Grandma’s fruitcake cookies are a holiday staple here. Which probably has you asking why I’m blogging about them in February, because everyone knows fruitcake is clearly a December holiday treat and not a February holiday treat. In the hustle & bustle & multiple cookie swaps that were December, the cookies didn’t get made. We had fourteen dozen cookies on hand – we didn’t need any more. As we don’t share these cookies well there was no way they were getting made for a swap for us to only have a few left on hand. No, we need the entire batch all to ourselves.
I’ve had the ingredients on hand to make them since just after Christmas, but first there was January, with its birthdays & flu & stomach bugs & funerals, including Grandma’s, who passed away in early January at the age of 96. Pat made a quick solo trip down to Tennessee & back for her funeral while I stayed home with the flu, Edie having decamped to a friend’s for the weekend. No, January could have used some holiday cheer, but instead it got bumped to February.These cookies were a holiday staple of Grandma’s. I first tried one at her house and loved them. I asked for the recipe, which she graciously shared much to her grandson Pat’s delight. That’s when I found out they were called ‘Fruitcake Muffins’, although we call them cookies. In no way shape or form did I think they resembled what I knew about fruitcake and I could not figure out how they were muffins. Turns out, they are baked in mini-muffin tins. I think the original recipe is from the back of the package of Eagle Brand milk, as that was what was called for in the original, handwritten recipe I received from Grandma.
To all of you reading this saying there’s no way you’d try them because the word ‘fruitcake’ is in the name, trust me when I say, if you didn’t know the name and you had one, you’d love it. Straight out of the oven, they are a revelation. Let them sit a few days and holy moly, they are an entirely different fabulous treat, especially with a cup of afternoon tea.
While I don’t know where my original copy of the recipe is, Grandma’s side of the family – the Johnsons – put together a family cookbook, “Cooking in the Holler”, that included Grandma’s recipe a few years ago. It’s totally the sort of cookbook I’d pick up at an estate sale or the like – full of family recipes, photos & remembrances. Exactly the sort of thing to be passed down.
I’ve tweaked the recipe slightly (of course) in that I don’t make the icing and I cut the amount of nuts. One is recommended by Grandma’s notes herself, the other was requested by Pat, who thinks half the nuts are sufficient. He’s right. The recipe calls for maraschino cherries, which yes, are normally the sort of thing I would shun given the ingredients list on the jar which I cannot bring myself to read. I figure we only eat these once a year and they are combined with healthy things like dates! and nuts! and coconut! That makes these practically health food! At the very least, in this seemingly endless winter we are enduring this year, extending the best part of the winter – the December holidays – into February seems called for. So make yourself a batch and have one, okay, two, with a nice hot cup of tea. I highly recommend a nice cup of rooibos while cuddled up under one of Grandma’s beautiful quilts.
Grandma’s Fruitcake Cookies (Muffins)
1/2 lb. graham cracker crumbs
1 c. candied cherries
1 can Eagle Brand milk (sweetened condensed milk)
1 (7 oz) pkg dates
2 c. pecans (I use one cup with no problem)
1 (7 oz.) pkg coconut
Mix all ingredients. Pack firmly in well-greased muffin tins. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until brown around the edges.
Icing: Mix juice of 1/2 an orange & juice of 1/2 a lemon and powdered sugar, to spreading consistency
(Grandma’s own) Recipe Note: Use miniature muffin tins. I prefer the muffins without the icing. Also, do not chop the cherries, nuts & dates too fine. Chop just a little.