In America and Britain, fruit cake is the common ridicule of many Christmas-time jokes for its bland taste and very long life, sometimes depicted as hard enough as to be indestructible, or to serve as a blunt weapon. It is often depicted as a gift given to someone the giver doesn't like, later used by the recipient as a doorstop, paperweight, or anything else a brick could be used for. Another joke surrounding it is the exact same fruitcake being passed around between "friends" or family members for decades, even centuries, because it's never gone bad (or perhaps can't get any worse than it already is), and no one wants to even taste it.
The common stereotype came from the fact that fruit cake, when mass-produced and brought to the supermarket, has to be deliberately overbaked in order to have a very long shelf life, with side effects including hardness and a flat taste. Another reason people tend to dislike it is the unnatural colors, cloyingly-sweet flavors, and chewy textures of the fruit typically contained in these cakes. (Usually candied cherries, dyed green or an unnatural shade of red, and candied citron.)
Even if people were to bake it themselves at home, the process is harder than they think; it is very easy to mess up the process, like baking it too dense or undercook it so that the middle is a puddle of uncooked goo.
So as noted, there are such things as a good fruit cake but it's rare to find one with a perfect balance of moisture and weight.note By the way, despite the stereotype, it can go bad, so we would not recommend giving your kids a fruitcake that has been passed down for many generations — just chuck it in the bin.
- Erma Bombeck had an entire section (published in All I Know About Animal Behavior I Learned In Loehmanns Dressing Room) discussing fruitcake along with other indestructible foods (namely split pea soup and hard rolls). She also claims that fruitcake bakers never eat their own products but zealously insist on pressing them onto other people, completely unfazed by the unfavorable reaction.
- Jim Gaffigan has a bit on how disgusting fruit cake is. He claims fruit cakes are made by bakers who just shove all the scraps from their previous creations into one bowl and mix it together. "Put all this crap in here. No-one eats it anyway, they just mail it to relatives."
Jim: It doesn't make sense. Fruit: good, cake: great, fruit cake: nasty crap!
- One Archie Comics story has Veronica Lodge, already a Lethal Chef, try her hand at making fruitcakes, baked in fluted cake pans. The result is so hard it might as well be concrete. She tasks Archie and Jughead to deliver her "gifts", and when Archie's Alleged Car gets a flat, they use a fruitcake as a spare tire.
- Knights of the Dinner Table has a running gag about the awful fruitcakes B.A. and Sara receive from their Aunt Nudra every year.
- Garfield has had more than one strip denouncing fruit cakes. In one, Jon recalled his family holidays. As an act of magic, his Uncle Joe made the fruitcake disappear. Garfield didn't consider it a great loss.
- One strip of Crankshaft has characters mentioning what they did with last Christmas' fruit cake. One used it to kill spiders while the other used it to make their truck heavier while driving on icy roads.
- The 12/4/2013 panel of Cow Town as well as the 12/5/2013 panel. And the 12/6/2013 panel. And more to come throughout December. Strip creator Charlie Podrebarac has admitted that fruitcakes are a source of much fascination to him, though he prefers povitica (Croatian nut bread) as a holiday treat.
- In the Liō strip for December 16, 2014, the title character happily pulls a fruit cake out of its box...and uses it as a footstool to help him hang his stocking over the fireplace.
- Brewster Rockit has Frank, the Unloved Christmas Fruitcake, who became sentient after laying around so long.
- This FoxTrot strip.
- Legend of the Accursed Fruitcake of Camlann: A gift fruitcake spurned by Merlin and cursed by Morgana has triggered untold grief and conflict in Wizarding England. Until Ron Weasley selflessly devours the Dark artifact, reversing all the damage done through the ages.
I muff mootmape! Weasley said, his mouth stuffed full.
- In Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas, Minnie is given a fruitcake in place of the Christmas bonus she should have received. Her boss is a rich Jerkass.
- In Olaf's Frozen Adventure, Olaf eats a fruitcake that literally goes right through him. Subverted in that Olaf eagerly eats it rather than hates it. Played straight later on when a hawk steals the fruitcake (which, by that point, has been carried for some time by Olaf through woods and mountains but is still intact), then returns it untouched some time later.
- The exterminator hero of Big Ass Spider! keeps getting fruitcakes as gifts from a grateful elderly client. They're even worse than normal, because she does things like leave the stems on the cherries; a brief gag shows a pile of the things in the hero's truck, untouched.
- In The Ref, one of the neighbors has a holiday tradition of dressing up as Santa and going door to door delivering home-made fruitcakes. The family being held hostage throws the fruitcake away as soon as he leaves.
- In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, when Uncle Vernon is boarding up the mail slot to prevent any more "mysterious" letters from entering, Petunia hands him a fruitcake and he uses it to pound in a nail. Since fruitcakes are normally made for the Christmas season and this part of the book took place in mid-July, said fruitcake was at least half a year old.
- The titular family from Vatta's War has Aunt Gracie, who insists on sending out every family member going on their first voyage with a stash of fruitcake. Her fruitcakes are generally considered inedible and dense enough to block out X-rays. The last bit is Not Hyperbole. Gracie often sends valuable items in fruitcakes, knowing that they can get through most security checkpoints without comment and that no-one will cut a fruitcake unless the situation is well beyond frazzled. The main character cuts hers when her funds have dropped low enough that she can't afford to resupply, and finds out it's full of diamonds. However, it turns out that while Ky doesn't like them quite a few of her crew love fruitcake and would have gladly eaten them if she'd asked.
- The Discworld has two referents for this trope:
- Firstly the idea of Dwarf Bread, a parody of Middle-Earth's cram, a substance that draws the last few shreds of endurance out of a wanderer in the wilderness for fear that if he gets stranded in a bleak inhospitable Mordor-like place, he'd better get a move on, as all he'll be left with to eat will be the dwarf bread. In Guards! Guards!, the six-foot tall Dwarf Carrot Ironfoundersson (it makes sense in context) is sent a Dwarf fruit cake by his family in the mountains as celebration of his getting a job in the big city. Baked, or rather forged, for longevity, Carrot has to use a halberd to cut it into slices — and there is mention of several impressive rebounds before the halberd is actually able to slice it. The trope is averted; Carrot actually likes it. After all, he grew up in the culture.
- Elsewhere in the Discworld, there is the concept of Unexpected Nougat in a box of chocolates, the confection that can spoil anybody's day: on paper everything a sweetmeat should be, but in practice unbearably disgusting: the hard chocolate nobody likes, over-sweet, over-hard, full of indefinable bits, and which doesn't count as chocolate: getting it automatically entitles the unfortunate one to go back into the box for another pick. If consumed in error, long-standing custom and precedent also dictates the calories do not count.
- In the Junie B. Jones book titled Junie B. Jones and the Yucky Blucky Fruitcake, the title character wins a cake walk at her school carnival and picks the fruitcake. She's warned that it won't taste good, but chooses it anyway. When she brings it home, she finds that she doesn't like the taste, but it makes itself useful anyway, as a replacement for the telephone book she has to sit on at the dinner table ("that thing hurts my hiney").
- An Imponderables book addresses a reader question about fruitcake in a tongue-in-cheek way, the author David Feldman making it abundantly clear how much he dislikes the stuff and implies it's hated by every human on Earth. Naturally, Feldman got flooded with letters from people who like eating fruitcake, most of them angry but a few who got a good laugh out of it.
- Erma Bombeck got much mileage out of mocking fruitcake in her humor column and books. Not just its indestructible nature, but how deluded fruitcake lovers (like her mother) are in their mission to convert the haters.
It's too sticky for a doorstop, too big for a paperweight, too young to petrify, and too old to eat. Some of the fruits in it have become extinct.
- In Dave Barry Slept Here, the Soviets' blockade of West Berlin was finally called off after Harry Truman threatened to bombard their territory with "huge amounts of cafeteria-grade ravioli or even—remember, these were desperate times—fruitcake."
- Zig-zagged in the original Martha Speaks book; Martha tells Helen's grandmother that Helen's mom said the fruitcake she sent them last Christmas wasn't fit for a dog, but she thought it was delicious. Naturally, Helen and her mother and grandmother are offended when they hear this from Martha.
- Zig-zagged throughout the Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas special. One of the running gags in the special is Pee-wee receiving fruitcakes as gifts from his friends. At first, he pretends to like them, but at several points, he says lines like, "It's not a fruitcake, is it?", and "No, no, no more fruitcake!" Towards the end of the special, when Cowboy Curtis gives him a fruitcake, but then sees Randy gave him one as well, he is about to take it back, thinking Pee-Wee doesn't need another. Pee-Wee tells him he does, and reveals to his friends what he did with all the fruitcakes; he used them to build a new room to the playhouse.
- The Red Green Show: One of the Christmas specials has a segment where Harold asks the audience if they can guess what part of Christmas he hates more than Fruit cakes, before thinking for a second and doesn't think there is anything worse (but his intended answer, now second-worse, is the waiting). Another segment shows how the various lodge members use their fruit cakes. Dalton, for example, leaves a fruit cake for Santa, who then gets his revenge by filling Dalton's stocking with fruit cakes.
- Good Eats naturally discusses this and, being a cooking show, attempts to defy the stereotype by producing a fruitcake recipe that is actually delicious. He uses fruit that is dried, but found in nature and otherwise untampered with.
- In The Pretender, the first-season episode "Not Even a Mouse" has the protagonist discovering a range of Christmas traditions he missed out on due to his deprived childhood, one of which is the tradition of disdaining fruitcake. Jarod himself rather likes fruitcake.
- Subverted on a Christmas Episode of I've Got a Secret in which the panel didn't mind the fact they were eating fruitcake. However, when they found out it was 100 year old fruit cake....
- It crops up in an unexpected dating and baking metaphor on Little Mosque on the Prairie:
The cake could look good and still be crummy. Or it may be a fruitcake and you know how we all feel about fruitcake...
- In one Christmas Episode of The Golden Girls, the protagonists seem to have accumulated several fruitcakes as gifts over several Christmases. Sophia suggests bringing them to the soup kitchen where they're volunteering that year. They do, but by the end of the night, not only has no-one touched them, she swears that there are more of them there than they brought.
- In the "Black Friday" episode of Life, Det. Charlie Crews pegs a running mall thief (dressed as a Christmas elf) with a fruitcake, dropping him. Right in front of some confused carolers. Who become horrified when he approaches with his gun drawn. Then the suspect is finally tackled and handcuffed ... by Santa Claus (another cop undercover).
Crews: [explaining matter-of-factly] Bad elf.
- The Food Network show Holiday Baking Championship often has a fruitcake challenge, acknowledging its bad reputation and asking the contestants to take it and reinvent it (or its ingredients) as something more appealing. In the first season in 2014, the contestants predictably groaned and winced when Bobby Deen announced the challenge...except for one who visibly averted it by perking up and going "YUM!" Said contestant won the competition.
- On Game of Thrones, old fruitcake soaked in water was used in the infamous "poop montage" in Season 8, to create the "poop." It worked really well.
- Miss Fogarty's Christmas Cake shows that this is Older Than Radio. It's a 19th century song about a repulsive Christmas Cake that required the use of a hatchet and a saw to slice.
- Grandma's Killer Fruitcake by Dr. Elmo has the singer dreading his grandmother's recipe for fruit cake.
It was harder than the head of Uncle BuckyHeavy as a sermon of Preacher LuckyOne's enough to give the whole state of Kentucky a great big bellyache.It was denser than a trove of barnyard turkeysTougher than a truckload of all beef jerkyDrier than a drought in AlbuquerqueGrandma's killer fruitcake!
- A verse from the "Salvation Army/Temperance Union Song" goes like this:
We never eat fruitcake because it has rum.And one little bite makes a man like a bum.Now can you imagine a sorrier sightThan a man eating fruitcake until he gets tight?
- Bill Engvall has a Christmas song called "Fruit Cake Makes Me Puke."
- Ghost of True Capitalist Radio repeatedly states how much he hates his sister-in-law Caroline, pointing out that every Christmas she brings a foul smelling fruitcake with her and the odour linger for days after she leaves. Naturally his trolls used this as ammunition to further enrage him.
- Magic: The Gathering has the Fruitcake Elemental, a promotional holiday card given out to Wizards of the Coast employees in 2006. It's an indestructible 7/7 behemoth... that deals 7 damage to its controller every turn. Naturally, it has another ability that lets you gift it to an opponent.
- In the Shadowrun-verse, the immortal dragons Dunkelzahn and Alamais spent 30-odd years feuding over a fruitcake, giving it away to the other on alternate Christmases. Alamais got stuck with the short end of the straw (and the fruitcake) in 2057 when Dunkelzahn died and revealed the game publically in his will. Along with the fact that, as Dunkelzahn is dead and Alamais isn't, he is the de facto winner. Of course, half of the deal was that Dunkelzahn outed Alamais as Not Quite Dead by mentioning him in his will, and forced him to return to public life. Alamais had faked his own death in an airborne duel with Lofwyr and Kaltenstein above Stuttgart some years earlier, with three million credible witnesses watching him die. This was presumably all according to plan...
- The Santas Soldiers role-playing game, fruitcake is used as low-end artillery shells. You play a team of paramilitary Christmas Elves — yes, it's just as strange and funny as it sounds.
- Even My Little Pony G3 pokes fun at fruitcake. On the backcard description for toyline-only pony December Poinsettia her favorite type of cake is listed as "fruitcake (no, really!)", implying that it's surprising that anyone (or any pony) would like it that much.
- EverQuest II has the "Fruit Cake" item. The description says "The cake is a lie". It's a worthless item that just takes up space and the best you can do is hurl it at opponents. The hit player falls to their knees, brushes crumbs off their face and then they have the fruitcake in their inventory to throw at someone else.
- Zigzagged in World of Warcraft. The annual "Mince meat fruit cakes" from the Christmas event given an achievement when eaten while in Santa garb. They're also the best food items in terms of healing as they restore 5% every second for 20 seconds (That's 100% HP) meaning they're effective for even a level 90 tank with thousands of HP and only require one serving. Still, the description says it will "be a long time before it goes bad" and that "you should probably also like the taste of fruitcake. (Of course, many useful food items in this game are stuff the typical man would be revolted by.)
- At one point in Darkened Skye, you have to perform a Chain of Deals, with the starting item being a fruitcake. The reactions of the various merchants in the marketplace who can be offered the fruitcake but don't want it are rather amusing.
- In The Sims 4, Sims will give fruitcakes to new neighbors as a housewarming gift. If eaten, and the Sim doesn't have a gluttonous personality trait, they will get the "What Did I Just Eat?" moodlet, leaving the Sim in a bad mood.
- ''Star Trek Online" has Last Year's fruitcake as an obtainable item during the Winter Event. There's also Ripplebery Fruitcake.
- Fruit Cakes are drops during December in Don't Starve Together. It counts as a 'food' item but it will never spoil and none of your characters will eat it, instead making grimaces if you try to make them.
- Terraria has fruit cake as a drop during the holiday season. Its only use is as a throwing weapon, and cannot be consumed like all the other Christmas-themed food items.
- In Manly Guys Doing Manly Things, Commander Badass has been known to store caches of fruitcakes just in case. Of course, even though the Commander appreciates fruitcake's value as wilderness survival food, he admits that it's impossible to tell if a fruitcake has gone bad, because he's never tasted a good fruitcake.
Fruitcake's so calorie dense and it has such a crazy shelf life it's perfect fer wilderness survival kits. I'm just stockin' up, it could save yer life, y'know.
- Subverted in this Pocket Princesses strip: Tiana clearly expects some reluctance toward her fruitcake, but Merida and Aurora seem quite eager to sample it.
- The adoptable website Chicken Smoothie featured a trio of dogs based on Christmas-themed treats. The cookie and hot chocolate-themed dogs had on happy and adorable expressions; the fruitcake dog looked put-out and depressed.
- In a Twitter series Presenting ALL OF THE U.S. PRESIDENTS as SNACK FOODS, the fruitcake is the stand-in for Dwight D. Eisenhower:
A triumph at its best, but often regrettable. Heavy enough to be a bludgeoning weapon. Also suitable for paving highways.
- A double example from the Darkwing Duck episode " It's a Wonderful Leaf":
- Bushroot complains that "everybody treats me like last year's fruitcake."
- Darkwing hears a guy yelling that someone stole his fruitcake. He wonders who would do that, and Launchpad responds, "I wish I knew. I can never get rid of the stuff."
- At the beginning of the The Fairly OddParents! episode "Christmas Every Day", Vicky makes Timmy gift-wrap a large amount of fruitcakes (which Cosmo uses to build an igloo), a job that Timmy deplores. After bringing him a giant fruitcake that she needs a forklift to lift, Timmy asks her who all the fruitcakes are for, and she tells him they're not for anyone, but she just likes making him work, and promptly uses his wrapped fruitcakes as firewood.
- Garfield and Friends. In the "Revenge of the Living Lunch" episode a meteor lands on Earth, gets mistaken for a fruitcake and is passed along for decades because no one will even try to eat a fruitcake. Jon receives it from his Aunt Edna (prompting Garfield to wonder what Jon ever did to make her mad at him) and after stashing it in the fridge, wanders off to contemplate the age-old question fruitcake recipients always ask themselves: "Who do I dislike enough to give a fruitcake to?" Garfield mentions fruitcakes are one of the few foods he refuses to eat note , and also that although (in his opinion) Jon is dumb, even he isn't dumb enough to try eating one.
- Spongebob Squarepants.
- In the "Christmas Who?" episode, at one point SpongeBob says, "...And everyone pretends to like the fruitcake!" Also, in the same episode, Mr. Krabs gives Plankton one as a present and he throws it out — into a trashcan full of nothing but fruitcakes.
- In the "Its A Sponge Bob Christmas" episode, Plankton puts Jerktonium on fruit cakes to make everyone into jerks. He gives the first one to SpongeBob, who turns out to be immune, making Plankton think his plan failed. SpongeBob then gives the Jerktonium fruit cakes to everyone else, unwittingly helping in Plankton' evil scheme. (Note that the characters are not complaining about getting fruit cake; the episode plays on the cake's reputation by making them instruments of evil.)
- In Prep and Landing, Wayne receives a fruitcake from a coal elf upon news of his (expected) promotion. He immediately re-gifts it to Magee, who later gives it to Lanny during the company Christmas party.
- Fruitcakes being given to Mr. Plotz is a running gag in the Animaniacs episode "A Christmas Plotz," which he rejects because he hates fruitcake (and has an whole office full of fruitcakes that were given to him). It gets to the point where he thinks that Dot, who is disguised as a gift box when she enters as the Ghost of Christmas Present, is probably another fruitcake, which she is insulted by ("fruitcake" being a term for an insane person). At the end of the story, after he has reformed, instead of sending a turkey to Ralph's house, Plotz tells the Warners to buy the biggest fruitcake they can find and send it to Ralph's house. They bring a gigantic fruitcake the size of Ralph's trailer house using a helicopter and drop it, where it lands on top of Plotz. Listening to Plotz's screams underneath the fruitcake, Wakko replies that "We'll have you out of there by Easter." The trope is possibly subverted given that the Warners don't seem to mind the task of eating the giant fruitcake.
- Fruitcake appears in both The Smurfs cartoon show episode "The Master Smurf" as a substance that the Smurfs use to build Greedy's monument to himself while they were under the thrall of his magical crown, and in The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol as one of the things of Christmas that Greedy says that he hates at the beginning of the story. Interestingly, fruitcake turns out to be Hefty's favorite holiday food, as he is seen eating it as the Smurf of Christmas Future.
- The Trash Pack episode "Completely Armless" lists fruitcake as being a more disgusting flavor of cake than "fungus" or "boogers and brine".
- A plot point in Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, in which Grandma Spankenheimer's fruitcakes is actually one of the cornerstones of her business since she bakes it well enough that people willingly want to eat it (despite the song "Grandma's Killer Fruitcake''). Cousin Mel trying to sabotage the recipe is what kicks the plot of the special into gear since she unknowingly turn it into reindeer nip which caused the titular hit and run. Likewise during the court scene, when Jake presents the first evidence to the jury. One of them warily asks the judge "Do we have to?".
- The Christmas Episode of The Adventures of Sam & Max: Freelance Police features a rock-hard fruitcake that is eventually weaponized by Sam's grandma.
That was an unconventional use of a beloved holiday treat!
- In the Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "Fa La La La Ed", the Eds find a decades-old "ancestral fruitcake" in Edd's parents' closet, which Eddy initially mistakes for a hunk of bologna. Rather than eating the fruitcake, Edd's family apparently just uses it as a Christmas decoration.
- In It's A Wonderful Tiny Toons Christmas Special, one of Plucky's proposed sketches is "Plucky the Lonely Fruitcake Nobody Wanted For Christmas". Buster ends up cutting the sketch and having it rewritten as "Urkel the Lonely Fruitcake".
- A running gag in The Spooktacular New Adventures of Casper is that even ghosts don't like fruitcake, to the point that in one episode, Dr. Harvey manages to send his daughter, Casper, and the Ghosly Trio fleeing in terror when he offers them some. Much to his bemusement, as he genuinely likes it.
- The Histeria! episode "World War II" ended with a segment where the main characters helped Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Josef Stalin decide what to do with the nations liberated from Nazi rule and how to punish the enemy soldiers using foods to represent the nations and enemy soldiers. Fruit cake is chosen by Charity Bazaar to represent the Nazis because she claims that no one likes fruit cake.
- Wacky Races (2017): Averted in "It's a Wacky Life". Pandora tells Dick she joined the other wacky racers' Christmas celebration for the fruitcakes and gladly eats one. It's further averted in the end when Muttley eats another fruitcake.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "The Beginning of the End Part 2", Pinkie Pie is especially distressed by what King Sombra forced the Cake family to bake for his victory celebration.
Pinkie Pie: [sobbing] He made them bake a black licorice fruitcake that says "Congratulations to Our Favorite Supreme Emperor King Sombra" in green frosting! It's the ugliest cake I've ever seen!