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Local flavor for the season
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Local flavor for the season

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In the midst of its busy season, Beatrice Bakery Co. is gearing up for the holidays by preparing its most popular item, Grandma’s Original Fruitcakes.

The production begins in February, CEO Greg Leech explained.

“Fruitcakes get better with age,” he said with a smile.

The company ships nearly 700,000 pounds of fruitcake a year. Of that, 90 percent is for the holiday season.

The bakery's popular confection got its start in 1917 when two German immigrants built a bakery in St. Louis and began producing Grandma’s Fruitcakes.

By the 1960s they were looking to retire and give the recipe to a company in the Midwest.

“The found this company and trusted it to continue the Fruitcakes and to never change the recipe,” Leech said. “The recipe hasn’t changed since.”

The company is known nationwide for its fruitcake. It's been featured on the Food Network and A&E Biography.

Locally, the bakery on South Fifth Street keeps busy by getting orders out and taking care of wholesale and retail customers.

Customers can come in and purchase a variety of available pastries. The bakery's product can also be purchased locally at Heartland Foods and Dee’s Hallmark.

Grandma’s Fruit and Nut cake is the most popular of the bakery's fruitcake varieties, Leech said.

He explained the product is made until lunchtime, then after lunch the bakery focuses on packaging yesterday’s product.

“Product is never packaged the same day due to letting it naturally cool,” he explained.

A typical batch is anywhere between 550 to 600 pounds, made primarily from three types of fruits and three types of nuts.

“Only liquid we use is brandy/bourbon rum,” he said. “That’s why it gets better with age.”

Fruit makes up 60 percent of the ingredients. Cherries, pineapple and raisins are the fruits used in the batter. Pecans, almonds and walnuts are the nuts utilized.

Eggs amount to only 8 percent of the batter; however, that amounts to 9,000 pounds of eggs a month.

“Each items varies from formula to formula,” Leech explained.

During the holiday season, extra employees are hired to help take orders.

“It seems to get bigger every year,” Leech said.

The company has five different sizes of fruitcakes ranging from 3 ounces to 5 pounds.

During production, every cake is hand-topped, Leech said. The workers smooth out the cakes and get them ready to go in the oven.

About 140 racks are placed in the oven at a time -- that’s just one batch.

During the holiday’s the company produces about nine batches per day. That averages about 5,400 pounds of fruitcake per day.

The bakery operates five days a week, 10 hours a day during holiday season, Leech said.

The bakery will be open 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. the first three Saturdays in December.

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