Cake Recipes, Christmas, Intermediate, Southern

Eudora Welty’s White Fruit Cake

Moist, white fruit cake is a little lighter than traditional dark fruit cake. This Southern version is “improved” by dribbling it with bourbon instead of rum.

white fruit cake

Several notions may come to mind when you think of Eudora Welty — author, Pulitzer Prize winner, famous Mississippian. But, fruit cake? Yes. I am of course, referring to the kind of fruit cake laced with candied fruit and nuts, spiked with spirits, and eaten during the holidays.

Welty frequently made her signature white fruit cake, passed down from a family recipe, to share with her closest friends during the holidays. Sometime in the 1980’s, Welty included the recipe in her annual Christmas card. Since then, Eudora Welty’s White Fruit Cake has been republished numerous times in magazines all over the world.

white fruit cake

What is the difference between a white fruit cake and a dark fruit cake?

The main difference between a white fruit cake and a dark fruit cake are the sugars. Traditional dark fruit cake is made with brown sugar and molasses. White fruit cake is made with white granulated sugar. Some recipes also call for light corn syrup. One ingredient remains constant, however — the booze.

While most fruit cakes include dark rum in its list of ingredients, Welty opts for bourbon. One full cup of bourbon is mixed into the batter before baking.

What is the Best Type of Bourbon to Use for Baking?

You don’t need to go out and purchase the expensive stuff. Save that for sipping. For baking, stick with brands such as Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, Old Crow, or Evan Williams.

A Few Items You’ll Need Before You Get Started

To prepare this white fruit cake recipe you’ll need two bundt or angel food cake pans. If you don’t own two, you can purchase them from the links I provided (I have linked to the exact bundt cake pan I own). If this is a one-time deal, just borrow one from a friend.

You will also need a pound of candied pineapple, half a pound of red candied cherries and half a pound of green candied cherries. Candied fruit has been preserved in sugar syrup that prevents it from spoiling. You can usually find the candied fruit you need in the grocery store during the holiday season. But if you have trouble locating it, I have included links above where you can purchase it online.

How to Make White Fruit Cake

Before you get started, be sure to set out 1 ½ cups (3 sticks) of unsalted butter to soften. Depending on the temperature of your house, it should take about 30 minutes for the butter to come to room temperature

Step one. Start by preheating the oven to 250 degrees. Grease your pans well and sprinkle with a dusting of flour.

Step two. Cut the candied pineapple into chunks. Slice the cherries in half if they are not already. Reserve about ½ cup of nice-looking whole pecans to decorate the tops of the cakes and set those aside. Chop up the remaining pecans. Dust the fruit and nuts lightly with a little flour to keep them from clustering together in the batter.

Step three. In a large mixing bowl, cream the softened butter and sugar together until it is smooth and creamy. Sift together the four, baking soda and salt. With the mixer running on medium, add 2/3 cup of flour to the butter mixture. Then add an egg yolk. Keep alternating flour-egg-flour until all the eggs and flour are mixed into the batter.

Step four. Keep the mixer running. Add the pecans to the batter. Then add 1/3 cup of bourbon. Add the pineapple, then add another 1/3 cup of bourbon. Follow with the cherries and the last remaining 1/3 cup of bourbon. Turn the mixer off.

Step five. Whip the egg whites until still peaks form. If you’re not sure what stiff peaks are, check out my post on how to make meringue. Same technique, we’re just not adding sugar to our egg whites. Fold the whipped eggs whites into the batter.

Step six. Fill each cake pan about 2/3 full. The fruit cakes will rise as they bake. Decorate the tops with nuts.

Step seven. Bake for approximately three hours. Ms. Welty isn’t real specific here. The top of the cake should spring back to the touch and a toothpick inserted at the center should come out clean and dry. If the top of the cakes start to brown too soon, loosely lay a sheet of foil over the top. When done, the cake should be a warm golden color.

Step eight. Once the cake pans become cool enough to handle, run a spatula around the sides of each cake, cover the pan with a big plate, then turn the pan over and slip the cake out. When cool, the cake should be stored in a container with a lid or wrapped in plastic wrap to keep it from drying out.

Improving the White Fruit Cake

Ms. Welty advises that you make the cake several weeks ahead of Christmas and keep “improving” it by dribbling the cake with more bourbon from time to time. The bourbon in the cake actually “preserves” it and prevents mold from forming.

I tested this out myself with a leftover half of cake. I left it sitting in a covered cake dome for the duration of Christmas and periodically drizzled some bourbon over it. After four weeks, it still looked as if it was just baked. However, it will be quite boozy, so use your own discretion.

If you’re uneasy about gifting a cake that’s been sitting out for a month, you can store them in the freezer. Simply wrap the cake in a layer of plastic wrap followed by foil.

white fruit cake

 

Parts of this post were first published in the December 2015 / January 2016 issue of eat.drink.MISSISSIPPI.

Looking for more Christmas recipes?

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White Fruitcake
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5 from 11 votes

Eudora Welty's White Fruit Cake

Moist, white fruit cake is a little lighter than traditional dark fruit cake. This Southern version is "improved" by dribbling it with bourbon instead of rum.
Course Desserts
Cuisine American
Cook Time 3 hours
Servings 2 cakes
Calories 139kcal
Author Lisa B.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups unsalted butter softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs separated
  • 4 cups flour sifted before measuring
  • flour for fruit and nuts
  • 2 teapsoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 pound pecan halves
  • 1/2 pound candied red cherries
  • ½ pound candied green cherries
  • 1 pound candied pineapple
  • 1 cup bourbon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Grease your pans well and sprinkle with a dusting of flour. 
  • Cut the candied pineapple into chunks. Slice the cherries in half if they are not already. Reserve about ½ cup of nice-looking whole pecans to decorate the tops of the cakes and set those aside. Chop up the remaining pecans. Dust the fruit and nuts lightly with a little flour. 
  • In a large mixing bowl, cream the softened butter and sugar together until it is smooth and creamy. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. With the mixer running on medium, add 2/3 cup of flour to the butter mixture. Then add an egg yolk. Keep alternating flour-egg-flour until all the eggs and flour are mixed into the batter.
  • Keep the mixer running. Add the chopped pecans to the batter. Then add 1/3 cup of bourbon. Add the pineapple, then add another 1/3 cup of bourbon. Follow with the cherries and the last remaining 1/3 cup of bourbon and the vanilla. Turn the mixer off.
  • Whip the egg whites until still peaks form. Fold the whipped eggs whites into the batter.
  • Arrange the reserved pecan halves around the bottom of both cake pans. Fill each cake pan about 2/3 full. 
  • Bake for approximately three hours. The top of the cake should spring back to the touch and a toothpick inserted at the center should come out clean and dry. If the top of the cakes start to brown too soon, loosely lay a sheet of foil over the top. When done, the cake should be a warm golden color.
  • Once the cake pans become cool enough to handle, run a spatula around the sides of each cake, cover the pan with a big plate, then turn the pan over and slip the cake out. When cool, the cake should be stored in a container with a lid or wrapped in plastic wrap to keep it from drying out.

Nutrition

Serving: 1slice | Calories: 139kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 1.2g | Fat: 3.9g | Saturated Fat: 0.5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1.8g | Cholesterol: 2mg | Sodium: 43mg | Potassium: 66mg | Fiber: 1.6g | Sugar: 12g | Calcium: 10mg | Iron: 0.7mg

14 Comments

  1. I have never had fruit cake before. Crazy, right?! This looks fantastic, I’ll have to try it!

  2. This fruitcake looks so delicious and so special! This would make such a wonderful gift too.

  3. Now THAT sounds like a fruitcake. It looks and sounds delicious!

  4. This is so festive, it looks delicious!

  5. Oh my goodness this looks so angelic I can’t wait to try it!! Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

  6. 5 stars
    Would you believe I have never made a fruit cake before? This looks delicious and easy. I’m going to have to give this one a try. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Jessica Formicola

    5 stars
    To be honest, I’ve never actually tried fruit cake! I will for sure be trying this one!

  8. 5 stars
    I have a cup of tea next to me and the only thing missing is a slice of this delicious looking fruit cake – yum yum!

  9. 5 stars
    I’m so excited that fruitcake season is almost upon us! I have never had white fruitcake but I can’t wait to try your delicious recipe!

  10. 5 stars
    I love fruit cake. Your fruit cake looks superbly amazing and so flavorful.

  11. Rosina Alaimo

    I’d like to make this fruitcake in mini loaf pans. How would I adjust the cooking time?

  12. What can I use to replace the alcohol?

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