Christmas Desserts and Family Traditions

The QuipperyThe Fruitcake

Have you ever thought what it must be like to be a Fruit Cake? Made weeks or months in advance of Christmas Dinner, it is left to steep in whatever secret ingredient is used to give it that special flavour (I prefer rum). It is briefly admired as it is paraded down the catwalk of the dessert tray – then ignored by a bunch of carnivores who have just devoured half of a gigantic turkey.

I’ve always liked Fruit Cake. Back in the days when I’d do lots of Christmas baking, I’d serve it with Rum Hard Sauce. It is a simple recipe. Beat 3-4 tablespoons of butter (though my recipe says margarine because back then it was much cheaper than butter.) Add 1 cup of icing sugar, 1/4 cup rum, and 1/8 cup milk. Beat and chill before serving.

In a 1983 New York Times column titled “Fruitcake Is Forever,” Russell Baker claimed to be in possession of a fruitcake that a long-dead relative had baked in 1794 as a Christmas gift for President George Washington. Washington allegedly sent it back with a note explaining that it was “unseemly for Presidents to accept gifts weighing more than 80 pounds, even though they were only eight inches in diameter.
– Mental Floss –

The Sugar Cookie

The Fruit Cake’s nemesis is the Sugar Cookie sitting next to it on the platter. The Sugar Cookie, made just that morning, is unaware that it will be the hands down favourite. It may or may not have been tarted up with icing and silver sprinkles – but it will be devoured. Every last crumb will be gone by the time the last guest has headed  home with a tupperware container full of turkey and mashed potatoes. The Fruit Cake will sit untouched and forlorn on the platter – much to the delight of the hostess who created it (and loves any dessert that contains booze or chocolate or fruit or all three.) It is just a matter of time, however, before the last of the Fruit Cake is also devoured (as is the eggnog) and the hostess – well, she has gained five pounds in weight. (I speak from experience.)


Baking and decorating Gingerbread is a tradition in our family. I’ve written about this in the past (Line up the Usual Suspects and How to Plan a Gingerbread Party.)

Rum Balls

Rum Ball making has become one of my son-in-law’s traditions. Each year he tries to increase the amount of rum, yet maintain the consistency of the dough such that it can be rolled into balls. Needless to say, Rum Balls are for adults only. Rum Ball rolling is time consuming and is usually done in front of the TV set while watching a movie. In years gone by, the traditional movie for the job was Amadeas. Don’t ask me why it has to be that movie – it is just the right movie for the job.

My eldest daughter decided to introduce Rum Ball making to her family this year. Her post began

Turns out, twenty-two years is enough time to forget a recipe. Although, as I stood in the grocery store calling my younger sister (wife of the rum ball making son-in-law) to find out what almond paste was, it occurred to me that I might not have actually made this recipe before. I did participate in the ritual of drinking wine, watching a movie and rolling. I’m just not sure I ever assembled the ingredients and then mixed them up in such a huge bowl.

Carrot Cake

Huh? Carrot Cake doesn’t seem like a traditional Christmas dessert – but it is just about my favourite treat other than something made with dark chocolate. We have done extensive testing of store bought carrot cake and the Fountain Hills AZ Safeway store makes a carrot cake to die for! Since it is just going to be two of us for Christmas dinner this year, quick and simple Safeway carrot cake is the way to go!

What are your traditional Christmas Desserts?

14 thoughts on “Christmas Desserts and Family Traditions

  1. I once had two bites in one of a fruit cake…my first and my last. But those things are great for target practice. Never need replacing.


  2. Fruit cake – the adults loved it, the kids, not so much. That’s ok, went ahead and made it anyway. Just took a whole loaf, made last year out of the freezer last week, yum!
    My longest running tradition for Christmas baking is shortbread. Going on for over 40 years. I received the recipe from a Scottish lady, a senior at the time. Three simple ingredients. The result is a melt in your mouth, buttery sinful delight. Some of my sons have tried to duplicate my recipe. Close, but no cigar.
    My latest addition to my Christmas baking is Lassy Mogs. A treat from the East coast, dark, fruity, pecan laden, morsel that is a delight to sink your teeth into. Have yourselves a wonderful Christmas, and a safe one. Cheers.


    1. Thanks for the shortbread reminder! My mom used to make it in big rounds which she cut into triangles like a pie. Her recipe came from a Scottish lady too. When we lived in the UK we used to buy Walker’s shortbread.
      Lassy Mogs – I’d never heard of these, but my mom used to make a cookie she called Molasses softies. They seem similar to Lassy Mogs, though without nuts and fruit.
      All the best to you and yours this holiday season!


  3. Many years ago in my sister’s family, fruit cake got dubbed Compost Cake by her 4 children and the name has stuck. I’ve never been a fan, but Husband LOVES this time of year as he considers it his personal responsibility to eat his way through every fruit cake offering by every store. He has his favourites.

    For me, shortbread cookies and chocolate in all its variations are my eventual downfall … and Licorice Allsorts – why can’t I find any Licorice Allsorts this year?!!!


    1. The first fruit cake I made was my mother-in-laws recipe. For some reason, it didn’t specify how much liquid to add and my fruit cake was like a rock. So I poured rum over it and let it soak for a while. It had lots of fruit and chocolate. All was good.

      Licorice Allsorts! I think my husband would eat a lot of those if they were in a candy dish!


  4. The family favorite here is cut out cookies and Top Hat Cookies. Top Hats are a basic flour, sugar, butter thumbprint base, then topped with a mixture of cream cheese, powdered sugar and coconut (plus a few other ingredients) and then melted chocolate chips drizzled over it. I haven’t really met a Christmas goodie that I haven’t liked…..unfortunately for me and my clothes needing to fit!


    1. Top Hat Cookies – I’ve never heard of those before! Isn’t it wonderful how many regional recipes there are that are probably similar to recipes from somewhere else – that have a different name!

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  5. Mmm, hard to read about food without drooling! I once swallowed an Xmas pud sixpence … later on spent a penny so made a net profit of 5d. (The second bit’s banter but the first bit’s true!)


    1. Funny! My aunt used to put pennies or nickels in her birthday cake batter. I don’t remember any stories about accidentally swallowing a coin – but I think she used to wrap them in tin foil so they were really obvious.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Count me in on both the fruitcake and the rum balls, and please have a huge pot of coffee in the vicinity. Also: Tums. They’re the perfect after dinner mints for these occasions… 😊


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