the most scrumptious nut cake…really

Full disclosure, the correct name is Mary Ann’s fruitcake.  I’m single handedly trying to change the bad reputation that the poor Christmas fruitcake has garnered over the years…you know what I’m talking about, the brick like chunk with the scary colored jelly-like pieces of “fruit” in them. I promise this is nothing like that!

Every year, for as long as I can remember, my mom makes this and even after I left home, she still sends me one every year.  It just wouldn’t be Christmas without it. When preparing for this blog post, I took it upon myself to find out who Mary Ann is or was.  That’s the name on the faded recipe printed from some long ago cook book. Here’s the story:

A woman named Jean LaCamera from New Haven, CT tells the story of how in the 1950’s, her husbands aunt in Cincinnati took in Mary Ann, a college student who couldn’t make it home for Thanksgiving in Mississippi.  To thank her for her hospitality, Mary Ann’s mother sent the aunt pecans and this recipe.  For decades, the LaCameras baked the cake every holiday season, changing just one thing…they replaced the lemon extract with Grand Marnier.  This was a brilliant substitution in my humble opinion!

The LaCameras sent the recipe to the famous chef, Craig Claiborne in 1976 and he printed it that December. While no one knows Mary Ann’s last name or where she is today, it turns out she and Claiborne were from the same small town in Mississippi…Indianola. I’m sure it was fate!

Plump golden raisins and pecans make this the gold standard of fruitcakes!


Mary Ann’s fruitcake


  • 1 pound of golden seedless raisins
  • 1 pound pecans, broken
  • 3 cups sifted all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound butter at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 eggs,  separated
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon warm water
  • ¼ cup Grand Marnier


  1. Preheat oven to 250˚.  Butter the inside of two 1 pound loaf pans (nonstick work best).  Sprinkle liberally with flour and shake out the excess.  Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the raisins and pecans.  Sprinkle with the flour and salt over all and toss with hands until thoroughly blended.  Set aside.
  3. Place the butter in the bowl of an electric beater.  Start beating and gradually add the sugar.  Cream the mixture well and add the egg yolks one at a time, beating constantly.  Blend the soda and water and add it, beating.  Beat in the Grand Marnier.  Pour this mixture into the nut mixture and blend together with the hands.
  4. Beat the whites until stiff and fold them in with the hands.  Continue folding until whites are not apparent.
  5. Spoon and scrape the mixture into the prepared pans, smoothing the top with a spatula.  Bake 2 to 2 ¼ hours or until the cake is puffed above the pan and nicely browned on top.  If the cake starts to brown too soon on top, cover with aluminum foil.  Remove the cake from the pan shortly after it is baked (my mom tells me this is very important…do not let it completely cool before trying to remove it!) Tapping the bottom of the loaf pan with a heavy knife will help loosen it.  Store the cake for at least 10 days.  If desired (yes, please), add an occasional touch of Grand Marnier to the cake as it stands.  Keep it closely covered and refrigerated until ready to use. My mom sprinkles it with Grand Marnier and wraps it tightly in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil.

I tried this once when I was first married, but didn’t use nonstick pans and it was not pretty.  I think next year I may be up for trying it again!

The Little Glass House
Merry Christmas!

7 thoughts on “the most scrumptious nut cake…really

  1. Hi Lorraine. The old recipe my mom has is printed from Craig Claiborne’s cookbook and it does say hands which is how my mom has been doing it all these years. The original recipe is from the 1950’s and that’s how it was done. 🙂 All I know is it is absolutely delicious! Hope I answered your question. Also the original recipe called for it to be in a 10″ bundt pan. That’s the only thing my mom changed and I much prefer the 2 small loaves. 🙂


  2. You forgot to line your pans with butter and parchment paper as per Craig Claiborne’s instructions. It’s a pain, but your cakes will come out just right. Remove the parchment when the cakes Cool. Then wrap with Muslim or cheesecloth. Dose liberally with GM and store in ziplock bags in the fridge. Good luck.


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