Bourbon Fruitcake Balls

Christmas is here, and as always, it’s a mad dash to the end.  If you still haven’t quite gotten it together, it’s your very last chance.  Brave souls and fans of the last minute (I see myself here) will join the masses of fellow-spirited shoppers today, Panic Saturday, now happening literally everywhere.

You’ve been making your lists and checking them twice, but there’s always that “little something” else that you need, and these Bourbon Fruitcake Balls are just that.  Fruitcake is a very divisive food:  you either love it or you hate it.  Even if you are a hater, just like I was for most of my life, I am betting right now I can make you change your mind.  Let me just say here’s the reason why that bottle of bourbon has been sitting on my kitchen counter for the past two weeks.

This particular fruitcake has been a necessary element of our family’s Christmas since I bought my first small, white box at the Orchard’s Fred Meyer about 15 years ago.  I am pretty sure it was a gag gift for my brother, a nod to the time he made a 4:30 a.m. pre-swim team practice breakfast of all he could find:  fruitcake and cocktail onions.  This is still funny, even 30 years later, and no matter how old I get, I never stop being amused at teasing my brother.  We had a good laugh Christmas morning, but were quickly surprised to discover that this fruitcake was unlike any other we had ever tried, and ever since, both he and I eagerly scout the bakery section every November awaiting its arrival.

We buy this cake very year, except this year, when we were sad to find that Fred Meyer was not stocking it.  Instead, in its place, they had Ye Olde English Fruit and Nut Dessert Cake, which also happens to be made by Beatrice Bakery, the same company that makes our beloved Grandma’s variety, which is hands down, the best fruitcake ever.  Wondering if it was just renamed, or repackaged, I tossed one in my cart just for good measure, but let me say it is no substitute.  While it wasn’t awful, the ratio of cake to fruit and nuts was all off, the flavor was somewhat different, and let’s just say it was disappointing.  In all fairness, and just to be sure I was being impartial, I tried to pass some off on my brother, but aficionado that he is, he was not fooled.

Grandma’s Fruitcake is simply unlike any other.  It is so densely studded with fruit and nuts, that it’s almost impossible to find any of the moist, crumbly, vanilla flavored cake.  Like most fruitcake, it contains glace cherries, pineapple, and raisins, but unlike most, it does not contain citron or orange peel.  The fruit/nut/cake ratio is just perfect, and the cake itself is just perfect, too, not dry, hard, and bland like other fruitcakes.

A quick call to Beatrice Bakery confirmed my suspicions:  the two cakes are not the same.  The friendly rep I spoke to verified a few other things.  There is 70% fruit and nuts in the Grandma’s variety, and the other reason it is just sooo good is because it is laced with rum, bourbon, and brandy.  No wonder we’ve been liking it so much!  She also said the older it gets, the better it gets, which is likely due to the spirits.  Due to the larger fruit and nut ratio, this fruitcake can be a little crumbly, but if you refrigerate the cake prior to cutting it, it will help hold everything together.   Sadly, it is not gluten-free, and I truly miss it, so I I have an assortment of glace fruit, some nuts, and high hopes that I can somehow make a gluten-free reasonable facsimile.  We’ll see.

If you still hate fruitcake and have never tried one you like, now is your chance.  You can find Grandma’s Fruit and Nut Dessert Cake right now at Safeway.  You can also find it at Cabela’s year round, which is good, just in case you need a little fruitcake off-season.

Loving fruitcake as I do, I thought about merging fruitcake with a bourbon ball, and must say the result was simply awesome.  I amazed even myself with this because it is fast, festive, and couldn’t be easier.  It is also laced with bourbon, and who couldn’t use a little of that right now?  Typical bourbon ball recipes include vanilla wafers, chopped pecans, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, corn syrup, and of course, bourbon.   Using just this delicious fruitcake bypasses all the chopping and measuring and makes it faster and easier to get to the enjoying part.

Put these in a pretty bowl on your coffee table, add them to your cheese board, take them along for sustenance and to keep your spirits up as you brave the holiday melee today.  Or,  pack them up in a cute little bowl like the one you see here (sold in packs of three at the Dollar Store) and hand them off to a friend.  Who couldn’t use a bourbon laced little ball of fruitcake right now?

Run, don’t walk, to Safeway and pick up one of these fruitcakes.  Better yet, pick up two, because I am betting you are going to like it a lot.  Carefully wrapped, they freeze well, and as soon as this gets out, I am predicting a shortage.  I am off now, headed into the kitchen for the rest of December, celebrating Christmas with my family.  I hope that Santa is very good to you this year and wish you a wonderful holiday filled with good food, good times, and much happiness shared with your family and friends.

Bourbon Fruitcake Balls

  • 1  1 lb loaf Grandma’s Fruit and Nut Dessert Cake
  • bourbon
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup powdered sugar

Unwrap fruitcake and place in a glass dish large enough to hold entire cake.  Pour several tablespoonfuls of bourbon over the top of the fruitcake.  Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.  Using two forks, break fruitcake into large chunks.  Roll fruitcake into 1-inch balls.  Roll in powdered sugar.  Cover and refrigerate.



Donna Ferguson

Donna Ferguson

I love to cook, garden, and write about all the things in Vancouver and the Northwest that make life so great.

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