Friday, October 29, 2010

Family Recipe Friday: Mom's October Christmas Tradition


This recipe was originally printed in the Tampa Tribune the year I was born (1952) and was so loved by the readers that the Tribune has continued to reprint it every year since then.  The recipe was a contest entry submitted to the Tribune by Mrs. Lucille Harvey who won $5 when it came in second place. It is the fruit cake my mother would make as gifts for friends and family every year as far back as memory serves. I have never known anyone who didn't love this fruit cake! 

There are several things about the ingredients in this recipe that are different from ordinary fruit cakes. The amount of extract used is one of those differences. No, that is not a typo! You use a whole bottle of each extract! Some of the other differences are: only two fruits are used, there are NO spices (what?), and finally, it calls for quite a bit of butter! No, not your ordinary fruit cake!

1983 Tribune clipping, missing part
The Tribune would post the recipe right after Thanksgiving every year but Mom started her fruit cakes at the end of October so they would have time to "age" before Christmas. I remember helping her when I was young. It would take all day and into the evening to make all those cakes! 

Not included in the original recipe but what I feel is the most important finishing touch, is the final addition of liquor, which I believe is traditional in many family recipes. Mom always poured a couple of ounces of good brandy over each cake after it cooled. She would then wrap each cake tightly in plastic wrap with a second wrapping of foil and she would store them in the freezer until a couple of weeks before Christmas when she would move them to the refrigerator to slowly thaw and age. The addition of the brandy always made for an extra moist and flavorful cake. Even those who don't normally like fruit cake, love this recipe! Definitely not for the teetotaler!

Mrs. Harvey's White Fruit Cake

4 cups chopped pecans
1 pound candied cherries
1 pound candied pineapple
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 pound butter
1 cup sugar
Mixed "glace" cherries & pineapple
5 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 and 1/2 ounces vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 ounces lemon extract

[Note: if all you can find are 2 oz bottles of extract...just go for it and use 2 oz. I've heard testimony it's even better that way!]

Chop nuts and fruits into medium sized pieces,
dredge with 1/4 cup of the flour. (Do not use
food processor, it will make fruit gummy.)

Cream butter and sugar together till light and
fluffy. Beat in eggs

Sift together remaining flour and baking powder;
fold into egg and butter mixture.

Add vanilla and lemon extracts; mix well; add
fruits and nuts, blending well.

Grease a 10-inch tube pan. Line with parchment paper,
waxed paper or foil; grease again. Pour batter into
prepared pan. Place in cold oven and bake at 250
degrees for 3 hours.

Or, line 2 9x5x3 inch foil loaf pans, greasing both
pans and liners well. Place in cold oven and bake at
250 degrees for 2 hours. Cool in pan on cake rack.

Makes 5 pounds of fruit cake. 

That's the recipe and original instructions. Mom always made smaller cakes for gifts so here are additional instructions for baking smaller sizes:

In 4 1/2-by-2 1/2-by-1 1/2-inch (baby) loaf pans, bake cake about 1 hour. For 1-pound cakes in 2-pound coffee cans, bake about 2 hours. In 5-ounce custard cups, bake about 1 hour. And in ungreased foil bonbon cups, bake about 30 minutes. 

My mother stopped making the fruit cakes when she sold her home and moved in with my oldest brother. She had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and cooking became too difficult a task. Now that Mom is gone, I have made a commitment to myself to keep this tradition alive in her honor. She would have liked that!


  1. Lisa,
    Great story - I think I will try it!!
    My mother-in-law used to make fruit cakes in soup cans and mail them her brother and troop mates overseas back in the 60's.

  2. Well it sounds might yummy! That is awesome that you still have the recipe from the Tampa Tribune!

  3. Great post. Lisa, I meant no offense in my post about fruit cake (and chicken feet) - I'm going to TRY it in your honor, the fruit cake that is - probably not the chicken feet.

  4. Hahaha! No offense taken and good luck with the fruit cake!