A Feast Long Avoided: Gluten-Free No-Bake Fruitcake



As I may have mentioned a time or ten thousand here on Ricochet, I have certain auto-immune problems which include celiac disease and food allergies that preclude my eating anything with most grains. The only grain that I do not have adverse reactions to is corn (maize). But corn is definitely not wheat with its wonderful gluten properties that allow for good breads and many other baked goods.

But not all baked goods are the same. I was in a conversation here on Ricochet the other day, and the subject of fruitcakes came up. Admittedly, we started out talking about the human sorts of fruitcakes, but the holiday season is approaching. Someone threw a picture of a non-human fruitcake in that conversation, and I thought, “I bet I could make a fruitcake with corn.” If there is one thing that corn can manage just fine, it’s creating a moist, dense cake. Thus, I started on this adventure.

Since it was an experiment, I decided to dial it back from some of what I might normally do for a fruitcake. I only wanted a small batch. That is in the way of saying that this is more of a technique than a strict recipe. Feel free to add things, change things out, change the amounts, or whatever you please. Preliminaries out of the way, let’s get to what I did.

What I Did

1 16-oz. tub of Paradise Holiday Fruit Old English Fruit and Peel Mix
1 4-oz. package of pecan pieces
1 3-½ oz. package of sliced almonds
Cranberry Juice Cocktail
1 small (airline size) bottle of Jack Daniels No. 7
Pumpkin Pie Spice
Chai Tea (Stash Double Spice Chai Black Tea)
Stick of butter (4 oz.)
Sweetener (Sugar? Stevia? Honey? Whatever.)
2 cups of corn grits (I used a combination of hominy and yellow corn)


Having read a bunch of recipes, I decided the first step was to marinate the fruit and nuts. Some of the recipes suggested spiced rum or bourbon or a non-alcoholic version with orange juice. Only I didn’t have those options available, so I used cranberry juice cocktail, because it was that or V-8 as the only juice options in our fridge. I threw the fruit and peel mix and the nuts into a 2-quart pitcher and then just barely covered them with cranberry juice cocktail. (You might note a theme popping up here about how I cook. What have I got available? Sure, that will work.) I also threw in about a teaspoon of cinnamon and maybe a quarter teaspoon of nutmeg. Then I got too busy to do more than stir it around for a few days, so it marinated for two days, starting on a Sunday afternoon. On Monday, I remembered we had a very small bottle of Jack Daniels’ Bourbon my wife’s former boss had given her, so I added that in while stirring. (It should be said here that neither my wife nor I drink. So, if we’re given wine or booze, it sits for a very long time on the fridge or in a cabinet until it becomes invisible.) Then on Tuesday morning as I stirred it, I noted that the fruit and nuts were absorbing a lot of the liquid. As I had just made a large pot of Stash’s Double Spice Chai Black Tea, I poured a couple of cups into the mixture to add to the marinade and stirred again. This brought it up to about six cups of fruit, nuts, spices, and marinade in the pitcher. I continued marinating it until that afternoon.

That afternoon, I got out the big ol’ pot, the Dutch oven. I poured in three cups of Double Spice Chai Black Tea, just because it sounded better than water for this recipe. I then added a stick of butter, a teaspoon of cinnamon, about a half teaspoon of Pumpkin Pie Spice, and maybe a quarter teaspoon each of ground cloves and allspice. I added in the ingredients of the pitcher from the fridge (fruits, nuts, spices, and marinade) and brought it up to a boil. I added some sweetener to my taste (about a quarter cup). I then slowly added two cups of corn grits, stirring while adding.

I simmered that, stirring frequently for half an hour. By this time, it was a good, thick mixture that was not at all liquid, since the corn grits had absorbed the liquids. Then I spooned it out into baking pans. In my case, I had one silicone rubber “pan” that has twelve mini loaf shapes in it. I filled that up and put the pan into the fridge to rest. I still had about half my mixture, so I did the same with a muffin pan, creating twelve fruitcake muffins along with the twelve fruitcake mini loaves. I put the muffin pan into the fridge to rest and cool along with the loaves.

That was it. No baking. It was all done on the stovetop, and I have twenty-four, uh, twenty-one little fruitcakes to enjoy. (At the time I’m posting this to Ricochet, it is nineteen left.) They are very good and very much like a delicious, dense, moist fruitcake that uses ingredients like wheat. However, these are gluten-free, rice-free, etc.

My wife also approves of them, as she expressed when she came home last night.


As mentioned above, some recipes use spiced rum for the marinade or pure Bourbon. I’m sure there must be some other choices out there as well.

I’m looking at other recipes, and I see many ways to vary the recipe. For instance, one I am looking at has about double the fruits and nuts with different nuts, and it only has one teaspoon of ground cinnamon. And this recipe’s idea for a marinade is 1/3 cup of Bourbon or orange juice for two or three hours. You could do that, I suppose. But if you do, you’ll probably need to double the water for the grits to absorb.

Obviously, that is also a lot less spice than I used. But growing up, my favorite cake to have for my birthday was spice cake. Adjust the spices for your taste or the taste of those who will be consuming it.

Some fruitcake recipes call for using pineapple, half (or whole) cherries, or nuts to garnish the fruitcake(s). That is a matter of presentation, and might be good for if you are going to present the fruitcake at a fancy party, rather than keeping muffins or small loaves handy in the fridge to consume alone.

Another variation I see here is an Italian one. In Italy, they call corn grits “polenta,” and if one searches for recipes for polenta with fruit or nuts, one can find all sorts of possibilities. They will often use more traditional Italian seasonings, such as fennel.

Experiment and play. The main differences here are that it is fixed on the stovetop in half an hour rather than baked for three or four hours and with grits rather than wheat flour and eggs.

What will your variation be?

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There are 20 comments.

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  1. Arahant Member

    @andrewmiller, it’s not nuclear, but the fruitcake has arrived.

    • #1
  2. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey

     Very tasty! One thing I always like about your recipes, Arahant, is your openminded willingness to realize that most of us out here may have an imperfect set of ready ingredients, so adaptation is usually part of the game.  

    • #2
  3. Arahant Member

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    . . .adaptation is usually part of the game.  

    Obviously, I freely adapt myself.

    • #3
  4. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    . . .adaptation is usually part of the game.

    Obviously, I freely adapt myself.

    Taken one way, that does sound a bit like the premise of a Robert A. Heinlein future history novel. Time Enough For Love comes to mind. 

    Kidding aside, please keep your food posts going. I mean, sure, it’s great to be in tune with the eternal vibe of being in harmony with God’s kingdom, and all that, don’t get me wrong, but–

    What about gluten free apfel strudel? Now that’s what I’d call divinely inspired. 

    • #4
  5. E. Kent Golding Member
    E. Kent Golding

    I read the title and thought the post was going to be about AOC.

    • #5
  6. Arahant Member

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    I read the title and thought the post was going to be about AOC.

    😆, come to think of it, she would fit the title.

    • #6
  7. JustmeinAZ Member

    If there’s no picture it didn’t happen.

    • #7
  8. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens

    Nice report 

    • #8
  9. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster

    My wife bakes a fruitcake about every other year.  There are only the two of us, so it takes us a couple of years to eat one.  It only comes out at Christmas.  We usually eat about half of one, and freeze the other half.

    She usually buys the candied fruit for the next cake just after the holidays.  The stuff keeps virtually forever, so she has it the next Christmas season when it comes time to bake the next cake.  There’s none of this “Let’s just use what’s in the pantry.”  She’s thinking about it a year ahead of time.

    • #9
  10. Andrew Miller Member
    Andrew Miller

    Arahant: creating twelve fruitcake muffins

    Fruitcake muffins? Hmmm . . . 

    As I understand (vaguely) how Christmas cakes are made, I think they get “fed” after baking with, for example, brandy — which presumably helps them last a long time, too. 

    There’s also the possibility of Christmas pudding.

    • #10
  11. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator

    I don’t need a recipe. I’ll just try some of yours.


    • #11
  12. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    I love creative cooks! Once you’re familiar with ingredients and how they’ll likely come together, you’re almost guaranteed success! Well most of the time . . .  Well done, Arahant!

    • #12
  13. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member

    I’ve made various fruitcakes over the years.  The least favorite was the one with more cake in it than fruit.  The best was from a southern Junior League cookbook where you baked the cake in a large pan and when it cooled just enough to handle you scooped it up and packed it into loaf pans…really packed it in.  (Sounds like @Arahant used this method as well.) Wrap in cheesecloth and foil, refrigerate and baste with  brandy every so often for a few weeks.  It wasn’t decorated at all, just sliced in all its fruity, sticky, boozy goodness.  You can also make fruitcake using dried, not candied, fruit.

    You do need to let fruitcake rest for a few weeks.  The time to make it for the holidays is now.

    Its amazing how many people will admit to liking fruitcake when given half the chance to eat a good one.

    There are also various recipes for fruitcake cookies.  Some work, some don’t.  This one isn’t exactly a fruitcake cookie, but is sure is tasty.

    @Arahant, have you tried any of the gluten-free flours available?  I don’t know much about them.

    • #13
  14. Arahant Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    I don’t need a recipe. I’ll just try some of yours.

    Come on over.

    • #14
  15. Arahant Member

    9thDistrictNeighbor (View Comment):
    have you tried any of the gluten-free flours available?

    Many of them have other things I am allergic to, such as rice.

    • #15
  16. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball


    How are you with eggs or milk?  If these ingredients are OK, try making Indian Pudding over the holidays.  It is also corn based.  I would suggest doubling the ginger and halving the cinnamon, to get closer to my mother’s version.  Topped with vanilla ice cream (it is almost too decadent without it) it is amazing.  And no Indians are molested in any way in its preparation.  My mother made it, but would not eat it.  She grew up on a small dairy farm up in Mark Steyn’s backyard.  Indian pudding was cheap and plentiful and she’d had her fill.  She wouldn’t make homemade biscuits and gravy either, my father’s favorite, as it was served to her for breakfast every single day in her youth.  Indian Pudding was sometimes served at Christmas however, if we’d all mounted a sufficient campaign of begging and pleading.

    • #16
  17. Arahant Member

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):
    How are you with eggs or milk?

    Just fine, thank you.

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):
    If these ingredients are OK, try making Indian Pudding over the holidays.

    Looks like a lot more work than what I did with tools I don’t have, and doesn’t include the fruit and nuts, which is the point since I wanted a fruitcake. I’m sure I could alter the recipe, though. Still, boil while constantly whisking and then bake for two hours? And for something with maple syrup and molasses? I might try some that someone else made, but it would have to taste better than it sounds to pursue further.

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):
    And no Indians are molested in any way in its preparation.

    Well, now you’ve really spoiled the fun.

    • #17
  18. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown

    This tasty post is part of our group writing November theme: “Feast, Famine, Fast.”

    Sign up now to share your own dish, or just to dish with us this month! We have had a feast of posts so far, but now face a famine for the weeks ahead. Act fast!  

    Stop by today to reserve a day. Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    • #18
  19. CACrabtree Coolidge

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Nice report

    I figured that you’d just want to go down to Claxton.  That recipe sounds like a lot of work…

    • #19
  20. TBA Coolidge

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    I read the title and thought the post was going to be about AOC.

    I dunno, sometimes she looks pretty baked to me. 

    • #20
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