Aunt Ellen’s Fruit Cake

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Fruit Cake-the Brussels Sprouts of Holiday treats! Come on, they can’t be that bad….they go all the way back to the ancient Egyptians and are a staple of traditional Christmas on multiple continents. Don’t give up on fruit cake until you’ve tried Aunt Ellen’s Fruit Cake. It’s full of sweet candied and dried fruit, marinated in Cherry Brandy, then mixed with nuts in a spiced batter that’s baked to golden perfection before being soaked with more Cherry Brandy! The outcome is a sweet, moist pastry that just says Christmas is Here! If you haven’t tried fruit cake, this is the one to try. If you are a fruit cake lover, then you’ll know that Aunt Ellen’s Fruit Cake is the best you have ever had! 

Four fruit cakes on a cooling rack
Aunt Ellen’s Fruit Cake

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Fruit Cake has a very interesting story that goes back centuries involving countries and cultures all over the world. Learn a little more about this confectionery that is both reviled and adored at the same time by reading my Lagniappe post What You Need to Know About Fruit Cake.

The best thing about Christmas traditions isn’t necessarily the food, but the fact that they involve family. I’m blessed with a wonderful Mother-in-Law, Marie, who has been making Fruit Cake every Christmas for so long that it’s hard to remember when she didn’t-and her fruit cake is so good that it’s also hard for her to keep up with the demand! I was pleased to have her spend a couple of days with us in the Sweet Daddy D Test Kitchen and the First You Have a Beer Studio to teach me about her famous fruit cake and help her make this year’s batch of this yuletide treat. Grammy, as she is lovingly known

Aunt Ellen
Aunt Ellen

to the grand-kids and great-grand-kids (and there are a bunch of them!), is a 90-something award winning cook of South Louisiana cuisine. She wouldn’t make just any ole Fruit Cake, her recipe is from her Aunt Ellen and it goes back decades and decades and is one of the Christmas traditions that means the most to her. Hopefully the tradition will continue in the family and one of her daughters will carry on….who knows, maybe it will even be Sweet Daddy D! Here is some of what I learned….

Here’s What You Need

Its fruit cake so you need….fruit and cake and some alcohol. Pretty simple. The fruit is a mixture of various dry and candied fruits…you have some flexibility depending on your taste and what’s available. Aunt Ellen used plain raisins and pitted dates and these preserved fruits: glazed fruit mix, green candied cherries, red candied cherries and some red and green (or yellow) pineapple. The raisins and dates are dried and the sugar helps preserve the fruit. This fruit will be marinated in Cherry Brandy, then it will all be mixed with chopped walnuts and pecans. That takes care of the fruit part of the equation. The cake part is a simple, spiced batter made with butter or margarine (Grammy uses margarine), dark brown sugar, all-purpose flour and baking soda. The spiced part comes from cinnamon, grated nutmeg, allspice and some salt. Whole eggs are the wet ingredient. Amazon has a lot of the candied fruit products and I’ve put some links at the end of this article. 

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Here’s What You Do

First…you have a beer. Actually, Grammy decided that First…you have a Brandy. It’s great being in the kitchen with her…the epitome of a no-angst cook, and that didn’t all come from the Brandy! She’s a tough task master and knows what she’s doing…and she practices mise en place...making sure she has all the ingredients and tools we needed on hand, set out and ready to go.

Prepare the Fruit

Make sure to set aside some of the cherries (sliced in half), pineapple chunks and pecan halves to garnish the tops of the fruit cakes.  Chop the rest of the fruit into small pieces (about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch, the raisins are good to go). Start by putting the raisins in a large bowl and mixing in some Brandy. Add the rest of the chopped fruit, then some more Brandy, about a ½ cup total, then a good stir to make sure all the fruit is getting a drink. Let the fruit and Brandy mixture stand at room temperature overnight (or at least 12 hours), stirring often to mix the fruit.

Mixing fruit for fruit cake
Mix all the fruit with the Brandy
Prepare Everything Else

Prepare some 8” X 4” aluminum loaf pans (see Hints and Tips) by spreading a thin layer of shortening all over the inside, then lining each loaf pan with parchment paper or wax paper.

Prepared loaf pans for fruit cake
Prepare the loaf pans

Chop the nuts into small pieces (don’t pulverize) and set aside.

Walnuts in a chopper for fruit cake
Chop the Walnuts and the Pecans

Combine the flour, cinnamon, allspice, grated nutmeg and salt and sift all together into a bowl; set aside. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

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Mix the Batter then add the Fruit

When you are ready to put it all together, mix the chopped nuts into the fruit and Cherry Brandy mix and set it aside.

Adding chopped nuts to marinaded candied fruit
Add the chopped nuts to the marinated fruit

Using a stand mixer, cream the softened butter or margarine until light and fluffy. With the mixer on medium speed, add the brown sugar gradually, allowing the brown sugar and butter to completely combine before adding more brown sugar.

Adding brown sugar making fruit cake
Gradually add the brown sugar

Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the eggs one at a time. Make sure each egg is completely mixed in before adding the next egg.

Adding an egg making fruit cake
Add the eggs one at a time

Keeping the mixer on low, add the sifted spiced flour to the butter, brown sugar and egg mixture, a little at a time, making sure that it is all incorporated before adding more.

Adding flour making fruit cake
Add in the sifted flour and spices

Turn off the stand mixer and transfer the batter to a large mixing bowl. Stir in the fruit and nut mixture in small batches.

Fruit cake batter
Here’s the batter

(Tip from Grammy-after you empty the mixing bowl, put a spoonful of the fruit and Brandy mix into the mixing bowl and stir it around really well, then add it to the batter. This will get the last little bit of the batter left in the mixing bowl).

Marinaded candied fruit mixing with batter
Use a spoon full of fruit to empty out the mixing bowl

Make sure you mix everything very well so that the fruit mixture is evenly distributed with the batter…then mix some more!

Mixing fruit into the fruit cake batter
Mix the fruit into the batter thoroughly
Fill the Loaf Pans and Bake

Turn the mixture into the prepared loaf pans and smooth out the top.

Fruit cakes ready for toppings
Fill the pans and smooth the tops

When all the pans are filled place cherries, pineapple chunks and whole pecans halves (can you have a whole half?) on top of each as a garnishment.

Fruit cakes ready for the oven
Garnish the top with fruit and pecans

Place the fruit cakes into the preheated 250 degrees oven for 2 ½ to 3 hours. To see if they are done, test them just like you do a cake…they are done when a toothpick comes out clean, but slightly sticky. (see the Hints and Tips). A properly cooked fruit cake will be firm and slightly pulling away from the side of the loaf pan. Remove them from the oven and cool for at least 10 minutes before turning them out onto cooling racks to rest until fully cooled, making sure to remove the wax paper or parchment paper. This will take a few hours or can be cooled overnight-just place a clean dish towel over them.

Fruit cake on a cooling rack
On the cooling rack
Finishing Touches

Last…you have a Brandy!  After they have completely cooled, the final step is to pour some more Brandy right over the fruit cakes. Start by poking several holes in the top of each with a toothpick.

Making holes with a toothpick in fruit cake
Poke the top with a toothpick

Next slowly pour some Brandy over each fruit cakes-depending on how many fruit cakes you’ve made, it should be somewhere around a half cup total.

Pouring cherry brandy over fruit cake
Pour some Brandy right on top

Once the Cherry Brandy has been absorbed, individually wrap the finished fruit cakes tightly in plastic wrap (airtight) and then a tight layer of aluminum foil for storage. These fruit cakes can be eaten right away or stored for a several months in the refrigerator or pantry, or can be frozen for a year.

That’s it…simple as that…all there is to it!

Putting the finishing touches on a fruit cake
Aunt Ellen’s Fruit Cake

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Hints and Tips

  • Something that stirs up as much emotion as Fruit Cake must have an interesting story…check out my Lagniappe article What You Need to Know About Fruit Cake.
  • Marinate the chopped fruit in the Cherry Brandy for at least twelve hours….feel free to do it longer if you want. Just keep stirring it every few hours!
  • This recipe is easy to increase-just keep all the ingredients proportional.
  • Sifting the dry ingredients together before adding them gradually to the butter, brown sugar and eggs will make sure that the spices are distributed evenly throughout all the batter.
  • This recipe will fill approximately five 8″ x 4″ X 2 1/2″ loaf pans, or about 15 of the little 6″ x 3 1/2″ x 2″ loaf pans. The little ones are the perfect size for gifts. This is also great in larger loaf pans or the round bundt-cake pans. When we made this recipe we used various size loaf pans plus an angel food pan, so use whatever suits your needs.
  • The cooking time is a good estimate and depends a lot on the size loaf pans you decide to use. Check after about 2 hours-if they are done the cakes should be firm when you press down on them and just starting to pull away from the sides of the pans. Poke them with a toothpick-if it comes out clean and just a little sticky from the fruit, it’s done! If you are cooking various size loaves, the smaller ones will finish sooner, so just remove those and keep baking the others until done.
  • I have to say, the Cherry Brandy is the secret to this recipe-it’s what gives Aunt Ellen’s Fruit Cake it’s punch by accentuating the cherries in the mix, but if you can’t find it or just want to change things up a bit, try some Dark Rum, regular Brandy, some Orange Flavored Liqueur or some bourbon whiskey. Just don’t leave out the booze!
  • It seems that these can be stored forever….the sugar in the candies fruit and the alcohol serve as preservatives. Make sure to wrap the fruit cakes tightly-start with plastic wrap then cover with aluminum foil. Make them airtight! The wrapped fruit cakes can be placed in freezer bags and stored for up to six months, either in the fridge or out or can be frozen for a year.

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Yeah You Right!

Here’s some Fruit Cake supplies and equipment you may be interested in:

four fruit cakes on a cooling rack
Aunt Ellen’s Fruit Cakes
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
Full of sweet candied and dried fruit marinated in cherry brandy, then mixed with nuts and a spiced batter that's baked to perfection. This is why fruit cake is a holiday tradition that has lasted for centuries. If you haven't tried fruit cake, this is the one to try. If you are a fruit cake lover, then you'll know this is the best!
Servings Prep Time
75 Servings 1 1/2 hour
Cook Time Calories per Serving
3 hours 135
Servings Prep Time
75 Servings 1 1/2 hour
Cook Time Calories per Serving
3 hours 135
four fruit cakes on a cooling rack
Aunt Ellen’s Fruit Cakes
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
Full of sweet candied and dried fruit marinated in cherry brandy, then mixed with nuts and a spiced batter that's baked to perfection. This is why fruit cake is a holiday tradition that has lasted for centuries. If you haven't tried fruit cake, this is the one to try. If you are a fruit cake lover, then you'll know this is the best!
Servings Prep Time
75 Servings 1 1/2 hour
Cook Time Calories per Serving
3 hours 135
Servings Prep Time
75 Servings 1 1/2 hour
Cook Time Calories per Serving
3 hours 135
Here's What You Need
The Fruit
The Batter
Here's What You Do
Prepare the Fruit
  1. The night before you make the Fruit Cake, chop the fruit into small pieces (about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch); Set some red and green cherries (sliced in half), some pineapple chunks and some pecans halves aside for topping the fruit cakes. Place the raisins and chopped fruit in a large bowl. Pour ½ cup cherry brandy over the fruit and toss well.
  2. Let the fruit and brandy mixture stand at room temperature overnight, stirring often to mix the fruit.
Other Preparation
  1. Prepare some 8 X 4 aluminum loaf pans (see Recipe Notes) by spreading a thin layer of shortening all over the inside, then lining each loaf pan with parchment paper or wax paper.
  2. Chop the nuts into small pieces (don't pulverize) and mix into the fruit and cherry brandy mix; set aside.
  3. Combine the flour, cinnamon, allspice, grated nutmeg and salt and sift all together into a bowl; set aside.
  4. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
Mix the Batter and Fruit
  1. Using a stand mixer, cream the softened butter or margarine until light and fluffy.
  2. With the mixer on a medium speed, add the brown sugar gradually, allowing the brown sugar and butter to completely combine before adding more brown sugar.
  3. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the eggs one at a time. Make sure each egg is completely mixed in before adding the next egg.
  4. Keeping the mixer on low, add the sifted spiced flour to the butter and brown sugar mixture, a little at a time, making sure that it is all incorporated before adding more.
  5. Turn off the stand mixer and transfer the batter to a large mixing bowl. Stir in the fruit and nut mixture, a little at a time. Mix everything together well, then mix some more!
  6. Turn the mixture into the prepared loaf pans.
  7. Bake at 250 degrees for 2 ½ to 3 hours. The fruit cakes are done when a toothpick comes out clean, but slightly sticky. (see Recipe Notes)
  8. Cool the fruit cakes in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto cooling racks until fully cooled. This will take a few hours or can be cooled over night.
  9. To finish the fruit cake, poke several holes in the top of each with a tooth pick and pour a little cherry brandy over the fruit cakes slowly.
  10. Once the cherry brandy has been absorbed, individually wrap the finished fruit cakes tightly in plastic wrap (airtight) and store. These fruit cakes can be eaten right away or stored for a couple of months in the refrigerator or pantry, or can be frozen for several months.
Recipe Notes

This recipe says to marinate the chopped fruit in the cherry brandy for twelve hours....feel free to do it longer if you want. Just keep stirring it every few hours!

This recipe is easy to increase-just keep all the ingredients proportional.

Sifting the dry ingredients together, then adding the sifted, dry ingredients gradually will make sure that the delicious spices are distributed throughout all the batter.

This recipe will fill approximately five of the 8" x 4" X 2 1/2" loaf pans, or about 15 of the little 6" x 3 1/2" x 2" loaf pans. The little ones are the perfect size for gifts.  This is also great in larger loaf pans or the round  angel-food cake pans.

The cooking time is a good estimate and depends a lot on the size loaf pans you decide to use.   Check after about 2 hours-if they are done the cakes should be firm when you press down on them and just starting to pull away from the sides of the pans. Poke them with a tooth pick-if it comes out clean and just a little sticky, it's done! 

Make sure to wrap the fruit cakes tightly-start with plastic wrap then cover with aluminum foil. Make them airtight! They can be placed in freezer bags and stored for up to six months, either in the fridge or out. They can also be frozen for a year.

Nutrition Facts
Aunt Ellen’s Fruit Cakes
Amount Per Serving
Calories 135 Calories from Fat 45
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 8%
Saturated Fat 1g 5%
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 1g
Cholesterol 17mg 6%
Sodium 98mg 4%
Potassium 76mg 2%
Total Carbohydrates 20g 7%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Sugars 14g
Protein 2g 4%
Vitamin A 4%
Vitamin C 2%
Calcium 1%
Iron 3%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.