Icebox Fruitcake And Why Christmas Trees Don’t Have to be Green

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My grandmother grew up poor.  But just as my buddy Christy Jordan would say, she was rich in every way that mattered.  And her story to me about her favorite Christmas was perfect evidence of that.

She was one of six children.  Out of necessity, both her parents worked to make ends meet and she was raised by her older siblings, as was so common in those days.  Her father was a night watchman at a saw mill and her mother worked at a plant nursery.  When Christmas would roll around though, poverty took nothing away from them in the way of holiday magic and excitement.  Every year, each child would be presented with one toy, an homemade outfit, and a small assortment of fruit, nuts, and peppermint candies.  And that was a big Christmas to them.  Each year it was always her father’s job to go out and hunt for the perfect Christmas tree.  That was his big contribution to the celebration and he took great pride in presenting the perfect cedar tree for trimming.  Of course, running down to the tree lot was out of the budget, so he would set out in the woods to track down a prime specimen.  One year in particular, he wasn’t able to find a cedar tree to suit.  After hours of searching, in a last ditch effort to provide something, he cut down a holly bush he found.  Back at home, feeling a little embarrassed with his haul, he set out to make the puny bush special.  Finding a can of silver paint, he painstakingly brushed every single prickly holly leaf with a shiny coat.   They added the few ornaments they had and one small strand of bubble lights.  The result, as my grandmother would put it, was the most beautiful, amazing Christmas tree she’s ever had. It wasn’t about it being the perfect size or color, or even about it being a tree at all.    The love he put into that tree made it beautiful.   That tree went down in history with her and her family.  And something that he thought inadequate, became the main focus of one of the most fond Christmases they ever shared.

Hearing my grandmother tell this story when I was a child, I remember trying to figure out how someone could be so excited about a silver bush and only one toy for Christmas.  I mean she would reflect on Christmases past with the same starry-eyed look that I’m sure she had when they first happened.  Today, as an adult with my own child, I have a much better understanding of the importance of a simple, but impactful holiday.

So often we get caught up in the holiday season that we fail to realize the simple things that make it so special.  We focus our attention on buying the best gifts and decorating the perfect tree, when the real  importance of the holiday lies in sharing the time with our loved ones.

This holiday season, I hope that you’ll take the time to pay attention to the simple things.  For one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.

This recipe is one of those simple things that have always made holidays special in our family.  Every  Christmas would find this on my grandmother’s table.  And now, I get the opportunity to share her recipe with y’all.

Icebox Fruitcake

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Icebox Fruitcake

Ingredients

  • 1 box graham crackers (14.4 oz)
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 jar maraschino cherries (10 oz)
  • 1 tablespoons cherry juice
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup shredded coconut, firmly packed
  • 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz)

Instructions

Finely crush graham crackers and coarsely chop pecans and drained cherries.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.

Turn out into a lightly buttered 9X13 dish and press flat into the pan with your hands. Chill at least 6 hours, then cut into bars.

http://southernbite.com/2012/12/07/icebox-fruitcake/

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Comments

  1. Okay, you went and got me misty. The Christmases you described sound like ours when I was growing up: something to wear, one gift (if it was a prosperous year), and “goodie bags.” And I’m not old enough to be your grandmother! :)

    I’ll definitely have to try this unfruitcakey fruitcake. Do you think it would set up all right if I put it in small loaf pans?

    Thanks so much and Merry Christmas!

  2. Charlotte O'Bryan says:

    This sounds so much like a cake my grandmother made years ago. Unfortunately I never got the recipe and didn’t trust my memory to try to make it. I am going to try this, by the way, she did make hers in loaf pans.

  3. I remember when I was a junior in high school and went out shirt sleeved into the woods to ge a Christmas tree. A yearly ritual except for the dress. will not say how many years ago that was.

    thanks for this recipe. It is similar to one I had years ago and have since lost. Merry Christmas

  4. Thank you for sharing this sweet memory and the reminder of what is really important and meaningful! This recipe sounds so good!

  5. DARLENE EPPS says:

    MY MOM ALWAYS MAKES THIS FRUITCAKE EVERY CHRISTMAS FOR AS LONG AS I CAN REMEMBER. WE STILL LOVE IT. MY SIBLINGS I HAVE 4 STILL REQUEST IT EVERY YEAR. IM A SOUTHERNER TOO.

  6. My Granny also made an Icebox Fruitcake, but it was made with Nilla Wafers. After she mixed it up, she would roll it into logs, put it it the bag that the Nilla Wafers came in and would store it in the freezer – the only fruitcake I eat!

  7. I love fruitcake, thanks for sharing :)

  8. sounds good, and my gifts come from the kitchen. do you think it will work with cinnamon graham crackers?

    thanks!

    • I’ve never tried it with cinnamon graham crackers, but it sounds good to me! If you try it, please let me know. I’d love to hear how they turn out!

      • Hi Stacey
        I just tried the cinnamon graham crackers and it is delicious! Necessity being the mother of invention, I used what I had, which was walnuts and dried cranberries.
        Since I will be giving some as gifts, is this something that has to be kept refridgerated?
        Thank you so much for sharing!
        ~Deb

  9. My mother used to make this when we were growing up. She lined the graham cracker box with foil, and packed the mixture back into the box. We always kept this refrigerated.

  10. With Wings says:

    My mother-in-law used to make fruitcake cookies that were yummy, but she past on a year ago, so I might try to do something fruitcakey this Christmas! In her honor! I’ll try yours! I have to say that even though I grew up with being happy with a baby doll or a painted bike to ride to school, in the last several years, our decorations have grown into all of the rooms. Different trees in our 7 room cabin in the woods!

    A few years ago, while others were talking, and my husband was sharing the Christmas Story about Jesus to the grandgirls, I was standing at the door with my father-in-law and I joked that the food was ready and here he and I was. The food ready, the table set, waiting………………………..!!!

    I went to telling him that I found his old metal tent revival chairs in the shed and painted them brown, so I would have the same chairs to go around the table. I told him that as I sprayed each one, I started praying and wondering who sat in them, young or old, and did they get saved??? He said….”And Billy Graham could have sat in one”!!!! I just about went into shock!!! I think I asked, “What”??? He said that Billy Graham’s Crusade happened to be in the same area in South Texas as he was with his tent ministry and they needed to borrow some of his chairs. Wow!!! There was 12 chairs., 11 of us and one for Jesus and the best gift I received was a story of an humble Christian man that could have sat in one of our chairs, some 40 years ago!!! “Jesus is the Reason”!!!

    God Bless Y’all this 2013 Christmas!!!

  11. Carolyn Vigna says:

    I grew up with this fruitcake at Christmas. The only difference I can see is we always used dates in ours & no coconut. It wouldn’t be Christmas for my grown kids without this fruitcake. Grandma & mamma made theirs in loaf pans. I have started putting mine in mini cupcake pans. With a cherry on top of each one they are so pretty on a cookie tray.

  12. Thank you for sharing your recipe. Mum and I had purchased an organization’s cookbook .We made this for years. Suddenly she moved and we could not find the book . I can hardly wait to surprise her with this on Christmas day . We always found when it was prepared a few weeks early and refrigerated the flavors really mellow together.

  13. This is the only fruitcake that I have ever liked. When I was growing up, Mother made one every year for Christmas. After I married, Mother always made at least two ice box fruitcakes…one to be shared at Christmas and one for me to take home and enjoy.

  14. Linda Cockrill says:

    I just came across your blog and when I read your Christmas tree story, what memories it brought back of MY childhood!. My grandparents were in the same situation as yours. My parents and I lived at their place a lot as I was growing up and back in the 1950s and 60s, we never had store-bought trees, we always went out into the pastures to “pick” a Christmas tree. I can still remember how sticky-sharp the needles were and how sticky the sap was!! We decorated them with anything we could find as we had very few ornaments. I know we had the holly bushes too. My brother and I got the one gift and we always had the fruit with walnuts and almonds, and the big thing in our home was a box of chocolate-covered cherries every Christmas!! My grandmother ALWAYS saved the wrapping paper and it WAS used the next year, it might have to be IRONED (LOL) but it was reused!!! Beautiful memories of a very special childhood – I loved my grandparents dearly, I miss them and those simple country Christmas’ to this day! Thank you for bringing all that back for me!

  15. My Tennessee mother-in-law shared a recipe that is similar with me years ago. Her recipe had candied fruitcake mix in place of the raisins, cherries, coconut, and marshmallow. I make her version every Christmas and it is my favorite fruitcake. It keeps well in the refrigerator or freezer so I can have a piece throughout the year. Thanks for sharing your version of the recipe

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