Posted by: Erica Retrochef | December 17, 2011

Hong Kong Fruitcake

Of all the recipes-with-products advertisements I’ve come across, I think I like the Wrigley’s gum ones the most. They make no attempt to actually integrate gum into recipes (thank goodness, right?) so it seems more likely their food would be about flavor, not innovative uses of ingredients. Oddly, though, I don’t think I’ve made a Wrigley’s vintage recipe before — maybe it doesn’t feel risky enough. I guess I need an adrenaline rush with my weird recipe attempts.

For the holiday season, I wanted to try a few different variations of fruitcake. I love my grandmother’s recipe the best, but there are so many ways of making fruitcakes, and a lot of retro advertising came up with some intriguing (and frightening) variations, promising simplicity and deliciousness.

Yet this one still stands out, because I have absolutely no clue what makes it a “Hong Kong” Fruitcake.


1 — Prepare 1 pkg. marble cake mix as directed on package. Add 2 Tbs. chopped candied ginger (crystalized preferred), 1 tsp. almond extract. Spoon batter into wax paper lined tube pan (alternating white with chocolate; with knife cut through batter several times.

2 — Bake 40 min. at temp given on pkg.

3 — Cool, then frost with powdered sugar icing. (Blend 2-1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar, 1 Tbs. butter. Add 2 Tbs. milk, 1 tsp. almond extract.) Stud with currants, pieces of candied cherries and ginger, citron, 2 kinds of nuts.

I don’t know, what Hong Kong stereotype would this recipe conjure up in the 60’s? Maybe it’s the ginger. At least there isn’t some bad caricature to go with it.

(Google is absolutely no help, since the only mention of “Hong Kong Fruitcake” I can find is the Wrigley’s ad. Soon, I’ll be the second most prevalent online source for Hong Kong Fruitcake. Don’t worry, I’ll still remember all you loyal readers when I’m rich and famous.)

Weirdly, we couldn’t find marble cake mix, so we got one box each of yellow and chocolate to make a double recipe.

In other words, I’m banking on Wrigley’s to not let me down.

I stand by my opinion that cake is always best when made from scratch. But, at the same time, you can’t beat box mixes for convenience. Dump ingredients in a bowl, turn on a mixer, and walk away? Sometimes you just need that simplicity.

Five minutes later and we’ve got the batter wonderfully smooth, and spooned into bundt pans.

This is where I actually tend to have the most trouble. Whenever I need to marble batter, I tend to think it would be better if I just keep stirring just a little bit longer. This has historically led to a lot of pale chocolate cakes when I was trying for marbled.

Luckily for the fruitcake, I’ve learned to restrain myself over the years.

I even managed to grease my bundt pans enough that the cakes released almost perfectly. (Ignore that slightly torn patch. It will be glued back on with icing shortly.)

Once icing was made and bits of topping were purchased, we tossed everything on top. There was some dispute over the best size for the “2 kinds of nuts” (halves, or chopped); Buzz did his cake his way, I did mine my way.

Since the camera is mine, you get to see a picture of mine. (Ha!)

A cutaway of the interior reveals slight marbling; I think I managed to cut into sections that were both primarily chocolate. When eaten, there was plenty more yellow cake in evidence!

Buzz’s initial reaction sums this up quite nicely: “It tastes like cake.” Not fruitcake, just cake. Not even almond ginger cake, just cake. The icing is delicious (I love almond extract in baked goods), although the sprinkling of fruits and nuts makes for a somewhat odd contrast.

I can literally see the appeal of this recipe, though. It looks really festive with all that stuff on top, and would make a beautiful holiday dessert, but doesn’t taste like a fruitcake at all. For the large number of people who complain about hard cake with to many weird candied fruits, this could be a really nice alternative.

Personally, I still prefer my Grandma’s sweet and soft booze-soaked version, but I’ll keep this in the recipe archive as a possibility for potlucks.

This 1962 recipe is preserved on Flickr by Look Homeward, Harlot!



  1. Ooh, that exotic Hong Kong ginger. It really does look quite festive iced and dressed up. The citron is definitely what got me in this – I had to do a double take at the odd green squares. Well, I guess the crunchy bits added…

  2. “Festive” is the word of the day.
    The icing, nuts, and cherries remind me of New Years’ pretzel.

  3. What an oddity! I wonder if Wrigleys (if still in business) would know what this is about, it’s gonna bug me now. My guess is, some American ex-pat in Hong Kong wanted to make something akin to American fruitcake using the only ingredients she could find there, that might fit. “Oh, that’s Ernestine’s recipe, she made it up when she and Jack were stationed in Hong Kong years ago. Those were the only ingredients she could find sort of fruit-cakey.”

  4. Love inexplicable mid-century names! I am just glad it was good. I agree with the preference for almond, it pretty much makes everything taste better. Add some to your pancake batter next time you make pancakes, Tom does this and it is excellent!

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