Denise Gee's Mint Julep Fruitcake

Denise Gee’s Mint Julep Fruitcake.
Photo: Robert Peacock

For the 8th holiday season in a row, SMU Forum is requesting festive recipes from all over the University community, and the world. And to start things off, we’re sharing a recipe that may change your mind about the much-maligned holiday fruitcake.

Denise Gee, a public information officer in the SMU Office of News and Communications, leads a double life as a cookbook author and entertaining guru – and as a former foods editor with Southern Living, she knows her way around great recipes. Her latest work, Sweet On Texas: Lovable Confections From the Lone Star State, was published by Chronicle Books in October.

Sweet On Texas contains 65 carefully selected dessert recipes, combined with Gee’s own historical notes, fun facts and inimitably warm writing about the people and places of Texas.

> Lake Highlands: Just In Time For the Holidays: Denise Gee’s Sweet On Texas
Story Porter: Q&A with Denise Gee

'Sweet On Texas' bookcover

“Sweet On Texas” by SMU staff member Denise Gee, available from booksellers and specialty stores.

To honor the season, Gee shares her own recipe for Mint Julep Fruitcake, as it appears in Sweet On Texas. She also includes an all-new account of how she overcame her aversion to “one of the worst cakes on the planet” to create this light and tasty treasure.

Make sure your favorite is among the treats appearing here. We’re looking for side dishes, main courses, desserts, sweets, food gifts, game-day snacks, kosher and ethnic treats, vegetarian recipes…you name it. Add your recipe with a comment on this post, or send it to Kathleen Tibbetts, 214-768-7672, fax 214-768-7663.

Mint Julep Fruitcake

Author’s note: This is not a holiday recipe I grew up enjoying, but I sure wish it had been. The only fruitcakes to be found in my childhood home were there only as gifts — and only temporarily. Since they tended to be hard as brickbats and reek of cheap rum, we never even bothered lifting the lids off their tins before re-gifting them. Thus, I never even remotely entertained eating, much less making, what I imagined to be one of the worst cakes on the planet.

But while working as a foods editor at Southern Living in the 1990s, I tasted for the first time a “white” fruit cake. Its golden color, lightness, and soft and lush fruity texture left me wondering how I’d missed out on such a truly fine dessert over the years. It was then I set out to accomplish what had previously been the unthinkable: Develop a fruitcake that I’d not only enjoy eating, but one I’d also be proud to give as a holiday gift.

The resulting recipe is a tribute to one of my favorite Southern cocktails, the mint julep. Sweet, bourbony and frosted with powdered sugar, the cake glistens just like the drink itself. Fresh mint sprigs, tucked in a little glass at the center of the bundt cake, crown the delicious cake beautifully. So cheers, friends — to banished stereotypes.

Mint Julep Fruitcake


4 cups candied pineapple bits
3 cups golden raisins
2 cups bourbon
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
8 eggs
2 teaspoons mint extract
3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

Bourbony Mint Syrup:

1 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 cups loosely packed fresh mint leaves
1 cup bourbon


Fresh mint sprigs
Powdered sugar

To make the fruitcake: In a large zip-top plastic bag, combine the candied pineapple, raisins and bourbon and refrigerate for at least 3 days, stirring or massaging the bag occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 275°F and grease a fluted 9-x 3-inch Bundt pan. Place a small pan of water on the lowest rack of the oven.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and powdered sugar at medium speed until smooth and creamy. Stir in the eggs, one at a time, and mix until combined. Add the mint extract and the fruit-and-bourbon mixture. Add the flour, 1 cup at a time, and mix on low speed until combined.

Fill the prepared Bundt pan two-thirds full. Bake for about 2 hours, or until golden brown and mostly firm (until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out fairly clean). Remove the cake pan to a wire rack to cool for about 20 minutes.

To make the syrup: Combine the water and granulated sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat; stir until dissolved. Bring to a boil and add the mint leaves, submerging them completely. Remove from the heat, cover and let steep for at least 30 minutes.

Strain the syrup mixture through a fine-mesh sieve or coffee filter and let it cool. Combine it with the bourbon in a sealable container. If made ahead, keep it well chilled in the refrigerator.

Poke holes in the cake and pour in the mint syrup. Let the cake cool in the pan for another 20 minutes. Refrigerate it in the pan for 24 hours before removing the cake to a plate or tin lined with cheesecloth coated with some of the mint syrup (or just bourbon, if desired), to keep the cake moist. Before serving, garnish with powdered sugar and mint sprigs, if desired.

Makes 1 (9-inch) cake.