Icebox Fruitcake


I’m doing my last minute running around before both of my kids are out of school and so my friend, Stacey, offered to share one of his recipes with you to give me a little more time to get my Christmas ducks in a row. This is his special Christmas story and I know you’ll enjoy it! Be sure and head on over to read My family’s Christmas story when you’re done, the Seven Cakes of Christmas (I have a free little ebook for you there, too!).

And I also want to share with you my Good Morning message that I posted on the Southern Plate Family Facebook page this morning if you’ll indulge me. Each morning I post a positive or uplifting message to get our day started right and today’s was a little more special to me.

“We’re in the home stretch with Christmas right around the corner! Don’t sweat the small stuff this week – seriously. I know this is the time where we all run around fretting and driving ourselves bat crazy over the tiniest details, doing everything we possibly can to make Christmas “perfect” for our families and those we love. But guess what? No matter what we do, how beautifully presents are wrapped, how much food is cooked, or what is beneath the tree – *You* and *I* will never be able to make Christmas perfect. God already did that :) 
Now breathe in..exhale…and enjoy this beautiful season. GOOD MORNING!!! ~Christy” 



Now take it away, Stacey! 

Once again, Christy has asked me to share one of my family’s favorite recipes with the Southern Plate family.  It’s a pleasure to do this every day over on Southern Bite, but I’m always humbled and overwhelmed when I get asked to share my food on what is arguably the BEST food blog on the net.  When Christy asked me to post something that was holiday themed, I knew exactly what it had to be.   But if you know me, then you know that no special post comes without a story…

My grandmother grew up poor.  But just as Christy would say, she was rich in every way that mattered.  And her story to me about her favorite Christmas was perfect evidence of that.  She was one of six children.  Out of necessity, both her parents worked to make ends meet and she was raised by her older siblings, as was so common in those days.  Her father was a night watchman at a saw mill and her mother worked at a plant nursery.  When Christmas would roll around though, poverty took nothing away from them in the way of magic and excitement.  Every year, each child would be presented with one toy, an outfit their mother had made, and a small assortment of fruit, nuts, and peppermint candies.  It was always her father’s job to go out and hunt the perfect Christmas tree.  That was his big contribution to the celebration and he took great pride in presenting the perfect cedar tree for trimming.

 Of course, running down to the tree lot was out of the budget, so he would set out in the woods to track down a prime specimen.  One year in particular, they were living in Bay Minette and after several trips, he wasn’t able to find a cedar tree to suit.  In a last ditch effort to provide something, he cut down a holly bush he found.  He brought it back to the house and feeling a little embarrassed with his haul, set out to make it a little more special.  Finding a can of silver paint, he painstakingly brushed every single prickly holly leaf with a shiny coat.   The result, as my grandmother would put it, was the most beautiful, amazing Christmas tree she’s ever had.  The love he put into that tree made it beautiful.   They added the few ornaments they had and one small strand of bubble lights (that’s all they could afford).  That tree went down in history with her and her family.  And something that he thought inadequate, became the main focus of one of the most fond Christmases they ever shared.

As a child myself, I remember trying to figure how someone could be so excited about a silver bush and only one toy for Christmas.  I mean she would reflect on Christmases past with the same starry-eyed look that I’m sure she had when they first happened.  Today, as an adult with my own child, I have a much better understanding of the importance of a simple, but impactful holiday.

So often we get caught up in the holiday season that we fail to realize the simple things that make it so special.  We focus our attention on buying the best gifts and decorating the perfect tree, when the real  importance of the holiday lies in sharing the time with our loved ones.  I grew up pretty poor myself and it’s one of the things in my life that I am most thankful for.  Thankful for being poor, you ask?  Yep!   When you’ve had little, it help you appreciate when you have more and keeps you pretty grounded.

This holiday season, I hope that you’ll take the time to pay attention to the simple things.  For one day, you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.

This recipe is one of those simple things that have always made holidays special in our family.  Every Thanksgiving and Christmas would find this on my grandmother’s table.  And now, I get the opportunity to share her recipe with y’all.

You’ll need: graham crackers, pecans, maraschino cherries, shredded coconut, raisins, mini marshmallows (yeah, I know I totally left them out of the picture – sorry), sweetened condensed milk

Crush entire box of graham crackers.

I used my food processor but you can also pop those crackers in a zip top bag and crush them with a rolling pin.

Coarsely chop pecans and cherries (saving the cherry juice).

Combine everything in a large bowl.  Mix well.

You may have to use your hands for this – it’s messy but you get to lick your fingers afterwards so it’s totally worth it.

Add three tablespoons of the leftover cherry juice and mix well.

(You can add more if it seems too stiff.)

Turn out into a lightly buttered 9X13 pan and press flat.  Chill at least 6 hours.


Icebox Fruitcake
  • 1 box graham crackers (14.4 oz)
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 jar maraschino cherries (10 oz)
  • 1 tablespoons cherry juice
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup shredded coconut, firmly packed
  • 1½ cups mini marshmallows
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz)
  1. Finely crush graham crackers and coarsely chop pecans and drained cherries.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.
  3. Turn out into a lightly buttered 9X13 dish and press flat into the pan with your hands. Chill at least 6 hours.

Remember, if you don’t have Christmas in your heart, you won’t find it under a tree.


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  1. Linda says

    I received this recipe many years ago but have never made it but I recall how good a “fruitcake” can taste. The recipe I have you put the mixture back in the graham cracker box lined with wax paper – saves a dish and can be sliced like a loaf.

    I will definitely give it a try – Thanks and Merry Christmas

    • Nicole says

      Linda, I was just thinking the same thing about the box being the container for the cake. My grandmother has made this for years, but she uses vanilla wafers and puts it back in the box. It is delicious, and will always remind me of her.

    • Norma Murphy says

      I was searching for a specific fruitcake taste when I ran across this recipe. After all these years, I found it in this marvelous ice box fruitcake, recipe. It’s so good, you CAN’T stay out of it. I will spread the word. Thanks you so much!

  2. Rita Bashor says

    Thank you so much for sharing your story and the recipe.My mother in law use to make one that was very similar with the dried candied fruit,and it was good but I always found it too sweet..this one sounds marachino cherries much better.Hope I get to make one this week.If not it will definitely go in my recipe file! Merry Christmas!

  3. bryan says

    So far you are batting a 1000!!! I have been trying many of your recipes and none have been mediocre. All have been great. I will try this one after work today.
    Many many thanks for your hard work.

  4. Carrie F says

    My Brother use to make this cake every Christmas. Haven’t had it since he passed on in 1990. Thanks for the recipe, I never got his. Brings back lots
    of cherished memories. I will be making this Thursday. Merry Christmas

  5. Darlene says

    My mother always made this fruitcake at Christmas when I was a kid, so have I over the years. The reason we used cherries is because we didn’t like the candied fruit and we use vanilla wafers instead of graham crackers. Also packed it in a meatloaf pan, then turned it out and sliced as needed. Got one in the refridgerator right now, waiting….

  6. Beulah says

    I think this would be delicious but I make a lot of fruit cakes for gifts every year, full of nuts and fruit with very little dough. One of my favorite things other than all the divinity I always make. Merry Christmas!!!

  7. Madeline Renee White says

    I love fruitcake…especially Claxton’s Fruit Cake…..but it has not become quite expensive and either my taste buds have been over the last few years or they have made their fruitcake with more sugar. This sounds wonderful. Thanks for sharing with all of us. Your generosity knows no bounds. Happy holidays to everyone!

  8. PATIKAKES says

    Thank you so much for this recipe. I remember eating this as a kid, but never found the recipe. Needless to say I never ate the “OTHER” fruit cake with the candied fruit in it. As most kids, I fournd that one “yucky”.


    Have a “Wonderful Holiday Season” and “God Bless” you and yours!!!!!

  9. Dragongirl says

    Wow! Thanks for sharing this recipe and your family story – sure you and Christy aren’t related? lolz
    QUESTION: description says to add 3 or more Tablespoons of the cherry juice BUT the recipe only calls for 1. Please tell us which is true?? Thanks.
    Merry Christmas to you and yours Stacey and to Christy too of course! 😉

  10. julie says

    this brings back memories of a nut roll my mom used to make, we can’t find her recipe, I read this one to her, and she said it sounds like it, only difference is we roll it instead, just slice as needed! Thanks for the memories and the recipe! Your a lifesaver, been looking for it for sooooooo long!

    • Joann says

      The nut roll only had three or four ingredients: l lb each of graham cracker crumbs, marshmallows, pecans and raisins if you want them. Melt the marshmallows in a double boiler, add the other ingredients (might want to to butter your hands or use water to finish, as it gets VERY stiff as it cools). Roll in waxed paper and store, slice as needed.

  11. says

    I can certainly connect with your grandmother’s story. My kids grew up with lots of love and make do also. One year our oldest daughter painted sweet gum balls with silver paint, and then filled the holes with silver tooth picks. Beautiful! All of the kids still remember how pretty the tree was that year. We also had bubble lights. And I well remember the fruitcake recipe. It was greatly loved. Most everyone liked it better than the traditional baked ones. Thanks for the memories.

    • Michael says

      Doris, thank you for your comment about this cake and the sweet gum balls with tooth picks! All a part of my Christmas memories :). For about 60 years my mother has used this recipe to make our tradtional ice box cake. She actually learned it from my grandmother! Thanks for the memories :)

  12. Melba says

    My Mom made this fruit cake back in the 50’s. She packed the mixture into a waxed paper lined cracker box to mold and chill it. I think the recipe appeared on the label of the box. It was very good. Of course, she also made Old Fashioned Dark Fruitcake that was also delicious.

  13. Kim H. says

    That’s almost the exact recipe that my granny passed down to us. She used a box of vanilla wafers instead of graham crackers though.. Christmas is just not the same without icebox fruitcake!!!!!!!

  14. Lisa in Texas says

    My mother’s icebox fruitcake recipe is a little different (vanilla wafers and no marshmallows). It’s a Christmas staple for our family. We’ll pull it out of the frig and put on a pot of coffee – makes for wonderful family time.

  15. Sharon says

    My grandmother used to make this recipe when I was little. I am not in my mid 50’s! My mother continued the tradition. She just made one the other night. This old fashioned recipe really is delicious. If you ever try this recipe, you will make it again and again! It is scrumptious! Thank you, Stacey!

  16. Phyllis says

    My family makes this with vanilla wafer crumbs. I use candied red and green cherries…only red if not at Christmas… pecans, marshmallows, and 3 T. frozen coconut, 3T. golden raisins and 1 can Eagle Brand milk. Thanks for all your recipes. Enjoy the website so much!

  17. Debby says

    Christy, if you never shared one recipe with me, I would still check out your website to read your comments. Girl, you are too funny! I made this fruitcake and licking my fingers was part of the fun!

  18. THERESA E. says


  19. Paula says

    My Mother-in-Law made an ice-box fruitcake like this for many years, the favorite of my husband and kids. She passed away last February, and I fixed the cake this year as a tribute to her, for our family. Great way to pass on great traditions and remember those gone on….

  20. glena says

    I made this and only left out the raisins. I put it in a loaf pan and was going to slice it like I read about above but it turns out kinda sticky and you basically have to spoon it out of the pan. It tastes fine but it’s not what I expected to eat like a thick sticky pudding like stuff. Any hints on what I need to change.

    • linda says


  21. Heather B. in NC says

    We made this 3x over the Christmas holiday to give away as gifts and one to keep for us. My kids loved taking ownership of making this cake for their grandparents who LOVED it! I have the best picture of their little hands stained bright red from the cherries. This will be added to the must make list each year along with peanut butter fudge and butter cookies. Thanks for sharing!!

  22. says

    When I was growing up, my mother had a relative that would bring Icebox Fruitcakes as her Christmas gift. She would line aluminum ice trays with wax paper and use this as the container to freeze the cake. She would get back the ice trays so they could be reused the next Christmas. Also, her recipe varied as candied red & green fruit were used as well as pineapple, coconut but not marshmallows. Nuts – pecans, walnuts, brazil nut were used. Some families had a preference as to which fruitcake mixture they liked. She would remember & make these accordingly.

  23. cyndi atha says

    We have a similar story about our fruit cake but as a family we make ours Thanksgiving weekend and you are not aloud to eat until Christmas eve, my great grandmother would beat any one caught trying to sample before Christmas eve!

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