Fruitcake icebox cookies for a traveling holiday

Ginger fruitcake icebox cookies

Much better than real fruitcake

Gourmandistan will be on the move for the upcoming holiday season. With stops planned in Madisonville, Memphis and Jackson before pushing on to New Orleans, Michelle wanted some sweets that could survive the trip, were good enough to gift, and non-messy enough for snacks on the road. Along with a few other selections (do not ask about the sugar cookie decorations gone horribly wrong), these icebox cookies made the cut.

Ginger fruitcake icebox cookies

Michelle has been baking from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Cookies since around the time the book came out in 1977. Though a fruitcake-hater, she’s made these many, many times—if for no other reason than the color they add to a Christmas cookie assortment. But this year, with a surfeit of homemade candied ginger in the pantry, Michelle decided to jazz them up a bit.

Ginger fruitcake icebox cookies

Even with generic store-bought candied pineapple and cherries (Michelle has resolved to either source better or make her own in the future) these buttery, crunchy yet chewy bites beat just about any regular fruitcake one can imagine. Wherever this holiday happens to find you, we hope it’s a place you find comfortable. And, should you need just a bit more, these cookies just might help a bit. Happy holidays, everyone!


  • Servings: about 5 dozen cookies
  • Print

(adapted from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Cookies)

  • 2-1/2 c sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 lb. (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 c. confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1/2 lb. (1 c.) candied pineapple, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 lb. (1 c.) candied cherries, left whole
  • 1-2/3 c. raw pistachios
  • 3/4 c. finely chopped crystallized ginger

Cream butter in bowl of an electric mixer. Add sugar and beat until fully mixed. Add egg and beat well. Add flour gradually on low speed, scraping side of bowl as needed, beating just until mixture is combined.

Mix in fruit, nuts and ginger with a wooden spoon and/or your bare hands.

Tear off 2 foot-long lengths of wax paper. Place half of the dough in the center of each piece of paper. Squeeze the dough into cylinders about 9″ long, then square off into oblongs about 2″ in diameter and 9 or 10″ long. Pull the paper tight around and square off.

Freeze the rolls for several hours (or longer).

Preheat oven to 350° F with a rack in the center. Cover a light-colored cookie sheet with aluminum foil.

Cut 1/4″ slices from the rolls and place on cookie sheet 1″ apart (these don’t spread). Press together any edges that are crumbly.

Bake for 9-10 minutes. Check bottoms for doneness, as the tops don’t brown. When done the bottoms will be golden-brown.

Remove cookies with a thin metal spatula and cool on a rack.


      • …fruit cakes: taste changes and u might like them now. I would research the older Irish or scottish repertoire/ i generally make a porter cake for the xmass holidays: lots of dried fruit, dark sugar and guinnes. Really good: i think the secret is to find a recipe that is not too sweet a+ do u still make steamed puddings in the states? I find them delicious too:, in small portions. I have been using for years a recipe from the early 20th century that has no sugar, just fruit (I seem to remember that james beard has really good stuf in tems of fruit cakes and steamed puddings in his memoir book…delight and something…excellent book, by the way..) stefano

  1. THAT red! very, very “rosso Valentino” and stylish (http://tinyurl.com/hmvtcj5) 🙂

    Here in England now we can buy undied red cherries but the problem remains: they do not taste much. Does anyone know if it would be possible to use dried, plumped up unsweetened cherries? + it would be fun to compare the Maida Heatter’s book with the new Greenspan’s.

    • Oh, I love that “rosso Valentino.” Sounds so chic! I think I have a vision of some beautiful French candied fruit. But the cost would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it? I’ve got the new Greenspan cookie book, but haven’t made anything from it yet. Her recipes are always good, but I have to say: I really, really hate the photos in that book.

      • I just received the e version of the Greenspan’s book: actually the photos are ….well…kind of weird and not very inviting… I wonder what is the reason behind them….

        • The minute I saw them, I thought about this review of her French book and wondered if it wasn’t just some “well, nobody will call this fusty.” That whole cookbook baffles me, truthfully. The print is hard to read. The colors are ugly. And I’m having a really hard time finding anything in it that I want to try other than some of the savories.

          • really good review from Hamilton (refreshing to see a famous chef giving an honest, personal opinion) I agree. Baking chez moi has the same problem: sometimes very difficult to read. strange: I find her terrific and love her detailed recipes but the layout and the pics from her books are often…well…hum… (her baking from my home to yrs has one of the most uninspiring cover I have ever seen)

  2. Well I am a big fan of fruit cake but did not make one this year since it is just the two of us. Your cookies sound like the perfect answer and the nice thing is I just bought a big bag of candied ginger. I think it was meant to be so I’m pinning this. Safe travels and the happiest of holidays.

  3. these sound like the ideal Christmas snack , anything with candied fruit is so welcome right now. I agree with Karen & others on loving fruit cake – what´s not to like? and how do you make candied ginger? and what happened to the cookie decoration? so many questions!! happy holidays!

    • (1) Candied fruit? 🙂

      (2) I have used David Lebovitz’s recipe with mixed results. The first time it was really good, but it’s really easy to overcook. I know I used another one once, that really was perfect, but I can’t remember was it was! Sigh.

      (3) Let’s just say that my first real attempt at royal icing was pretty much a disaster. I guess I’m not as crafty as I thought I was, or perhaps once was! After traipsing all over town to find meringue powder (ultimately located at, ahem, Walmart), baking cookies all day and wasting basically an entire Sunday, I had XX sugar everywhere, couldn’t draw a straight line to save my life and had cookies that Steve just burst out laughing about!

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