Holiday traditions – honoring Mother

My mother died soon after Christmas so as the holidays near, my thoughts turn more and more to her.  Her final Christmas was difficult – we all knew it would be her last.  The family gathered noisily as I put the finishing touches on our holiday feast.  We had all the traditional dishes that I had learned to prepare at my mother’s side….a huge turkey with the dressing Mother didn’t really have a recipe for but taught me to make (and always said it was pretty good but not quite as good as hers), giblet gravy, creamy sweet potatoes with crumbled pecan topping, green beans, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese (my “other mama” taught me to make the mac and cheese but that’s a story for another day), cranberry sauce, rolls, and more.

I didn’t make the fruitcakes that year.  Time was short and I was tired.  While I would have been happy to care for my mother at home if that had been possible, her needs were beyond my abilities and she had been in a nearby nursing home for some months.  I stopped in to sit with her every evening before going home from work, and on weekends as well.  So I just didn’t have the time or energy or spirit that year to make the fruitcakes.  That was several years ago but as I made fruitcakes this year, my thoughts turned to that Christmas and I wished I had made them then to honor my mother.  You see, my mother was very proud of her fruitcakes.  With good reason.  All the bad fruitcake jokes aside, these are perfection.  In memory of my mother, I am happy to share her recipe here.  If you try it, don’t change a thing….definitely don’t use the mixed crystallized fruits.  Stick with just the cherries and pineapple.  You can’t improve on this.   Let me know if you agree.

The recipe makes 2 large fruitcakes – or you can make several smaller ones.  I like to make some in mini loaf pans to share.  The butter should be soft and the eggs at room temperature.

So here it is…Mama’s White Fruitcake:

Preheat oven to 250o.   Generously grease (with Crisco) and flour 2 tube pans (loaf pans also work well).

Combine in a VERY large bowl (I can remember Mother mixing hers in a big clean dishpan):

2 pounds crystallized pineapple, chopped

2 pounds candied cherries, chopped (Mother used both red and green – I use only the red ones)

2 quarts chopped pecans

1 cup (or more!) black walnuts

1 3-ounce can sweetened Angel Flake coconut

Make batter:

Cream 3 sticks of softened sweet cream butter (not margarine) with 2-1/2 cups sugar.

Add 9 eggs, one at a time and mix until well blended.

Slowly add 3-1/4 cups sifted self-rising flour, mixing well.

Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Add 1 teaspoon lemon extract.

(If you have black walnut flavoring, you can add 1 teaspoon of that also – otherwise omit it and the cake will be fine.)

Thoroughly dredge fruit and nut mixture in 1/3 cup flour.

Stir batter into fruit and nut mixture until combined well.  (The mixture is dense and hard to mix with a utensil….I usually have to get my hands in it to get it well mixed.)

Spoon the cake mixture into prepared pans and bake 3 hours at 250o.  Check for doneness with a toothpick or cake tester.  If you use loaf pans, begin checking after about 2-1/4 hours.  Toothpick should come out clean.

When done, run a knife around the edges of the cake to loosen and let cool 15-30 minutes before removing from pans.

If you like, wrap cake in cheesecloth and put in deep container with a lid.  Pour ½ cup of port wine (or rum / bourbon – whatever is your preference) over the cake and let it soak up the wine.  Personally, I prefer it without the alcohol.

Delicious with ambrosia.

Enjoy y’all!

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Val
    Dec 03, 2010 @ 14:21:17

    We all miss her, don’t we? Great entry, Mom. Mema would be happy to share her recipe and spread the love!


  2. Laura
    Dec 03, 2010 @ 14:45:56

    Aw, this made me teary. We miss Mema. It’ll be great to have one of these again – I remember them being good.


  3. Trackback: Betty’s Christmas Fruitcake — Family Favorite! « The Cooking Channel

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