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Fruitcake and Jelly History

The fruitcake legacy had its humble beginnings in the basement of the Green Building. In 1933, home economics teacher Annabelle McMaster and her students baked six fruitcakes in a kerosene oven for generous friends of the school. Doc Good promised the home economics group a new electric stove with any donations the fruitcakes generated. The fruitcakes were popular, the stove was purchased, and the rest is history.

The following year, the baking began earlier for fruitcake gifts. The cakes were so popular among recipients that they were soon requested as Christmas gifts.

The cakes were available for mail order in Our Visitor as early as 1950, along with assorted flavors of jellies and preserves. The first official fruitcake order form appeared in the November 1955 issue. Two-pound cakes were $3 and 3-lb. cakes were $4.50.

In 1958, the school offered a “Christmas Package” for $5, postpaid. The package consisted of a fruitcake and little brown jugs of honey and sorghum molasses. That year, the fruitcake kitchen operated from an area of the new Bailey Science Building, using both steam and bake ovens.

In 1960, the operation was moved to the ground floor of the Thompson building where they shared the baking ovens used for the dining hall. The canning factory was transformed into a packaging plant during “fruitcake season” after growing and canning season was over.

The kitchen has operated on a year-round basis for many years and has become a thriving campus industry. In addition, several thousand fruitcakes are mailed annually to generous supporters of the College. In the late 1960s, fruitcakes were sent to U.S. military personnel serving in the Vietnam conflict. Student-made fruitcakes are traditionally included in gift baskets for special campus guests.

Students and two supervisors produce and process fruitcakes, apple butter, and fruit spreads for direct mail order and retail sales in campus venues and at The Keeter Center gift shop.

Making fruitcakes is more than a job. This longstanding campus industry helps provide students with a college education. Students take great care and pride in the preparation and presentation of these items, striving for the excellence that has made the cakes a campus classic and an Ozarks legacy.

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