The Scotts have created a recipe for success with Southern Supreme Fruitcakes.
When Berta Lou Scott was a little girl in the 1930s, she loved all the things her mother baked for Christmas except fruitcake. Too dry, too full of candied stuff, not enough nuts. Today, Berta Lou is North Carolina’s shortcake queen.
Yes, we know, many of you think you don’t like this dessert, but that means you haven’t tried Southern Supreme Fruitcake. It’s not made like any other version, and it doesn’t taste like the others either. The cake part is moist with a caramel flavor and has a lot more nuts than fruit.
Berta Lou’s family (which includes two of her four children and three of her spouses, plus a good number of her eight grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren) have turned fruitcakes into a booming business. The Scotts send them all over the country and all over the world, even to France. People come by the thousands to Southern Supreme’s factory and retail store in Bear Creek, North Carolina, which is no easy journey. It is located on a long country road, 10 miles southeast of Siler City and 49 miles from Raleigh-Durham International Airport. If you can’t make the trip, the pies are sold at The Fresh Market during the holiday season, at some specialty stores, and by mail order. Her son Randy Scott says: “When we started, we sold them out of Mom’s living room. You can’t plan this. It just evolves.”
Berta Lou was 17 years old when she married her late husband, Hoyt Scott, who spent his entire life in three houses less than a mile from his factory on the stretch of pavement that bears his name, Hoyt Scott Road, in Bear Creek. She was “a foreigner,” her family jokes: she grew up 3 or 4 miles away. They raised her children (Randy, Ricky, Belinda and Sandy) on Hoyt Scott Road.
Hoyt worked for a company that made iron stoves, while Berta Lou set up a beauty salon in her garage, where she cut and styled women’s hair for 30 years.
She always loved to bake Christmas treats. One year, she stumbled upon a passing recipe for an unusual fruitcake. Instead of the typical method (bake a dry, dense cake and then moisten it with scotch), the batter was mixed in a large pan and slowly baked and stirred every 15 minutes or so, forming a hot, moist dough that was compressed. in smaller pieces. pans to cool. The technique is a distant cousin of British Christmas desserts, which are steamed rather than baked.
Berta Lou adapted the idea, removing the things she didn’t like (candied citron and lots of neon red and green cherries) and adding more nuts along with dates and golden raisins. “I just put some cherries to make it pretty. It never dried up,” she recalls.
He started giving fruit cakes to his customers. Soon enough, they were begging him to sell them. Since Berta Lou’s garage was full of salons, her daughter Belinda Jordan offered hers as a bakery. Berta Lou and two of her helpers made 100 pounds of cakes a day, loaded them into a pickup truck, and delivered them to the Scott house. The whole family would spend the night wrapping and labeling them.
Because they were so far out in the country, they began going to Christmas shows to find customers, particularly the Great Southern Christmas Show in Charlotte. Randy remembers how difficult it was to get someone to try even one sample. As soon as they heard “fruitcake” people would walk away. “We would have to stand in the hallway and beg them to try it,” he says. Those who took a bite walked away and immediately returned, stunned by a fruitcake that didn’t taste like fruitcake.
recipe for success
After five years of that, people started coming to Bear Creek for the pies. Hoyt built a small factory with a window where visitors could see the bakery and a small store in front. The Scotts began adding more products: jams and jellies, pecan crisps and candies, fruitcake cookies, and flower-shaped cheesecakes. The factory and store continued to grow.
“We keep adding,” says Randy, who has spent his career in the lumber business, from flooring to sawmills. “I have rebuilt this building several times.”
Today, visitors crowd into a sunny front room that’s lined with chairs and benches and pick up a sampler platter from the tasting room. He has a small rectangle of fruitcake, a couple of chocolate covered nuts, a cheese cracker, and two small cups of strawberry jam and pepper jam. They then sign up for a tour, which ends at the Christmas store, a bustling place packed with more Christmas paraphernalia than Santa’s workshop. It features decorations, plates and trays, shelves of fruit butters and jams, tables covered in candy, and a whole wall of fruit cakes, from tiny 8-ounce rectangles to 4 1⁄2-pound tube cakes in decorative tins.
The tour takes visitors along a horseshoe-shaped path that passes five kitchens: the Brittle Kitchen, the Chocolate Kitchen, the Nut Kitchen (becomes the Jam and Jelly Kitchen in the summer, producing 22,000 jars a year). year), the cookie kitchen, and the big one: the fruitcake kitchen. That’s where they make 3,000 pounds of fruitcake a day in the high season, starting at 5:30 am. They prepare 300 pounds of dough at a time, adding 95 pounds of nuts and walnuts. The dough is so thick they can’t use the Hobart industrial mixers found in most bakeries. “We had to go to Yankee land to get a bagel mixer,” Randy says. (Refers to New York).
The dough is rolled out into large molds and placed on shelves in a rotary oven. Each shelf reaches the top every 15 minutes; then the workers stir and turn the dough. When it’s ready, the steaming dough pans are tipped onto a steel table Randy invented. Underneath, water circulates at 38 degrees to cool the surface. Workers wearing multiple layers of gloves to protect their hands weigh portions of hot dough, load it onto racks of metal pans in various sizes and shapes, then slide the racks under the table. From the bottom, a hydraulic press rises that pushes the dough into the moulds. The pans slide back and fall out, leaving perfect cakes. Randy got the idea for hydraulics from his days at the sawmill.
“You don’t just go online and order a fruitcake press,” he says. Finally, the cakes are cooled, glazed, and decorated with candied cherries and candied pineapple chunks. They will stay fresh for months without drying out. (Officially, Southern Supreme recommends six months, but Randy says it will last at least a year in the fridge.)
Berta Lou still comes to the store every day during the holiday season, often standing for hours at checkout counters, carefully wrapping purchases and stuffing them into gold-and-white striped bags. “I asked the Lord to send us clients, so I’ll take it,” she says. “This is our Christmas, we will rest a lot after that.”
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