A Christmas Cake

May I introduce (again) Maida Heatter.... The Queen of Desserts. I've bought each of her books the minute they came off the press. I never stop singing her praises because her books are a delight, cover everything you've ever wanted to make AND her attention to detail results in no-fail desserts. Her instructions are amazing and she often relates an interesting background behind each recipe. 

Because of my odd aversion to fruit cake I was thrilled to find this recipe in one of her books a number of years ago. It's basically a Christmas Cake. There's no candied fruit- it's chock full of nuts. And it's drizzled with brandy....a big plus for a Christmas Cake. The only resemblance to fruit cake is the dough before baking- loaded with nuts and not much batter.

When I'm asked to bring a dessert for a large group this time of year I always take Maida's Southern Nut Cake. Which I did last weekend and for three excellent reasons: it's very much a holiday cake and it looks super surrounded with holly; it serves a LOT of people and lastly, you don't need a plate because it's so firm a cake. This year I actually got phone calls from people who wanted to tell me how good it was and wanted the recipe. I've made it for tea at other times of the year by dividing the recipe in half and baking it in a loaf pan but this original recipe fills an angel food cake pan as you can see. Another winner from Maida! You'll love it.

Southern Nut Cake
From Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts


1 pound walnuts (4 ½ cups)
1 pound pecans (4 ½ cups)
3 ½  cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons double acting baking powder
½ teaspoon mace
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup milk
¼ cup brandy or bourbon
¾ pound butter (1 ½ cups), room temperature
2 cups sugar
6 eggs, room temperature
extra brandy or bourbon for the finished cake


Adjust oven rack 1/3 the way up from the bottom. Preheat oven to 325°. Butter a 10 by 4 inch tube pan (like an angel food cake pan). Line the bottom with wax or parchment paper. Butter the paper and dust all over with fine bread crumbs.

Break or cut the nuts into large pieces. They should NOT be finely chopped. Place them in the largest bowl you have.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, mace and salt. Set aside. Combine the milk and brandy or bourbon. Set aside.

In an electric mixer, cream the butter. Add the sugar and beat for a few minutes, scraping the bowl as necessary. On moderate speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating until thoroughly incorporated after each egg and scraping the bowl when necessary to keep everything well mixed. Increase speed and beat until light and fluffy- about 3 minutes. The batter may look curdled at this point- that's OK.

On lowest speed alternately add the sifted dry ingredients in three additions with the milk mixture in two, scraping the bowl as necessary with the spatula and beating only until smooth after each addition.

Pour the batter over the nuts. Stir with a large wooden spoon until the nuts are all coated with the batter. Turn into the prepared pan and level the top.

Bake for 1 ¾ hours or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from the oven and place the cake pan on a rack. Generously sprinkle or brush the brandy or bourbon on top of the hot cake. Let cake cool in the pan for about 20 minutes.

Cover the cake with a rack and invert to remove pan and paper. Cover with another rack and carefully invert again to cool. It's better if it sits for 24 hours before cutting.

Using the cake for a tea: 

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