Fruitcakes And Other Nutty Things

by | Dec 10, 2023


My paternal grandmother, Lilybell Hollis Carter, was the very model of propriety. She lived in a small Georgia town where her father had once served a mayor. She was not wealthy – far from it. She was a widow raising three young children working as a bank teller.

She was in church every time the doors opened. She did not date. Liquor never touched her lips. She was a proud member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and taught Sunday school at the First Baptist Church of Madison.

She was a sweet, sweet woman, kind to everyone and loved by all.

Fruit cake on plate with knife.
Brown liquor jug with 3 "poison" x's on the label.

She was also renowned as a cook, especially for her baked goods. Every Christmas, she make a fruitcake unlike any other ever made – people actually ate it, and it was actually good. It was exceedingly moist, and decidedly delicious – thanks in large part to the fact that it was soaked for days in illicit whiskey.

Madison was a dry town in a dry county, so once a year, Miss Lilybel would seek out the local bootlegger and ask for a pint or so of his finest.

One year, he chose to deliver the goods while she was at work. As she toiled away at her window, the bootlegger appeared in the doorway of the crowded bank, reached in his jacket pocket, produced a brown bag and called out, “Mizz Lilybel, I got yore whiskey!”

Mizz Frances sitting on top of tub soaking her feet. Granddaddy looking on.

Granddaddy and Granny Burgess

That’s the kind of thing that would have made my other grandmother, Frances Burgess, laugh out loud. Miss Frances was pure Georgia country. Unpretentious but not graceless, a good Christian woman who never touched nary a drop, she kept a bountiful table and a pin-neat home.

But she also had a wicked sense of humor that would pop up at surprising times. She was a prankster and a deadpan comic. Once she hid a pack of firecrackers in a stack of newspapers my brother and I were burning in a large trash barrel out back, then stood far from the barrel and tried too hard not to laugh as she waited for the joke to play out. 

Chip Carter and Jo Carter-Harbin in pavilion.

She has passed away, but recently, she found a way to play one more prank. I was talking with my mom about the idea for our Recipes and Memories article, and she mentioned a recipe she had from Mizz Frances — for a fruitcake, ironically. Here it is, exactly as it was written in my grandmother’s hand more than a half-century ago.

People ask me all the time, “Where do you get your sense of humor?” Read on, and I think that question will be answered:









1 OR   2    QTS. WHISKEY


1  tsp. SALT




Before you start…sample the whiskey to check for quality.  Good, isn’t it? Now go ahead.  Select a large mixing bowl, measuring cup, etc.  Check the whiskey again as it must be just right.  To be sure the whiskey is of the highest quality, pour 1 level cup into a glass and drink it as fast as you can.  Repeat.

With an electric mixer, beat 1 cup butter in large fluffy bowl.  Add 1 teaspoon of thugar  and beat again. Meanwhile, make sure that the whiskey is of the finest quality.  Cry another tup.  Open second quart if necessayr.  Add 2 arge leggs, 2 cups of fried druit and beat till high.  If druit gets stuck in beaters, just pry it loose with a drewscriver.  Sample the whiskey again, thecking  for tonsicistry.  Then sift 2 cups of salt or anything, it really doesn’t matter.

Sample the whiskey.   Sift 1/2 lemon juice.  Fold in chopped butter and strained nuts.  Add 1 babblespoon of brown thugar, or whatever color you can find and mix mell. Grease oven and turn cake pan to 350 degrees.  Now pour the wholemess into the coven and ake.  Check the whiskey again, and bo to ged.