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Marie Rudisill’s Coconut Fruitcake

 Words by Wendell Brock  •  Photography by Renee Brock



The great New Yorker writer Calvin Trillin used to say that there is only one fruitcake. It is just shipped from person to person each Christmas so no one has to eat it.

Marie Rudisill would probably give that old Yankee a piece of her mind. “Fruitcakes are true ambrosia,” she wrote, “the queen of cakes.”

Rudisill contended that fruitcakes should be baked four months in advance and soaked in brandy, sherry or bourbon.

We can’t argue with the booze part.  But heck, The Bitter Southerner is barely four months old. And where would we have found candied orange peel in August?  

What were we to do? Send out for Claxton? (Um, no thanks.)

Instead, we asked one of the best bakers we know — Audrey Gatliff of Tiny Buffalo Baking Co. — to help us out. She treated us to this delicious Coconut Fruitcake, adapted from “Fruitcake: Heirloom Recipes and Memories of Truman Capote and Cousin Sook” (UNC Press).  

We recommend serving it with several huge dollops of bourbon whipped cream.


2 cups chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts)

1½ cup snipped pitted dates

1 cup candied cherries

1 cup candied pineapple

½ cup candied orange peel

½ cup candied lemon peel

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground allspice

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature

½ cup sugar

½ cup honey

5 eggs

⅓ cup orange juice

1 cup raisins

1⅓ cups flaked coconut

In a large bowl, shake nuts, dates and candied fruits in ¼ cup of the flour and set aside.

In another bowl, sift together the dry ingredients — the remaining flour, the salt, baking powder and spices — and set aside.

In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with its paddle beater, cream together the butter and sugar, then stir in the honey. Then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after adding each one.

Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, in batches alternately with the orange juice. Finally, stir in raisins and coconut.

Pour the batter over the floured candied fruit and nut mixture; mix well.

Bake low and slow — 275 degrees for about three hours in a large pan (angel food or loaf) or two small loaf pans.

To make bourbon whipped cream: In a medium mixing bowl, beat 1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream, 1 tablespoon  bourbon, ¼ teaspoon real vanilla extract and 2 teaspoons of confectioners’ sugar. When the cream begins to form stiff peaks, taste a little with your fingertip and add a bit more sugar or bourbon to taste.


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