BEATRICE, Neb. – For many Americans, it just isn't Christmas time unless they get to enjoy a big slice of fruit cake, and after tasting a succulent slice of Grandma's brand fruitcake at the Beatrice Bakery, I can see why so many people consider fruitcake a cherished holiday tradition.
"I started working here 39 years ago, and our depositer, our mixer is still the same machine that we used back then," said Greg Leech.
Leech is the president and CEO of Beatrice Bakery Company and he says during their regular season, Beatrice Bakery mixes 6,000 pounds, or 3 tons, of dough every day.
"Now we're in the busy season and we're behind, so we're working 10-hour days, so we're making about 7,200 pounds of fruit cake a day," Leech said.
Ripe fancy cherries are an essential ingredient in each and every one of Grandma's fruit & nut cakes, and let's just say the method of making German fruitcakes is tried and true.
"This formula is the same, it's been the same for 100 years, we buy nothing but the best ingredients. It's been done the same way ever since we started making this in the 1960s at this bakery," Leech said.
I guess a century of satisfaction is a pretty good indication that this recipe is a winner.
"There were some German immigrants in 1917 in St. Louis, they were bakers and they ran across this recipe from their grandma's, this fruitcake recipe, so they decided to try it and they baked it for a long time and then we took it over and started baking it ourselves," he said.
Brenda Raymond has worked at Beatrice Bakery for the past 10 years.
"We do really care about our product that we put out, and this is a great group of gals to work with...we have a lot of fun," Raymond said.
"Right now, they're taking the cakes out of the oven to be cooled overnight before we package them tomorrow morning," Leech said.
Leech is positive that these are the best fruitcakes on the market.
"There are a lot of fruitcakes out there that are very cheap, they use cheap ingredients like citron and peel, but we do not do that, we don't cut corners, ours cost a little bit more but it's well worth it," he said.
Over the years, Leech said he's battled negative remarks about fruitcakes.
"The people like Johnny Carson, who didn't help us even though he was from Nebraska, he made a lot of fruitcake jokes, but the funny thing is, every year, his mom, when she was alive, she bought a fruitcake from us," Leech said.
Leech said people are often times surprised how much they enjoy fruitcake.
"We go to a lot of food shows and figure if you try our cake, you'll like it and buy it. It's just getting it in the hands of the people to try is the most important thing," he said.
"Come on down to 5th and Market, stop in our office and buy a fruitcake," Raymond added.
The Beatrice Bakery Company has evolved many times, as they were a locally owned business for the first 40 years, then they were nationally owned for 35 years, but now, Leech is proud to say that the Beatrice Bakery Company has been locally owned again for the past 15 years.