Posted by: Erica Retrochef | December 10, 2012

No-Bake Festive Fruit Cake

Need to take a fruitcake to your holiday gathering, but not in the mood for baking? Luckily, PET milk has a no-bake solution. (And when Buzz saw this no-bake solution, he headed straight out to the store to get the ingredients.)


Line with waxed paper bottom and sides of 9-in. tube pan or loaf pan holding about 6 cups. Put into 2-qt. bowl 3/4 cup PET Evaporated Milk, 24 large Marshmallows, finely cut (or 3 cups of the midgets), and 1/2 cup orange juice or alcoholic flavoring. Let stand. Measure 6 cups Graham Cracker Crumbs (about 6 doz. 2-1/2-in. crackers, crushed) and put into a large bowl with 1/2 teasp. Cinnamon, 1/2 teasp. Nutmeg, 1/4 teasp. Cloves, 1-1/2 cups California seedless Raisins (1/2 golden and 1/2 dark are best), 3/4 cup finely cut Dates and 1 cup broken Walnuts. Add 1-1/4 cups cut-up Candied Fruit, bulk or canned ready-mixed. Mix in milk mixture with a spoon, then with hands until crumbs are moistened. Press firmly into pan. If desired, top with additional nuts and candied fruit. Cover tightly. Chill 2 days before slicing. Keep in refrigerator. Makes 3-1/2 lbs.

TWO DAYS? Fine… upon further consideration, this is probably not a great idea for that upcoming holiday gathering, unless you’re baking pretty far in advance. But if you want to make this in time for Yuletide, there’s still plenty of time.

This recipe doesn’t call for much that you’re not likely to have sitting around your kitchen. We generally have the candied fruit in the pantry, although this recipe exhausted our supply. Nor did we have the whopping six cups of graham cracker crumbs the recipe calls for.


Two whole boxes of crumbs are actually needed to make this dish.


The first step  was soaking the cut-up marshmallows and letting them sit. (Due to unexpected interruptions, the marshmallow chunks actually ended up soaking for a whole day.  But if we’d been in a hurry, we wouldn’t have been preparing this particular dish.) When they came out, essentially all the fluid had been absorbed, making the marshmallows quite soft and pliable.


When we did get around to continuing the recipe, we dumped in all the dry ingredients. Aren’t they colorful and festive?


After mixing, it looked a lot less colorful.


Then it was time to add the marshmallows. They didn’t go in very easily.


After ineffectually mushing things around with a sturdy wooden spoon for a little while, we dropped it in the stand mixer.


This is why I like having power tools in my kitchen: it was able to evenly distribute the liquid and pulverize the marshmallows in just a few minutes. It was remarkable to watch the softened marshmallows just dissolve away.


Squashing the batter into the pan required quite a lot of brute force. (And left knuckle prints.)


After one day of chilling, the gelatin in the marshmallows had thickened the mixture quite a bit.  After a second day, it had hardened even a bit more. Getting it out of the pan was a bit sticky, but it popped free soon enough.


The wax paper coating the pan peeled right off, leaving some interesting marks.


It ended up very dense, not unlike the usual texture of fruitcake, except a bit thicker. It cut easily, although it didn’t look particularly charming on the plate.

The flavor of this isn’t really like a fruitcake. The graham crackers and wet marshmallows merged together thoroughly, but the resulting texture is very much like gingerbread cookie dough… with nuts and dried fruit. It’s definitely an odd experience. I wouldn’t say it’s a terrible experience, necessarily, but I won’t be making this again!

Recipe found on Charm and Poise on Flickr via Hey, My Mom Used To Make That!



  1. sounds better than regular fruitcake actually…..did you have a glass of rum on the side?

  2. This is very close to the Ice Box Fruitcake my wife’s family always had at Christmas. It’s got all of the items in this recipe, drop the marshmallows, add shredded coconut, it’s plenty yummarino.

    Merry Christmas to you ALL!! Or Happy Hanukkah! Either way, enjoy the Season.

  3. That slice on the plate doesn’t look very appetizing, it looks like underdone meat loaf or salmon loaf with chunks of vegetables. The fruitcake desperately needs some covering up, like whipped cream or powdered sugar! Thanks for making it, though, I imagine it can’t be too awful with all those individually tasty ingredients

  4. American tastes have SURELY changed… and probably this was the year that fruitcake veered into the “Uh-uh, no, can’t do it” lane. Yikes.

  5. Recipes like THIS are why Americans don’t like fruitcake!

    I guarantee you, Erica, that you, Buzz, and the whole family would be charmed and delighted by my mother-in-law’s English-Canadian “Christmas Cake,” which is what a fruitcake should taste like.

    Hope you are all well. (And now you are FIVE? Amazing!)

  6. […] at Retro Recipe Attempts has gone where no woman or man has gone since at least 1972:  No-Bake Festive Fruit Cake! Even back in the day, this seems like one of those recipes that people make once, and then hope […]

  7. Call me weird but I think this recipe sounds divine. I’d omit the marshmallows, though, being I’m a vegetarian and marshmallows have gelatin. But delectable indeed, and perfect for holidays

    • The marshmallows help the consistency, so vegan marshmallows can be substituted ( which also makes it kosher)

  8. The No Bake Festive Fruitcake was prepared every Christmas. My mother wrote out the recipe and didn’t include the “six cups of Graham Crackers”! I was rearranging my recipe box which contains recipes as far back as my grandmother, and came across this recipe. Now with internet you can find a treasure chest of information that at one time wasn’t possible. So I thank you for solving an age-old secret!

    • Ha — that’s a big omission! I’m glad you were able to find what was missing 🙂

  9. My recipe, handwritten in my Grandmother’s handwriting, omitted one ingredient and the directions. Glad I found it here! Prepared the right way, this is a great recipe!! Thank you and Merry Christmas!!

    • Here’s my dear M-i-L’s ice box fruit cake, it’s similar, minus the spices, and so quick to do that it’s nutty.

      Icebox Fruit Cake

      1 Box Graham Crackers

      1 Lb Candied Cherries

      1 Lb Shredded Coconut

      1 Lb Raisins

      1 Lb Chopped Nuts

      2 Cans Sweetened Condensed Milk

      Crush Crackers, chop nuts, cut cherries in half, then mix first 5 ingredients well.

      Place the unopened cans of milk in a deep bowl, cover with hit water. Let sit 5 minutes.

      Add the condensed milk and mix well again.

      Press into a pan or pyrex dish and chill for 24 hours before serving.

      This recipe used to call for packing it into a cleaned out milk carton, or packed into the graham cracker box, when the were waxed cardboard on the inside. We must be the weird ones on fruit cake, given most people’s attitudes. We make TWO!

      This ice box job, and a baked one from my mother’s Italian family, that has a whole cup of whiskey in it!!!

      We never have fruit cake leftover.


  10. […] at Retro Recipe Attempts has gone where no woman or man has gone since at least 1972:  No-Bake Festive Fruit Cake! Even back in the day, this seems like one of those recipes that people make once, and then hope […]

  11. To all of you that have left negative comments but never tried it…….don’t knock it to you try it!!! My mother has made this for over 45 years and we always make sure she is making one. The color is a little ….. well brown but think rice crispy treats but better (gram crackers, marshmallows and butter) with cherries. Golden raisins give it sweetness and everything is better with pecans. I have not had it with the spices but think I will try a few in it this year, cardamom, cloves and a touch of nutmeg sound good.

  12. I grew up eating this at Christmas and never knew it was no bake. We had it served in small cubes, more like fudge. I don’t think ours had marshmallows. But, lots of red and (most importantly green) cherries and chocolate chips. No nuts, because I didn’t like nuts as a kid.

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