“Christmas Lights” Fruitcake (Grandma’s Recipe)

Grandma Head always made the best fruitcake. I don’t know how long it took her, but she made many loaves to give away to family members. She lovingly wrapped each loaf in foil and tied it with ribbon, adding a name tag to make sure no one got left out. I’m so glad I got to learn this unique, delicious recipe.

The Wet Ingredients

I’ve adapted the first part to make it a bit easier. Grandma put the butter and sugar in the oven, but I prefer the stovetop since it’s a lot faster.

Heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches about 240 degrees, or soft ball stage. The butter and sugar will start turning a light caramel color, and it will smell delicious!

1 lb. sugar                                       

1 lb. butter

Meanwhile, beat and set aside:                           

6 eggs

When the butter and sugar mixture is cool, mix in the beaten eggs. It doesn’t have to be completely cold. Warm to the touch is fine.

The Dry Ingredients

In a very large bowl, sift:

4 c. flour

Add all of the following, being sure to coat well with the flour. Fingers work really well here.

1 ½ lb. pecan halves (Grandma sometimes used walnuts.)                            

*1 lb. red candied cherries, cut into halves

*1 lb. green candied cherries, cut into halves

*1 lb. candied pineapple

*Note: Candied fruits are much easier to find around the holidays, but you can get them online in the off season. The cherries are also known as glace cherries.

All Together Now

Stir in the wet ingredients and the extract until everything’s well-mixed.

1 ½ – 2 oz. lemon extract (¼ c.) (I needed a whole bottle! It sounds like a lot, but the flavor isn’t overpowering in the final product.)

Bake the fruitcake in in 5 greased loaf pans (4×7.5”, size “medium”) for 2 – 2 ½ hours at 275 degrees. The tops should be a nice, golden brown, and you shouldn’t get any crumbs from a toothpick test.

Leave the pans to cool for 1 hour before removing the cakes. The fruitcake can be frozen for later, but it’s especially delicious when it’s fresh. The sweet and chewy fruit is a perfect contrast to the crunchy, toasted nuts and buttery, caramelized cake. A hint of lemon ties everything together nicely. If you think you don’t like fruitcake, give Grandma’s a try!


Find more recipes for cakes and pies here and more posts about Christmas here.

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