Episode 21 – Fruitcake

December 18, 2018


About the Episode

Whether it’s your favourite holiday treat or something to which you turn up your nose, there is no denying that fruitcake has an interesting history. Alice Glaze joins us to explore the origins and evolution of this contentious dessert.


Elina Hill’s family recipe.


Alice’s family recipe.


The Empire Christmas Pudding : A Christmas Pudding Recipe. Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-27-177

About the Episode


What images does that word conjure for you?  Images of happy Christmas baking and tradition?  Images of the horrors of having to force down mouthfuls of rock-like cake, filled with too-sweet fruits? Or how about images of laughing at your favorite movie family suffering through a Christmas fruitcake disaster?

Love it or hate it, there is no denying that fruitcake has a rich and colourful history. A simple bread filled with fruits, nuts, and alcohol has divided families, been the brunt of many jokes, and even seeped into political movements.  You read that correctly; fruitcake has a political history.

In this special Christmas episode, we welcome back guest host Alice Glaze to notice the history and divisiveness of fruitcake.


  1. The Notice Historys fruitcake recipes
    1. Elina
    2. Casandra
    3. Alice: see image above
  2. If you want to try baking the 1791 recipe for Plumb Pudding, you can find the recipe here.
  3. If you want to try baking The Empire Christmas Pudding talked about in this episode, you can find the recipe here.

Fun Facts

  • Truman Capote wrote a story called A Christmas Memory, where the young narrator’s cousin exclaims “It’s fruitcake weather!” and proceeded to bake fruitcake for President Roosevelt.
  • Fruitcakes were traditionally made as wedding cakes. It was the custom for a couple to keep the top slice of the wedding cake to serve at the christening of this first-born child.
  • A slice of wedding cake from the wedding of Charles and Diana sold for $1,350. The 37-year-old cake is still completely safe for consumption.


Barksdale, Nate. “The Holiday History of Christmas Pudding.” History. Accessed November 7, 2018.

Barnes, Felicity. “Bringing Another Empire Alive? The Empire Marketing Board and the Construction of Dominion Identity, 1926-33.” The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 42, 1 (2014): 61-85.

Bryant, Kenzie. “Now Is Your Chance to Buy a Slice of Princess Diana’s Wedding Cake.” Vanity Fair. September 6, 2017. Accessed November 7, 2018.

Capote, Truman. “A Christmas Memory,” Truman Capote: The Complete Stories (New York: Modern Library, 2013).

Douglas, Julie. “History of Fruitcake” under “Ultimate Guide to Fruitcake.”How Stuff Works Accessed 18 November 2018.

Empire Marketing Board. “The Empire Christmas Pudding: A Christmas Pudding Recipe”. Library and Archives Canada, 1927. Accessed 19 November 2018.

Gordon, Lauren. “9 Funniest things ever said about Fruitcake.” The Daily Meal. 11December 2015 Accessed 18 November 2018.

The Home Cook Book. Newly Re-printed. Toronto: Hunter, Rose and Co. Facsimile edited and introduced by Elizabeth Driver. Toronto: Whitecap, 2002.

Keller, Kate. “Why This Year’s Royal Wedding Cake Won’t Be a Disgusting Fruitcake.” May 17, 2018. Accessed November 7, 2018.

Mitchener, Kris James and Marc Weidenmier. “Trade and Empire.” The Economic Journal 118, 533 (Nov., 2008): 1805-1834.

National Library of Scotland. “A Year of Food and Drink: December.” Accessed 19 November 2018.

Orwell, George. “In Defence of English Cooking.” Accessed 18 November 2018.

“Protected Food Name: Dundee Cake.” Government of United Kingdom Publications. Accessed 18 November 2018.

Rhodes, Jesse. “Fruitcake 101: A Concise Cultural History of This Loved and Loathed Loaf.” December 21, 2010. Accessed November 7, 2018.

Rupp, Rebecca. “Don’t Blame the Fruitcake, Blame the Recipe.” National Geographic December 22, 2014. Accessed 18 November 2018

Sen, Mayukh, “How – and Why – did Fruitcake Become a Slur?” Food52. 22 December 2016. Accessed 11 November 2018.

Sietsema, Robert. “A Short HIstory of Fruitcake,” The Village Voice. 19 November 2002. Accessed 11 November 2018.

Sherman, Elisabeth. “Why Fruitcake is Always Served at Royal Weddings.” Food & Wine. May 15, 2018. Accessed November 7, 2018.

“Space Food, Pineapple Fruitcake, Apollo 11 (blue),” Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, (accessed 11 November 2018).

Tansey, Claire. “Pantry 101: Fruitcake vs. Christmas Pudding.” Chatelaine. November 23, 2015. Accessed November 7, 2018.


Hosts: Robin Mullins, Nick Bridges, Keely McCavitt

Guest Host: Alice Glaze

Researchers: Alice Glaze, Elina Hill, Nick Bridges, Nick Johnston, Beth Sollis, Sara Wilmshurst

Audio Editing: Emily Cuggy

Web Content: Casandra Masse

Image Credit: Elina Hill.