completed, remove the cake from the pan by loosening it round the edges with a knife and slipping it out on a wire cake rack. If you haven’t one use the oven rack, supporting it on some dish, so as to allow a current of air to pass round the cake until it is cold.

When the cake is cold cover it with an icing made of powdered sugar and milk, using from two to four tablespoonfuls of milk to one cupful of powdered sugar. The icing should be of such a consistency as not to run when spread. In a day or two, cover again with royal icing.


Royal Icing

  • 1 egg white [If the idea of eating raw egg makes you queasy, sub 2 teaspoons meringue powder and 2 tablespoons water for egg.]
  • 1 cupful of powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoonful of lemon juice

Put the unbeaten white of an egg in a bowl, add the sugar slowly, beating constantly with a spoon, then the lemon juice. Put evenly over the cake and smooth with a knife dipped in hot water. Decorate with some of the icing squeezed through a tube made of white paper.

This is a very rich cake, but one desires rich things at Christmastime. The cake will keep for months and it may be served at functions later in the season.

If one desires a plainer fruit cake this is a good recipe:

  • 3/4 pound of butter
  • 1 pound of brown sugar 6 eggs
1 pound of currants
1 pound of raisins
  • 1/2 pound of citron
  • 1 cupful of molasses
  • 1 teaspoonful of cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoonful of allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoonful of cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoonful of nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoonful of mace
  • 2 teaspoonfuls of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoonful of salt
  • 1 cupful of grape juice
  • Flour for stiff batter

Prepare everything as for the other fruit cake. Either steam and bake or bake four hours without the steaming. Have the oven only moderately hot for the baking.

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