When you hear the word “fruitcake,” what comes to mind? Christmas? A delicious, traditional treat? A dry loaf of something that seems to always show up around the holidays? A very odd person? Whatever you’re thinking, we’re here to tell you that there are real fruitcake options that can be taken seriously in the comestible department, or with a grain of salt in the comedy department. But we are here to help you find the best fruitcake to buy. We don’t wanna sound defensive, but there are legit fruitcakes out there!
As a professional eater, I will tell you that fruitcake really does deserve respect. It’s full of terrific ingredients: candied fruits, raisins, cinnamon, walnuts, sugar, eggs, butter, flour, etc. You can’t argue with that. However, once all the ingredients are baked together, and the fruitcake emerges from the hot holiday oven, that’s when skepticism can enter the conversation. Some people don’t like the texture, some don’t like the taste. We urge you, this holiday season, to open your heart and try. Perhaps you’re going to a Christmas party — take a fruitcake! Maybe get yourself a great Christmas suit off this list of the Top 10 Best Christmas Party Suits for Men. Or if you don’t need the whole suit, just get yourself a Christmas tie: Top 10 Best Christmas Ties for Men. Or a Christmas bow tie! Top 10 Best Christmas Bow Ties for Men.
But back to the great fruitcake. Fruitcake’s been around awhile: a writer for the Smithsonian says the first version of fruitcake was concocted in ancient Rome. In the middle ages, fruitcake — in one form or another — emerged in Italy and Germany. Zooming up to more modern times, a 106-year-old fruitcake was found in early 2017 by researchers in Antarctica. It was part of the supply load of explorer Robert Falcon Scott. This video probably won’t whet your appetite, but there are good talking points in here for when you present your fruitcake gift.
One other recent starring role for fruitcake: in 2003, a man named Morgan Ford shared his family’s prized heirloom fruitcake with Jay Leno on The Tonight Show. The fruitcake — then — was 125 years old.
So, yes, there is a history with fruitcake and its kin. But bringing all of this back to the here and now of snacking — or snickering — it’s time to shop. And let’s set the ground rules: the list includes fruitcakes that meet one or two criteria: 1) they’ve received an extraordinary amount of reviews; 2) they’re just dang high quality treats. Full disclosure here: I want to fill myself up with all of these! Writing this has made me want to eat fruitcake! Check out these Top 10 Best Fruitcakes to Buy for Christmas 2018.
1. Claxton Regular Recipe Fruitcake
The long-time bakery in the small Georgia town of Claxton must be doing something right because they get an amazing amount of reviews. Of the more than 700 weigh-ins from buyers, the average star rating is a 4.5 (out of five). There are several sizes — and two basic versions — available from Claxton. This entry into the list of the best fruitcake to buy is their regular recipe and it’s three one-pound packages. If you’d like to go for just one one-pounder, take a look here. One reviewer proclaims lifelong allegiance while giving a succinct description of this fruitcake: “It is the only one I will eat or buy. There is very little cake. It is mainly fruit and nuts.”
2. Claxton Dark Recipe Fruitcake
Basically the same as our first entry, except this is Claxton’s “dark recipe” fruitcake. This one also comes in three one-pound packages. The 341 reviews on this one come in with a 4.5 average, too. Interestingly, Claxton says that the regular recipe — while just as dee-lish — is eight times as popular as the dark recipe. According to Claxton, the difference “lies in the molasses, spices and natural, sun-ripened raisins, which give the dark cakes their disctinctive, darker color.” Sayeth one reviewer: “Most folks hold a very negative opinion of the much maligned fruitcake. In my opinion, they’ve never tried a Claxton Fruitcake. Claxton (especially their dark variety) is chock full of fruit and nuts, with only a minimum of cake to hold the darn thing together in cake form.”
3. Trappist Abbey Monastery Fruitcake
Another heavyweight in the comments section, Trappist Abbey Monastery Fruitcake is a solid bet for one of the best fruitcakes to buy. One of the 329 reviews says “Because the Trappist Abbey fruitcake is rich and potent, a slice less than a half inch thick was enough as a serving.” We do want to point out that several of the reviews talked about being surprised with the small size of the product once they got it in the mail. But, almost universally, reviewers would order again. And we should put it out there that surprise at the small size was mentioned by some reviewers in the context of almost every entry in this list. As for that “potent” comment above: after the chefs in the kitchens of Our Lady Of Guadalupe Abbey make the loaves, they age the fruitcakes in 120 proof brandy. Cheers to that! And to the Trappist Abbey Monastery Fruitcake from Layfayette, Oregon.
4. Walkers Shortbread Strathspey Fruit Cake
And for those of you who do like the bit of booze involved in your eats, we present the Walkers Shortbread Strathspey Fruit Cake from Scotland. In this case, it’s Scotch whisky that brings the heat (even more in the next entry in the list). This is a bit of a unique fruitcake, but that’s not a surprise given its European pedigree. Here’s a comment from one of the more than 200 reviews: “It is the European fruitcakes that I long for. Not too sweet and full of raisins and nuts and other goodies. (Not to mention the alcohol which keeps everything nice and moist.)” If you’d like to try something within the fruitcake family, but decidedly unique, perhaps take a look at this Jamaican Black Fruit Cake, which has long roots in the tradition of fruitcakes. As for the Walkers Shortbread Strathspey Fruit Cake, it’s iced with marzipan, for you almond flavor lovers.
5. Walkers Shortbread Glenfiddich Highland Whisky Cake
Also from the longtime Walkers in the Scottish highlands (the company’s been there since pre-1900), this hews a bit closer to traditional fruitcake. And — bonus for the booze lovers — it’s infused with 12 year old Glenfiddich Single Malt. This fruitcake — like all in the list — would make a great gift, a point born out in this list of the Best Christmas Gifts: 10 Gifts for Men. This entry in our list of the best fruitcake to buy comes in a keepsake tin.
6. Jane Parker Classic Light Fruit Cake
The Jane Parker brand of fruitcake is the one brand that appears to have as devoted a following as the Claxton. Interesting little history with Jane: the storied east coast A&P Market chain began selling the Jane Parker fruitcakes back in the 1930s. Production ceased in the 60s but the brand was revived for A&P’s 150th anniversary in 2009. Production stopped again in 2014 but it’s back just this year. As one reviewer says, “It’s the same familiar taste that we’ve longed for. The cakes we’ve had so far have been moist and delicious. I can’t wait to get another one.” See below for a bit of information on the difference between the light (which is also called their “traditional”) and the dark versions.
7. Jane Parker Dark Fruit Cake
Like the Jane Parker Light above, this dark fruitcake comes in a 16 ounce loaf. If you’re interested in something a bit more formidable, check out this three pound version in a decorative tin. As for the difference between the dark and the light, there may be variations in cooking time. We’ve not visited the bakery, so we’re guessing. But we do know that we did a side-by-side comparison of the ingredient lists of the two versions and they’re basically identical with a couple of variations. The dark includes corn syrup while the light, paradoxically, includes brown sugar. The dark also includes allspice in its recipe, whereas the light doesn’t. As for the devotees, check this out from a woman who seems to have created a tiny problem between her mom and her husband: “He is trying to make it last through the holidays and says it is better than he remembers. I also purchased one for my mother, who has never eaten a Jane Parker cake. My husband is praying she won’t like it, so he can have hers.” How about just get him two!?
8. Marilyn’s Gluten Free Gourmet Fruit Cake
While it may seem like we’re simply trying to provide options for those who go GF, the fact is that we’re more than pleased to include Marilyn’s Gluten Free Gourmet Fruit Cake because it gets great reviews and it looks really good. Okay, we’ll admit we also are fond of the fact that this one is aged in brandy and sherry. This is a larger fruitcake, tipping the scales at two pounds, and it’s preservative free. From one reviewer: “Absolutely delicious and moist. Even my non gluten free husband loved it!!! Will definitely purchase again!!”
9. Collin Street Bakery DeLuxe Fruitcake
If one of the products on this list of the best fruitcake to buy was gonna be called a celebrity, it would probably be the Collin Street Bakery DeLuxe Fruitcake. This little gem has appeared on the t.v. shows The Best Thing I Ever Ate and The Chew. This one is very pecan heavy — 27 percent of the ingredients are pecans. Another interesting addition here is the presence of papaya, which Collin Street says is from its Costa Rican Pineapple farm. It also includes red ripe cherries from Oregon and Washington. Comes in at two pounds, fourteen ounces and is presented in a unique collector’s tin. The company’s been around since 1896 and one of its longtime fans had this to say in her review: “What can one say about Collin Street fruitcake? It has been the very best fruitcake that I have enjoyed for at least half of my life, and I’m 85 years old.”
10. Grandma’s Famous Fruit and Nut Cake
We finish up the list with another entry that features a stellar lineup of terrific ingredients. Grandma’s Famous Fruit and Nut Cake is baked using fancy ripe cherries, fresh pineapple, golden raisins, almonds, pecans and walnuts. But that’s not all (drumroll please): Grandma makes her with bourbon, rum and brandy. Yes, Grandma! One reviewer did focus on the cherries, though: “The cherries are actually juicy! It is very sweet, but everything in it tastes exceedingly fresh. Thank you, grandma.”