01 December 2009

Sook's Cookbook

Yes Virginia, it’s “Fruitcake Season.” I know what you are thinking but stop. Fruitcakes are wonderful. Unfortunately, in the United States we suffer from the mistaken notion that the “fruit” in fruitcake is some sort of afterthought when it should be the main ingredient. (Hey, that’s why they call it “fruit” cake.)

In the coming days I will be pointing you to various resources for your cakes, but to start us off, I am giving you the most famous fruitcake ever made. It was first made by Truman Capote’s cousin, Sook. As a child, Truman would follow is cousin down to the river bank to that palace of sin operated by the Indian, Mr. Haha Jones. There they would purchase the bourbon whisky needed to make the cake.

As an adult, Truman Capote recounted this ritual in what may be his most famous work, A Christmas Memory. Years later, Capote's aunt, Marie Rudisill, gathered the recipes into Sook's Cookbook.

Here is Sook’s cake so you can make your own memories.

Sook’s Famous “Christmas Memory” Fruitcake

2 1/2 pound Brazil nuts
2 1/2 pound white and dark raisins; mixed
1/2 pound candied cherries
1/2 pound candied pineapple
1 pound citron
1/2 pound blanched almonds
1/2 pound pecan halves
1/2 pound black walnuts
1/2 pound dried figs
1 scant tablespoon nutmeg
1 scant tablespoon cloves
2 tablespoons grated bitter chocolate
8-ounce grape jelly
8–ounce glass jar grape juice
8-ounce glass bourbon whiskey
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 scant tablespoon allspice


2 cups pure butter
2 cups sugar
12 eggs
4 cups flour

Cut the fruits and nuts into small pieces and use enough of the flour to dredge them, making a thin coat over all. Cream the butter and sugar adding one egg at a time, beating well. Add the flour. Add the dredged fruits and nuts, spices, seasoning, and flavorings. Mix thoroughly by hand. Line your cake tin with wax paper and grease well, then flour. The pan should be large enough to hold a twelve-pound cake.
Pour the mixture into the pan and put it in a steamer over cold water. Close the steamer and bring the water to a rolling boil. After the water boils, lower the heat and steam the cake on top of the stove for about four-and-one-half hours. Preheat the oven to around 250 degrees, and bake for one hour.

Now, one can simply drive to a liquor and buy your cake bourbon, but if you happen to know a friendly bootlegger, pay him a visit. It's a much better story.

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