About this time of year, the first week in December, most cooks back in the day baked their fruitcake.
They would set the cakes aside storing them in tins or wooden cheese hoop boxes and sometimes soak them with a little wine or put an apple in the tins to moisten the cakes. They baked the fruitcakes in round pans lined with greased brown paper or later waxed paper. Loaf and tube pans came along later.
Dark fruitcake was quite common in years gone by. Before candied or crystallized fruit was available, our cooks used fig and/or watermelon rind preserves, canned sweetened pineapple and maraschino cherries, dried fruit and pecans in the fruitcake.
In the 1950s and 1960s many of Effingham’s citizens went to Bargain Corner on Bay Street in Savannah to shop for their groceries. There were no big grocery stores offering many desired items in Effingham County. Some wives picked up their husband’s checks and cashed them on payday and then shopped for groceries while they were in Savannah. Some families just went to the big grocery store once a month for their staples and special grocery items like candied fruit.
The recipes included on page 3 were handed out at the Bargain Corner to the shoppers. Each had the Bargain Corner information and logo as seen on the light fruitcake recipe. These recipes were prepared by the store’s fruitcake expert and employee, Mrs. Susie Oglesby. Bargain Corner also sold fruitcakes baked by their employees.
“The Bargain Corner made the crystallized fruit in the store and it was real good,” according to Mrs. Claudine Arnsdorff, who shared the recipes from the original flyers. Several persons sent in copies of these recipes to Historic Effingham Society when we prepared our cookbook “Tasty Traditions.” (Copies of the cookbook are available at Effingham Museum Gift Shop for $20. They make great gifts.)
Enjoy baking your fruitcake. It certainly is better shared with friends or family. Bought fruitcake is nothing like the real thing made from scratch. We challenge you to give it a try this year. Monteen Crawford did (see photo of holiday nut cake).
The following recipes are from the Bargain Corner:
Ice Box Fruitcake requires no baking
yields 5-Pound Cake
1 lb. Bargain Corner crystallized cherries (red)
1 lb. Bargain Corner crystallized pineapple (green and white)
1 lb. Bargain Corner diced mixed fruit
1 lb. shelled pecans (cut medium)
2 oz. shredded coconut (cut fine)
Batter for above ingredients:
12 oz. box vanilla wafers
1/2 lb. pure creamery butter
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 Tablespoon lemon extract
2 oz. sherry, rum or brandy flavor
Crush vanilla wafers to a fine meal. Cook butter over low fire until golden brown — allow to cool slightly and strain. Pour over cracker meal. Add milk, lemon flavor and other extract of choice and mix well.
Cut fruit and nuts medium and mix well. Add cracker dough and mix thoroughly. Pack firmly into pan or box and place in refrigerator and chill thoroughly before slicing. To decorate the top of cake arrange nuts, cherries cut in half and small pieces of pineapple on top of cake before chilling.
This article was written and compiled by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. If you have photos, comments or ideas to share contact her at 754-6681 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org