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Day 355: Ham, Biscuits and a Fruitcake disaster

Fruitcake_-_brokenWe had our Christmas party tonight – something we generally do the Saturday before Christmas – and tried to keep it smallish so that it wasn’t a revolving door of people that at the end of the night I didn’t really even get to talk to. We kept it simple with a ham (easy to cook, keeps well on the buffet and tastes just as good cold) and biscuits, antipasto, chips and dip, mini lamb burgers in mini pita halves with tzatziki, and a savoury pear and squash crumble.

And because I wasn’t fully satisfied by my Fanny Farmer Fruitcake experience, and I couldn’t rightly have a Christmas party without fruitcake, I made the real thing, the dark fruitcake from Joy I know and love. You know how some foods just aren’t the same when they aren’t made with the exact right recipe? So I made one, and instead of dividing the cake into several small and oddly shaped cake tins from the basement (including little square ones with removable bottoms), I scraped it all into one well-sprayed Bundt pan.

It didn’t survive re-entry. (As J put it when he saw it.)

I could tell it was holding on, but stubbornly tried to shake it out. I’m used to having a chunk stay in the pan, which is easy enough to stick back without anyone noticing, but not half the cake – upon further inspection the cake was pretty overdone – something I’ve not done in recent memory, so I blame my own inattention to the cake in the oven while I got ready for the party and we took Lou to the dog park to try to get his yayas out. The recipe does warn that it will look like it is darkening quickly and will look done before it actually is, and to please ignore this – this time I shouldn’t have. I preemptively put a sheet of foil overtop because I knew it would darken too quickly.. I think this fruitcake died of neglect. Also, using a regular, straight-sided tube pan would have allowed me to slide a thin knife around the edges and along the bottom to coax it out.

So I’m making fruitcake trifle for Christmas dinner. I don’t want to waste all those fruits and nuts! And really, I adore trifle and always want to make it for Christmas dinner, but fruit, custard and whipped cream seems too far removed from plum pudding. Maybe this is the answer, the overbaked fruitcake mess a serendipidous accident – I’m thinking layers of crumbled dark fruitcake with custard, sauteed apples and pears, and cream? In fact, the crumbled chunks might make a brilliant bread pudding for Christmas breakfast too – all fruitcake would be too heavy, but perhaps interspersed with torn raisin bread?

(Sorry, I still haven’t made the light fruitcake – the first was in the oven for 3 1/2 hours, and I couldn’t afford another 3 1/2 for the light coconut version. I will make it soon!)

Mike made Stroopwafels filled with Nutella – a new holiday tradition he gets right into. I also made Hello Dollies – besides my Mom’s Nut Balls these are the absolute holiday must-have, from the Uncommon Cookbook put out by the Art Gallery of Windsor at least 20 years ago. (They are also known in some circles as Magic Bars – a recipe put out by the sweetened condensed milk people wherein you layer graham crumbs, coconut, chocolate and pecans, topped with a can of S.C. milk.)

Did I really never post a recipe for my Mom’s Nut Balls?? How could that be? OK, two cookies for today:

Mom’s Nut Balls

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December 21, 2008


1 cup butter

1/3 cup icing sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup finely chopped or ground pecans, hazelnuts, or a combination

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

extra icing sugar for rolling


1Preheat oven to 325F. Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer for a few minutes, until pale and creamy. Beat in the nuts and flour. Roll into walnut-sized balls and place an inch or so apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until pale golden on the bottoms. Meanwhile, put some icing sugar into a shallow dish; when the cookies come out of the oven, roll them in icing sugar to coat while still warm. (The icing sugar mingles with the butter in the cookie, coating them with a sort of buttery, nutty icing.) Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies.


(This photo was taken just after my sister stopped by, and we dug into them while they were still warm – quality control is important – they cut much more cleanly when completely cool.)

Hello Dollies

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December 21, 2008


1 cup graham crumbs

1/4 cup butter, melted

1 cup shredded coconut

1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup chopped pecans

1 can sweetened condensed milk


1Preheat oven to 325F. Mix the crumbs and butter and press into the bottom of an 8"x8" or 9"x9" baking pan that has been sprayed with nontstick spray. Sprinkle the coconut evenly overtop, then the chocolate chips and pecans, and pour a can of sweetened condensed milk overtop. Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden and bubbly around the edges. Cool competely before cutting. Makes 16 (or more) bars.




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18 comments on “Day 355: Ham, Biscuits and a Fruitcake disaster

  1. Dana mccauley
    December 21, 2008 at 9:12 am

    what a shame about your fruit cake. I guess it wouldn’t have had time to age anyhow so the trifle is likely going to be better than just the cake anyhow.

    I love Hello Dollies! I haven’t had one in years but you’ve totally reminded me that I should get right on making some. I’m taking this week off so I just might make some Monday after I do my huge holiday grocery shop. Thanks for posting the recipe.

  2. Buddiegirl
    December 21, 2008 at 9:15 am

    Your idea for a Christmas trifle sounds great. I know my mom would love it because she loves fruitcake and plum pudding and trifle. None of us kids really like those things so she doesn’t get to indulge too often, although last year my sister bought her a small pudding and some brandy hard sauce and she was very pleased.

    I am making an apple/cranberry crisp served with vanilla bean ice cream. It is the one dessert everyone in my entire family loves and can be popped into the oven when the turkey comes out so that it is warm when it’s time to eat it.

    Have a great time at the play.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  3. Christina
    December 21, 2008 at 9:33 am

    Your party sounded delicious! I keep thinking I’m done my Christmas baking and then you post more things I want to try! HA HA! I spent ANOTHER whole day baking yesterday filled with Fanny Farmer Fruitcake (I’m hoping that my Grandma, Mom and I aren’t dissapointed with it, my husband who is not a fan of Fruitcake told me we could use it for a doorstop HA HA). I think Fruitcake will be one of my yearly Christmas things now too! It just seems right! I also made Poppycock (for the 2nd time this year … very popular), The Sugar Cookie recipe you posted, the Minty Chocolate Christmas Cookies you posted (also the second batch I’ve made this year, another favorite) and lastely Oatmeal Bars from the Martha Steward website. I was so tired last night!! Today I’m cleaning the house which I do not enjoy as much as baking.
    PS I love that Mike bakes and cooks! My husband, who is a mechanic (for both Heavy and light vehicles), has tried to cook which I appreciate but he’s much better at fixing our vehicles. That being said, I couldn’t change a tire or the oil in a car or tell you anything about vehicles other than how to drive them so I don’t fault him for not cooking!

  4. JulieVR
    December 21, 2008 at 10:00 am

    Ha! I never age my fruitcakes… I’m never that on the ball to make them in advance, I never wrap them in boozy cloths (my mom doesn’t like them boozy, and I imagine W wouldn’t either!) and they just get eaten right away anyway.

  5. robyn
    December 21, 2008 at 10:19 am

    I forgot about the aging of the fruitcake. My mom used to bake about 10 cakes and have them all on the counter for weeks, and she kept adding booze to them. They were like her little babies that she tended to throughout the weeks before they were mailed off to different parts of the world.

  6. Donna
    December 21, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Merry Christmas Julie and family!
    Thanks for all the recipes and inspiration.

  7. Marilyn
    December 21, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    Thanks for having the courage to post the picture of the fractured fruitcake. One of the things that makes your blog so much fun to read is the reality factor. Who hasn’t had a cooking/baking result that needed a quick makeover. Might be an interesting Friday question.

  8. Avery
    December 21, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    I think I dreamt of those stroopwafels last night… mmmMMmm…nutella…

  9. Barb
    December 22, 2008 at 7:19 am

    The same thing happened to my fruitcake. Very disappointing to say the least. We are eating it anyway (there is too much good stuff in there not too) I love your idea of turning it into something else more satisfying! You’re the greatest Julie! I should have emailed you about my disaster when it happened and I wouldn’t have had to explain my inefficiencies to the family and friend I gave pieces to. I may be able to salvage the rest yet! Thanks

  10. dl
    December 22, 2008 at 7:20 am

    thanks for those recipes! I had a flashback to my mum’s kitchen and the Uncommon cookbook, she made a lot from that. Wonder what ever happened to that old copy?

  11. Cheryl
    December 31, 2008 at 9:32 am

    I’m sad we missed you and all the treats. Looking forward to connecting soon.

  12. Tim
    June 6, 2010 at 12:18 am

    I buy chdeap fruitcakes at Christmas time just tpo make these.


  13. Tim
    June 6, 2010 at 12:21 am

    I buy cheap fruitcakes at Christmas time just to make these.


  14. Marci
    August 25, 2018 at 8:01 am

    I literally laughed out loud when I read “nut balls” – silly huh? I actually made sauerkraut balls last night, equally silly but really yummy!

    • Julie
      August 27, 2018 at 8:51 pm

      It’s funny every. Single. Time.

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