This recipe won’t make that weird-tasting, gooey, store-bought fruit cake everybody avoids.
No, this fruit cake, a recipe passed along by my great-aunt Opal and included in a 1990s cookbook published by the ladies at my childhood church, is more like a pound cake with fruits and nuts. And that makes a lot of sense considering the ingredients include a pound of butter and a pound of sugar.
I wasn’t sure I liked this recipe when I first made it. There was…sooo…much…batter. And the cherries in it made it quite pink. And it was so fluffy in the mixing bowl, not like a typical cake I’ve made. It also easily filled two large loaf pans and, when it was done baking, the cakes seemed really crumbly.
However, after the cakes cooled, they were quite delicious—sweet with the crunch of pecans and the fruity bits of cherries and pineapples throughout.
Speaking of those cherries and pineapples: Have you ever seen candied cherries and pineapple in a grocery store? I never had until I looked for them. And I had to look VERY hard. Finally, I found them at the end of a random aisle in a Food Lion. (Our usual grocery store location Aldi doesn’t sell candied fruits, even around the holidays.) If you can’t find candied fruits, ask an employee. But don’t be surprised if they don’t know what you’re talking about either.
Once you get all of your ingredients, plan to mix your batter the day before you’re ready to bake the cakes. The batter is supposed to rest overnight once combined. Oh, and be prepared to use a very large mixing bowl to accommodate all the batter you’ll end up with.
While I wasn’t sure I liked this fruit cake recipe at first, I also wondered if my wife Molly would like it. Much to my surprise, she found it to be like a fruity pound cake and told me she likes it for a simple slice-and-eat quick breakfast.
You may have a hard time getting any takers on sharing some of the fruit cake, even if you go the extra mile to explain that it’s not what people are used to. I often face that struggle with certain recipes because each person’s own perspective dictates how open-minded they are toward food. That often makes it tough on a cook!
If you make the recipe and everyone passes, consider wrapping one of the cakes, once cooled completely, tightly in several layers of foil. You can freeze that cake for a month or two, thaw it in the fridge for a day or so and then enjoy cold or heated slightly. It tastes just as good after freezing a short time as long as it’s sealed properly before freezing.
On that trip into Food Lion in search of candied fruit, I first found whole pre-packaged fruit cakes. As I passed them, I watched a young boy ask his mother: “What’s fruit cake taste like?” She looked at him with disgust on her face and said, “Horrible.”
That’s the reputation fruit cake has—and I don’t like store-bought fruit cake either. I think it’s the funky taste of citron that you find in many traditional fruit cakes. But this homemade recipe passed down in my family is nothing like the fruit cakes you’ve likely had from the store, and it contains no citron, using lemon extract instead. Try it out before you pass judgement—and the fruit cake to someone else, as has become tradition with the commercially produced confection with the same name and a very different taste and texture.
Homemade Fruit Cake
What You Need:
1 pound butter (4 sticks)
1 pound sugar (2 cups—The recipe says “light sugar,” and I used white. …Some fruit cake recipes use brown.)
6 eggs, whites and yolks separated
2 ounces lemon extract (yes, a whole small bottle)
½ pound chopped candied cherries (one 8-ounce container)
½ pound chopped candied pineapple (one 8-ounce container)
1 ½ cup chopped pecans
4 cups all-purpose flour (The recipe says “plain flour.”)
What You Do:
1. Beat egg whites until firm and set aside. (Use a stand mixer if at all possible to get the best consistency.)
2. Cream butter and sugar.
3. Add egg yolks, one at a time.
4. Add flour, cherries, pineapple, lemon extract and pecans.
5. Fold in beaten egg whites.
6. Cover and let batter stand overnight in refrigerator. Bake the next day.
7. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325 degrees.
8. Grease two loaf pans. The batter will fill two large loaf pans.
9. Bake at 325 degrees for an hour and a half until toothpick or cake tester inserted into center comes out clean.
#FoodieScore Pro Tips: Be careful not to overbake. The cake can definitely get too dry. Also, be sure to allow the cake to fully cool before you remove it from the pan(s) or slice it.