How This North Carolina Family Changed People's Minds About Fruitcake

The Scotts have created a recipe for success with Southern Supreme fruitcakes.

From left: Gail Scott, Wayne Jordan, Randy Scott, Belinda Jordan, the late Hoyt Scott, Berta Lou Scott, and Lisa Scott
From left: Gail Scott, Wayne Jordan, Randy Scott, Belinda Jordan, the late Hoyt Scott, Berta Lou Scott, and Lisa Scott. Photo:


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 filled with candied things, not enough nuts. Today, Berta Lou is North Carolina’s queen of fruitcake.

Yes, we know—a lot of you think you don’t like this dessert, but that means you haven’t had 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 caramelized flavor, and it has a lot more nuts than fruit.

Hands arrange fruits on fruitcake at Southern Supreme


Berta Lou’s family (including two of her four children and three of their spouses, plus a good number of her eight grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren) has turned fruitcakes into a booming business. The Scotts ship them all over the country and across the globe, even to France. People come by the thousands to the Southern Supreme factory and retail shop in Bear Creek, North Carolina, which isn’t an easy journey. It’s down 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 cakes are carried 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 Mama’s living room. You can’t plan this. It just evolves.”

The Southern Supreme Fruitcake


Berta Lou was 17 when she married her late husband, Hoyt Scott, who spent all his life in three houses within a mile or so of their factory on the stretch of pavement named for him, Hoyt Scott Road, in Bear Creek. She was “a foreigner,” her family jokes: She grew up 3 or 4 miles away. They raised their kids (Randy, Ricky, Belinda, and Sandy) on Hoyt Scott Road.

Hoyt worked for a company making iron stoves, while Berta Lou set up a beauty salon in their garage, where she cut and styled women’s hair for 30 years.

Southern Supreme Fruitcake in traditional packaging
Southern Supreme's fruitcakes are available by mail and range from 8 ounces ($8.50) to the whopping 4 1/2-pound version ($54).


She always loved to bake Christmas treats. One year, she stumbled across a pass-along recipe for an unusual fruitcake. Instead of the typical method (baking a dense, dry cake and then moistening it with whiskey), the batter was mixed in a big pan and baked slowly and stirred every 15 minutes or so, making a moist, hot dough that was pressed into smaller pans to cool. The technique is a distant cousin to British Christmas puddings, which are steamed instead of baked.

Berta Lou adapted the idea, taking out the things she didn’t like (candied citron and lots of neon green and red cherries) and adding more nuts along with dates and golden raisins. “I just put a few cherries in to make it pretty. It never dried out,” she remembers.

Fruit Cake lay atop decorated table
Unlike many fruitcakes, Southern Supreme's is chewy and moist and heavy on the walnuts and pecans.


She started giving the fruitcakes to her customers. Pretty soon, they were begging her to sell them. Since Berta Lou’s garage was full with the salon, her daughter Belinda Jordan offered up hers as a bakery. Berta Lou and two helpers would make 100 pounds of cakes a day, load them in a pickup truck, and drive them to the Scotts’ house. The whole family would spend the evening wrapping and labeling them.

Because they were so far out in the country, they started going to Christmas shows to find customers, particularly the big Southern Christmas Show in Charlotte. Randy remembers how hard it was to get anyone to even try a sample. As soon as they heard “fruitcake,” people would walk away. “We would have to stand in the aisle and beg them to taste it,” he says. Those who did take a bite would walk away—and come right back, stunned by a fruitcake that didn’t taste like fruitcake.

Recipe for Success

After five years of that, people started coming to Bear Creek to find the cakes. Hoyt built a little factory with a window where visitors could see the baking and a small shop in front. The Scotts started adding more products: jams and jellies, nut brittles and candies, fruitcake cookies, and flower shaped cheese crackers. The factory and the store continued growing.

“We keep adding on,” says Randy, who spent his career in the lumber business, from flooring to sawmills. “I’ve rebuilt this building several times.”

Today, visitors crowd into a sunny room at the front that’s lined with chairs and benches and pick up a sample plate from the tasting room. It has a small rectangle of fruitcake, a couple of chocolate-covered nuts, a cheese cracker, and two small cups of strawberry jelly and pepper jelly. They then sign up for a tour, which ends in the Christmas store, a bustling place jammed with more holiday paraphernalia than Santa’s workshop. It features decorations, plates and trays, shelves of fruit butters and jams, tables covered with candies, and a whole wall of fruitcakes—from small 8-ounce rectangles to 4 1⁄2-pound tube cakes in decorative tins.

Supreme Fruitcake decorated tins


The tour takes visitors in a horseshoe-shaped path past five kitchens—the brittle kitchen, the chocolate kitchen, the nut kitchen (it becomes the jam-and-jelly kitchen in the summer, turning out 22,000 jars a 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 busy season, starting at 5:30 a.m. They prepare 300 pounds of batter at a time, adding 95 pounds of pecans and walnuts. The batter is so thick that they can’t use the industrial Hobart mixers found in most bakeries. “We had to go to Yankee land to get a bagel mixer,” Randy says. (He means New York.)

The batter is spread in big pans and placed on shelves in a rotating oven. Each shelf comes to the top every 15 minutes; then workers stir and turn the dough. When it’s ready, the pans of steaming dough are dumped on a steel table that Randy invented. Under it, 38-degree water circulates to cool the surface. Workers wearing several layers of gloves to protect their hands weigh out portions of hot dough, load it into shelves of metal molds in different sizes and shapes, and then slide the shelves under the table. From the bottom, a hydraulic press rises, pushing the dough into the molds. The molds slide back and drop down, leaving perfect cakes. Randy got the idea for the hydraulics from his sawmill days.

“You don’t just go online and order a fruitcake press,” he says. Finally, the cakes are chilled, glazed, and decorated with candied cherries and pieces of candied pineapple. They will stay fresh for months without drying out. (Officially, Southern Supreme recommends six months, but Randy says it will keep at least a year in the refrigerator.)

Berta Lou still comes to the shop every day during the holiday season, often standing for hours at the checkout counters, carefully wrapping purchases and tucking them into gold-and-white striped bags. “I asked the Lord to send us customers, so I’ll take it,” she says. “This is our Christmas—we get a lot of rest after that.”

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