Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Old Time Fruitcake Recipes

 I know, I know tons of people don’t like fruitcake. As one friend of mine used to tell me, someone gives her fruitcake she thinks of it as a gift of a door stop for a year until another one shows up.

I think I understand why people malign fruit cakes….because they don’t make fruitcakes like the old timer’s did. The one's my mother would buy were NOT like the original fruitcakes in my family and I've often thought of them as cardboard with fruit.  I have shared how my people were moonshiners and wine makers.  Well the old timer’s in my family made their cakes with alcohol.  And I don’t mean just adding alcohol to the recipe and then letting it bake out, I mean they SOAKED the cakes in alcohol for weeks!

 Now the first time I noticed a difference was when I was a kid. My family would get these fruitcakes given to them that we kids were NOT allowed to eat.  We thought the adults were just being stingy and wouldn’t share AT ALL.   But you know how kids are…like sneaking into the liquor cabinet, we’d sneak a piece and let me tell you…that’s when I figured out some fruitcakes are much better than others.

My fruitcake recipes come from family. When I was a budding family historian, they tell you to go around and talk to your family first to start building your family tree. Ask family members if they have any stories they can share or things they can show you. 

I’ve seen old quilts, guns, rolling pins and got an old bread board given to me and even one granny’s pair of eye glasses she wore. Now…I really didn’t want the glasses but you could tell they meant something to the person that gave them to me. They themselves were too tender hearted to part with them or give them to the Lion’s club which is what I did with them. Of course that was after putting them on and seeing how blind great granny was.  

But the one share in those early years was RECIPES. Everyone had a recipe from someone in the family. Seems we Appalachians, our history revolves around food. So I started collecting those along with the family stories of where they came from.

I have two fruitcake recipes from both sides of my family tree. One is from my dad’s people and it’s soaked in bourbon. Well... they were living closer to Tennessee and Kentucky.  Came from my Aunt Flossie and I can remember as a kid her making these cakes. She had a basement and in the basement was a wooden box that always smelled like alcohol. She’d make these cakes, wrap them in cheesecloth soaked in bourbon, wrap them in an oily paper and put them in that box. Every week or so go down and resoak the cheesecloth and re wrap the cakes.

Today I use a spray bottle, I don’t even have to unwrap them from the cheesecloth. First time I made these, I kept them in my fridge, which made it smell like a bar, for weeks! And everything had the taste of bourbon…bourbon scrambled eggs, bourbon lettuce, which my feller didn’t mind but the kids snarled their nose up at. So now I just keep them a cool place like an unheated room, in a box wrapped in plastic wrap and aluminum foil.

The other recipe is from the mountains of North Carolina. Wilkes County to be exact. I’m told because it’s dark, it’s an English brandy fruitcake recipe using sour milk and molasses and I guess the oldest recipe in my box.  When I wrote the recipe down from my Great Aunt Callie, I had put that she said it was her Great Great grandmother Perdue’s recipe.

I didn’t know who that was at the time, but now I know tracking the family history, it was Francis Wooten Perdue, who was born in Wilkes County, NC in 1837 and died in McDowell County WV in 1923.  Her husband was John Wesley Perdue, who served in the Civil War and was at the battle of Gettysburg. After he passed, she was living with one of her sons who worked in the coal mines in McDowell County.   

I’ve was told by someone you should make them up and sell these recipes. Well…there is a mountain tradition in my family that when something is freely shared, and it is not your creation, you don’t make money on it…first of all…. that’s stealing and second of all kind of a karma curse happens when you do that.  I will not break that tradition of what was freely shared to be getting 30 pieces of silver.
And don’t eat these fruitcakes and then drive. Like my daughter said, “How am I going to convince a cop that the alcohol in my bloodstream is from my mother’s fruitcake?”  Hope you enjoy these recipes and here is wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.  

You can make these cakes in rings or in loaves. I made loaves because it makes more to share, just watch them in the oven. Loaves don't take as long to bake. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: Both of these recipes take a really long time to bake at a lower temperature oven and you use a pan of water in the bottom of the stove so they will not dry out so quickly. Otherwise you get more like a hard brick, instead of a cake. Yep...I did that!

Bourbon Fruitcake


1 1/2 cups raisins
2 cups mixed candied fruit
1/2 cup bourbon
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups butter, softened (3 sticks) BUTTER not margarine ( Margarine makes it just greasy and loses taste) Yep did that too.
1 3/4 cups sugar
6 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

Combine raisins, fruits and bourbon in a bowl and let soak overnight.
Grease and flower a straight tube pan or 3 bread pans.
Sift flour, baking powder and nutmeg together. Set aside.
Beat butter and sugar together in large bowl until smooth.
Beat in eggs until light and fluffy.
Stir in flour mixture alternately with milk, beating until smooth after each addition.
Stir in fruits soaked in bourbon and nuts.
Turn into prepared pan.
Bake in preheated slow oven 300 degrees. Make sure to put a pan of water on lower rack of oven. For tube bake 2 hours and 10 minutes. For loaves about 1 hour and 45 minutes. check with a toothpick if it comes out clean and it springs back when lightly pressed with fingertip it's done. Cool in pan on a rack for 20 minutes. Remove from pan, cool completely.

Wrap cake in bourbon soaked cheesecloth: over wrap in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil. Store in fridge or cool place. Each week I open them up and with a spray bottle full of Kentucky bourbon (or bourbon of your choice) I lightly spray the cheese cloth and recover. I let mine age 6 to 8 weeks but by the 4th week ...we break into one and it's fine.

Perdue Family Fruit Cake 


1 pound of butter
1 pound of light brown sugar, sifted after it's weighed
10 small eggs, separated
1/2 cup molasses
4 1/2 cups flour (all purpose)
1 tsp. baking soda
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1/2 cup sour milk
4 cups of raisins
2 cups of currants
1 cup chopped citron
1 cup candied pineapple
1 1/2 cup candied cherries
1/2 cup candied orange peel (recipe for this in on this blog)
1/2 cup candied lemon peel
2 cups dates
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup almonds
1/3 cup brandy for soaking fruit, 
1/2 cup brandy for batter

Combine all the fruit with 1/3 cup brandy, over night. Leave currants, raisins whole the rest are chopped.  Next day flour the fruit, sprinkle about a 1/4 cup flour on them and mix in.

Cream butter by itself until it is soft, then add sugar and cream again. Add egg yolks and beat all together for 5 minutes. 

Sift flour, soda, baking powder, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg together 3 times and add alternately  with sour milk, molasses, and brandy.  Beat by hand then add floured fruit. Add pecans chopped but almonds whole.

Last fold in well beaten egg whites.

Bake in loaf pans (I fill them about half way up) or in 2 large tube pans. Grease and flour dust pans. 

Bake in slow oven 250 degrees for 2 1/2 hours with pan of water underneath on lower rack. Done when springs back when lightly touched.

Let cool in pan a bit and then turn out and cool completely. Wrap in cheesecloth soaked in brandy. Store in a cool place wrapped in waxed paper. (that was the aunt's wooden box in the basement) Resoak the cheesecloth once a week for 6 to 8 weeks. (I don't unwrap them today, I use a spray bottle) Garnish with half pieces of candied cherries and green citron. I used V and J brandy. Also apricot brandy, but it's really sweet when you use apricot. 

Now I freely share this recipe with you and if you try to make money on it, because neither you nor I created it....there is kind of a karma that goes with that. Don't ask me why but the one's I give away turn out perfectly. It's meant to be shared freely.  So be mindful of that. A bar owner would ask me to sell him several and they turned out TERRIBLE. So I traded with him. He bought all the ingredients for all my cakes and in turn got 3 cakes from me and that worked. 

I bought my fruit and nuts from Nuts.com this year. They are really good fresh products and made an excellent cake. 

No comments:

Post a Comment