[Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories] Fruitcake – Take 2!!

Welcome to MyNeChimKi’s Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories! Thanks to Geneabloggers for developing these fantastic prompts for some holiday spirited blogging. Over the next month we’ll be blogging about some of our fondest Christmas memories.

Today’s topic: Fruitcake — Friend or Foe? Again.

At the beginning of the week I featured a recipe from my Great-Grandmother America (Compton) Tommey for her fruitcake. When I wrote it I was slightly disappointed because I had originally wanted to do a compare and contrast between her recipe and the one from my Great-GREAT-Grandmother Bertha (Lynch) Holladay. Unfortunately, we couldn’t quite put our fingers on Bertha’s recipe. I am please to tell you today that we’ve located Bertha’s recipe and I’m happy to share it with you today, albeit a bit later than I had hoped!

Holladay & Newman Women, probably late 1930s / early 1940s

Holladay & Newman Women, probably late 1930s / early 1940s

Bertha (Lynch) Holladay was born 22 June 1879 and died 11 February 1966 at the Williamsburg Nursing Home in Abilene, Taylor County, Texas.1 I doubt that she made fruitcake that year. I believe that the Lynchs and the Holladays were Methodist, but my only reasoning behind this was their choice to place my grandmother and her brothers and sister in The Methodist Children’s Home in Waco, Texas when my Great-Grandmother, Gillis (Holladay) Newman died of Tuberculosis in 1928.2 I suppose they may have been another denomination but Bertha’s fruitcake recipe sure seems to indicate that she was not Baptist!

Sadly, we don’t have a recipe penned in Bertha’s own handwriting. The one we have was copied for us by my Great-Aunt Jean. Jean is who my mother was named after… my grandmother’s only sister. She was just a baby when her mother died and after a very short stay at the Methodist Children’s Home she went to live with Bertha and the rest of her family. I assume that Jean learned to make Fruitcake from Bertha herself.

I have an inkling that some of the notations in the recipe are actually notes from Jean and not Bertha. And I’m not entirely sure that they would have had dates readily available in Taylor County, Texas when Bertha would have been making this recipe. But perhaps…

Bertha’s Fruitcake

Mama Holladay’s Fruit Cake

4 eggs
2 cubes butter
3 cups flour

½ tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup currants
2 ½ cups nuts
brandy (optional)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups sugar
1 cup applesauce
1 tsp. baking powder (not too level)
½ tsp. allspice
½ cup raisins
1 package dates
½ cup maraschino cherries

Beat sugar and butter until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix the spices with the flour and add to the butter & sugar mixture alternately with the applesauce. Chop the nuts (I usually use a mixture of walnuts, pecans, and brazil nuts). Chop the dates. Slice the cherries. Add all to the batter. Mix well. Add vanilla. Bake in slow oven, 300 degrees for 2 hours. (be sure the pan is greased and floured) I use an angel cake pan.

If you like you may sprinkle the cake with brandy when done.

Holladay fruitcake front

Bertha (Lynch) Holladay's Fruitcake recipe (copied by Jean (Newman) Siegel) - continued.

Legend of the Fruitcake & Brandy

Despite the fact that I think Bertha was probably a Methodist and not a teetotaler like the Tommeys and the Comptons, I’m not sure that the brandy was entirely her invention. Family lore has it that when Bertha would make her fruitcake she would start some time in November, maybe early December. As it sat out to “cure” her boys would come by periodically and douse the cake with brandy! With five boys, I wonder if some lost track of who had doused it on any given time. In spite of being moist, I’ll be that Bertha’s fruitcake might have produced a significant buzz as well!


  1. Death Certificate for Bertha Holladay
  2. Death Certificate for Mrs. Gillis Newman

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