New Year’s Eve Fruit Cake

When searching for my favorite Christmas recipes, I found Mama Graham’s icebox fruit cake recipe typed on a double index card. I was flooded with sweet memories of both hers and my mother’s versions of that recipe. My grandchildren and I talked about making it this year for Christmas–and for old time’s sake. Wouldn’t it be fun, we thought, to have loaves of that fruit cake to surprise everyone? But here we are on the other side of Christmas and making that cake was not one of the many things we accomplished.

But is it too late? We used to hoard Mama Graham’s cake and enjoy thin slices of it all winter, even into the spring if we were that lucky. My mother had so many children (ten), she could never make enough cake to go beyond her own table. But Mama Graham made half loaves for her three children and shared more with neighbors and friends.

So–no, I don’t think it’s too late. Just because fruit cakes are a popular (though often ridiculed!) gift at Christmas is no reason to stop short of making them on New Year’s Eve. Our grandmothers baked fruit cakes in mid fall, then seasoned them with cider (or something!) till Christmas. The ice box fruit cake doesn’t need all that soaking. Now that I’ve gathered everything together, I’m excited about mixing it!

Looking at Mama G’s recipe I’m reminded that she typed it because she typed things that were very special. She only learned to type when she was in her 60’s and then it was hard for her. But she bought a sweet little typewriter and, being the “neat” queen that she was, she typed addresses on Christmas card envelopes. And she typed other “sacred” things like this recipe. I see a dab of erase tape in a place or two. But it is correct to the letter. And I know she must have done two others, one for Revonda and one for Ronnie, no copying or multi-printing available for her then.

Oh, and by the way, Mama G’s birthday was the 29th. She would have been 93.

All right–enough said. I’m ready to start. If you’d like to make a “late” fruit cake also, here’s the recipe for Ice Box Fruit Cake:

  • 1 pound (Honey Maid) Graham Crackers (Hey, you can get the crumbs. Easier!)
  • 1 pound miniature marshmallows (She, in later years, used marshmallow cream)
  • 1 (5 oz.) can evaporated milk
  • 1 can angel flake coconut
  • 1 (10 oz.) bottle cherries, halved
  • 1/2 box (1 cup) raisins or 9 oz. box
  • 2 cups chopped pecans (On rainy days Mama G set Papa to cracking and picking out nuts but she chopped them herself. They had pecan trees and froze gallons of nuts each year.)

Crush crackers (or use 16 oz of cracker crumbs!). Add nuts, fruit and coconut. Mix together. Melt marshmallows in milk on low heat stirring continuously. (I did mine this way wanting to make it the way she did.) Add to mixture and start stirring at once. Marshmallows will cool quickly. Mix more than you think you need to. And then mix some more! It’s no wonder Mama G couldn’t do this after she had carpal tunnel in both hands. As she said, wet your hands before shaping into loaves or pushing hard into loaf pans. Dampening will keep your hands from sticking.

I’ve placed my loaves (a 9 1/2 x 4 and two small loaves) in the refrigerator (I do remember an ice box but we are blessed with a refrigerator!) and tomorrow we’ll try slices to welcome in the New Year!

A quote from my mother for the New Year: “Leave everything better than you found it.”

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