“Fruitcake has a bad name, but we’re changing it.” says Lisa Scott.
Fruitcake, in all it’s dense, shiny, regiftable glory, has been the punch line of holiday jokes for years, but Lisa and the Scott family aren’t deterred.
Their family business, Southern Supreme Fruitcake & more, in the small North Carolina town of Bear Creek, produces 3,000 pounds of fruitcake a day. Their version is dense, yes, but also moist, nutty, rich and not overly sweet.
“We have a tendency to change a lot of minds,” says Randy Scott.
The decades-old recipe, developed by Randy’s mother, Berta Lou Scott, remains unchanged since the company’s start in 1985.
“Sugar, flour, eggs, dates, raisins, pineapples, cherries, pecans and English Walnuts,” Randy ticks off.
“I didn’t particularly like my momma’s fruitcake because she put too much fruit in it,” says Berta Lou. “Mine has more nuts than fruit.”
More nuts than fruit is indeed the bakeries’ claim to fame. In 300 pounds of cake batter, there are 95 pounds of pecans and walnuts, Randy says.
The baking method is unique, too.
“The cake is not formed until after it is cooked,” says Randy. “As it cooks, bakers take the pans out of the oven and stir the batter.”
Twenty-five pans of cake bake on rotating trays inside a giant repurposed bagel oven, which is reloaded every 15 minutes.
Baked cakes are weighed and molded while still hot and pliable. After the cakes have cooled, glaze and decorative fruit is applied.
“The glaze is the hardest thing,” says Berta Lou. “You want it to sink in and give the cake a sheen.”
“We had to beg people to try it in the beginning,” says Randy. “Most of the time if they try it, then they end up being a customer.”
Thirty-five years ago, the fledgeling business operated out of a garage belonging to Berta Lou’s daughter, Belinda. Now Southern Supreme maintains a 42,000 square foot facility, produces 215,000 pounds of fruitcake annually and offers nearly 150 other holiday sweets and specialty food items.
This multi-generational family legacy counts seven members of the Scott family within it’s leadership. There’s matriarch and patriarch Berta Lou and Hoyt Scott; their son Randy Scott and his wife Lisa; their daughter Belinda Jordan and her husband Wayne; and their daughter-in-law Gail Scott.
Berta Lou and Hoyt still come to work every day, though well into their eighties. Berta Lou oversees much of the new product development and testing.
“All the recipes come from something we used to bake at home for the holidays,” she says.
Cheese florets (similar to cheese straws), toffees, brittles, jam, pralines and chocolate-covered clusters line the shelves of the beautifully-adorned showroom.
Despite it’s rural location, Southern Supreme’s showroom is open year round and welcomes tour groups from across the Southeast. Nearly 5,000 visitors helped to kick off the holiday season at the mid-October open house. The majority of product sales happen right there at the company’s Chatham County home, though no small amount of fruitcake (and more) is sold online and through catalogs and craft fairs as well.
“My dad was born and raised in Chatham County. He’s lived in three houses during his life, and you can see all of them from here,” says Randy, pointing out across the rolling hills surrounding the Southern Supreme facility.
“It’s a destination. There is so much more here than we can bring to a show,” says Berta Lou.
No one in the Scott family could pinpoint exactly how fruitcake received such an unjust reputation.
The Tonight Show’s Johnny Carson may be partly to blame by commenting on air, “The worst Christmas gift is fruitcake. There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other.”
If there is only one, let’s hope it’s one made by Southern Supreme Fruitcake & more.
Southern Supreme Fruitcake & More
1699 Hoyt Scott Road, Bear Creek
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