It’s holiday recipe time: Share yours with SMU Forum

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.

3 thoughts on “It’s holiday recipe time: Share yours with SMU Forum

  1. Easy Pumpkin Pie

    In the spirit of Denise’s wonderful holiday dessert, here’s a nearly foolproof version of a traditional favorite. All credit for this recipe goes to the Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook. I just made it even quicker and easier (read: lazier) to prepare.

    One note: The secret to this pie, which can convert the most jaded palate to pumpkin love, is in the spice blend. No substitutions, please! Use all the spices, including the salt, in their prescribed proportions, and you will love the result.

    One (1) shell for a one-crust pie
    1 can (15 or 16 oz.) pumpkin
    3 large eggs
    1 cup evaporated milk
    1 cup sugar
    1 tsp. cinnamon
    1/2 tsp. ginger
    1/4 tsp. nutmeg
    1/4 tsp. ground clove
    1/4 tsp. salt

    Prepare pie shell and preheat oven to 375° F.

    Place all other ingredients in a large blender; blend until smooth. Pour into pie crust.

    Bake at 375° F for 45 minutes or until the tip of a knife comes out clean.

    Make one (9-inch) pie.

  2. Joan Jackson of the SMU Office of News and Communications shares her daughter’s recipe for savory scones.

    “Here is a recipe for Jalapeno-Cheddar Scones. The recipe is adapted by Alice Bradley ’07 and is a great alternative to holiday sweets!”

    Jalapeño-Cheddar Scones

    Adapted from Smitten Kitchen; originally from Peter Oleyer at Calexico Carne Asada in Brooklyn, via New York Magazine.

    2 cups all-purpose flour
    1 tbsp. baking powder (I recommend aluminum-free Rumford brand baking powder)
    1 tsp. salt
    8 tbsp. (1 stick or 4 ounces) cold butter, diced
    1/2 cup heavy cream (or buttermilk or a combination of the two)
    3 eggs, divided
    1/4 pound good quality sharp Cheddar cheese, diced
    2 small jalapeños, minced

    Preheat oven to 400° F. In a small skillet, melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter and sauté the jalapeños in it until soft, about two minutes. Let them cool, then place them in a small bowl with the cheddar cheese and coat them with one tablespoon of the flour. Combine the remaining flour with the baking powder and salt. Cut in the remaining butter with a pastry blender, fork or two knives, until the butter bits are pea sized.

    Lightly whip two of the eggs and cream and add to the flour-butter mixture. Using a wooden spoon, fold mixture until it begins to come together. Add the cheddar-jalapeño mixture to the dough and mix until everything is incorporated.

    Turn out the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead gently for less than one minute. Pat dough out to a 1-inch thickness and either cut into 8 triangles or the shape of your choice with a biscuit cutter. Make an egg wash by beating the remaining egg with a teaspoon of water. Brush the scones with egg wash and place on a parchment-lined (or well-oiled) baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

    Scones are always best the first day, but re-heat nicely in a toaster oven for a few days.

    Scone tips:

    I like to dice my butter and place the cubes on a small plate, and then place it in the freezer for 15 minutes. Some people prefer to freeze the whole stick and simply grate it into their bowl.

    Handle your dough gently, just patting it into place. Hard kneading or rough-handling will cause dense, tough scones/biscuits.

    This recipe doubles easily if you want to freeze some for later.

    Flash freezing tips:

    These freeze wonderfully. Just place as many as you’d like to freeze on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and place in the freezer for about 30 minutes. Then you’ll be able to pop them off the sheet and bag them in Ziploc freezer bags for baking at a later date. When you’re ready to bake, no need to defrost, just bake at the same temperature and maybe add a few extra minutes.

  3. Karen Shoholm of SMU Integrated Marketing shares this recipe for a simple yet delicious Swedish treat. “I haven’t met anyone yet who doesn’t like this cake,” she says. It’s usually baked in a special pan, available for about $12 at specialty stores such as The Wooden Spoon in Plano. It can also be prepared in an 8-inch square pan – “but this is so much prettier baked in an almond cake pan that you may want to go out and get one,” Shoholm says.

    Scandinavian Almond Cake

    Sliced almonds
    1-1/2 cups sugar
    1 egg
    1-1/2 tsp. pure almond extract
    2/3 cup milk
    1-1/4 cups flour
    1/2 tsp. baking powder
    1 stick margarine, melted
    Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

    Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly coat pan with nonstick cooking spray and sprinkle sliced almonds on the bottom of the pan.

    Combine the sugar, egg, almond extract and milk and beat well. Add the flour and baking powder and combine, then add the melted margarine and mix well. Pour over the sliced almonds in the cake pan.

    Bake at 350° for 50-55 minutes. Edges should be golden brown. Completely cool in the pan before removing. The cake will break if removed too soon.

    Turn the cooled cake onto a serving plate. Sprinkle confectioner’s sugar on top of the cooled cake. Add more almonds, if you like.

    Makes one 12 x 5-inch cake (in almond cake pan) or 8-inch square cake.

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