cakeThe combination of chocolate and cherries is always a delicious favorite. This is an easy recipe to whip up and topped off with an amazing chocolate frosting, it’s sure to be a Go-To recipe!

1 package Devil’s Food cake mix
2 ¾ cup homemade cherry pie filling (or 1 21oz can cherry pie filling)
3 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup milk
6 tablespoons butter (use real butter for best results)
1 heaping cup Dark Chocolate chips
¼ teaspoon almond extract
Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 13×9” baking dish (you can make this recipe into bars by using a 15x10x1” baking pan).
In a large bowl, combine cake mix, pie filling, beaten eggs and extract. Stir until well blended. Pour into the prepared pan.
Bake at 350 for 30 – 35 minutes, (bake 25 – 30 minutes for bars) or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cool on wire rack while making frosting.
Frosting; in a small saucepan, combine sugar, milk and butter. Bring mixture to a boil and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips and extract until smooth. Pour and spread over warm cake. Enjoy!

Friday five favorites

It is getting beautiful in Leelanau County.  Fall is in the air, and the leaves are changing colors.  We’ve had a great week at Leelanau Fruit Company, and we’d like to share some of our “favorites” that have made us happy this week.  Enjoy!

By Renee Spaulding

1.       Sporting Event – MSU vs. UOM…..I am a diehard MSU fan and love college football.  I look forward to this game every year.  Check out this article on the importance of this game to the MSU organization.

2.       Favorite Pandora Station – Hip Hop BBQ…do yourself a favor and check it out if you miss this type of music from the 90’s and early 2000’s.  It pumps me when running and brings back great memories!

3.       Favorite place to watch the sunset in Leelanau County – Pyramid Point.  This is located in the National Park and allows you to get in a nice hike with a beautiful view as a bonus.  Check out this link for additional information on it.

4.       Favorite Fall Treat – Pumpkin donut from Chimoski’s Bakery in Suttons Bay.  If you haven’t been here you have to check them out….if a donut isn’t your thing don’t worry, Tina and the girls have all sorts of yummy treats waiting for you.  If you don’t like pumpkin, I would recommend trying something with cherries in it!

5.       Favorite Place to go on a Boat – Elk Rapids Sand Bar – If you have never been it is worth the boat ride… well, pretty much everywhere you go on a boat is pretty amazing in this area.  This sandbar offers crystal clear water and a smooth sandy bottom for hours of fun in the sun 🙂

A Fall Festival Celebrating… Maraschino Cherries?


The second weekend of October may have been the nicest fall weekend Northern Michigan has experienced in years. Blue skies, bright sunshine, and 70 degree temps encouraged people to get outside and celebrate fall. Apples, pumpkins, wine, color tours. Fall festival season was in full swing.


That Saturday, the team at Leelanau Fruit Company put on our own Fall Festival of sorts. We were honored to open our Buckley plant to US Senator Gary Peters. Senator Peters is in his first term in the Senate, and he has spent significant time in the Traverse City area getting to know our communities, our people, and our businesses.


We invited several local businesspeople to share their stories and meet Mr. Peters. We served a lunch that revolved around cherries and the businesses we partner with. Pleva International grilled their signature cherry-blended Plevalean burgers. We served Great Lakes Potato Chip Company’s Cherry Barbecue chip, which is made with real cherries! Our beverage of choice was cherry juice, mixed with our own cherry concentrate. Dessert was Moomer’s Cherries Moobilee ice cream, which features our ice cream cherries, topped with one of our stem-on cocktail cherries.


I’ve had many chances to work with legislators on many issues. I’ve always felt it’s best to reinforce the message with a personal story. We reinforced our message with food. How can it get any better than that!


This meeting was a great opportunity for us as industry leaders to give Senator Peters some background on the complexities of the cherry industry. We highlighted some ways we believe we can grow the industry, strengthening Michigan’s farms and value-added processors. Senator Peters asked thoughtful questions and is excited to support the industry in those goals.


We toured the plant, showing the Senator and other guests our processes. We talked about our 150 kW solar array, how that installation allowed us to control some of our high energy costs. And of course, we gave the Senator a piece of fruitcake, featuring our fruit mix, on a to-go plate!


Our team at LFC enjoyed hosting the tour. We are passionate about the cherry industry and are proud of our place in it. For us, it is fun to share that passion and excitement with policy makers, local businesspeople, and the community.


Friday Five Favorites- October 9

Welcome to the October 9th edition of our Friday Five Favorites! It has been a busy week for Leelanau Fruit Company. We have been processing turnips (yes, turnips!), packing glace fruit mixes, and prepping for a plant tour. We’d like to share some of our favorites from this week. So, without further adieu, here are our Five Friday Favorites.

By Ben LaCross

1. Music that made me smile this week: I heard Michael Jackson’s “Black or white” on the radio this week and was reminded of some of the incredible songs that guy put out. His personal controversy aside, Jacko could make music with the best of them.
2. Must-read blog post: Ok, this one is going to be a little self-serving, but Leelanau County is beginning to show signs of peak fall color, and we had fun writing this piece. Check out “A locals Top 10 reasons why M-22 is the best road for color tours” here:
3. Must-read post that we didn’t write: The Livestrong website posted this very informative article about cherries. We love that others love our fruit as much as we do!
4. Sporting event we are excited for: Michigan State vs. Rutgers, Saturday night, 8pm. Not only are we excited that MSU is 5-0, we have several members of the extended Leelanau Fruit family who will attend the game in New Jersey.
5. Speaking of New Jersey: The reason why our LFC family is in New Jersey is because Glenn and Judy LaCross’s daughter, Maria, married a great guy who is in the Coast Guard. A helicopter pilot, Jim is based out of U. S. Coast Guard Station Atlantic City. Check out their Facebook page here:
So there you have it. Do you like this blog feature? Let us know! We love to hear your feedback. And as always, if you like what we are doing, share our stuff on Facebook.

A local’s top 10 reasons why M-22 is the best road for color tours


The road in front of our Suttons Bay plant is M-22. This stretch of two-lane highway is renown for its beauty, as it twists along the coast of Leelanau County. Recently, the USA Today and 10Best ranked M-22 as the nation’s most scenic autumn drive. Check it out here ( Once again, Leelanau County tops a list of the most beautiful places in the country.

As local county residents, we love the fact that so many people want to enjoy their vacation in our backyard. Yes, the traffic gets bad, and it’s challenging to get around our sleepy little towns sometimes. But we love to share our county with others. We are proud of it.

And so, with the peak color season coming somewhere between October 10 and the 25, we’d like to share with you our top 10 reasons why M-22 is the best road for color tours.

  1. Water. You are surrounded by it while driving. It’s beautiful. It’s fresh. And it provides a background to all the memories you’ll make while driving around Leelanau County.
  1. No stoplights. Once you enter LC, you will not encounter another 3-light stop light until you leave LC. Life is slower here (unless you work and live here, then you hustle like crazy. Summer only lasts a minute or two).
  1. Orchards are everywhere. And as a company who relies on those orchards, we couldn’t be happier.
  1. Wineries, cider houses, and breweries. Around every twist of M-22, you are bound to run into a great winery, cider house, or brewery crafting award-winning beverages. Try Good Harbor Vineyards, one of our favorites.
  1. Fishtown. Spend some time in Leland’s historic fishing village. The shops and galleries are one of a kind, as is the location.
  1. The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Hike the dune climb, explore Pyramid Point, or search for Petoskey stones at Glen Haven. It’s the best. You won’t want to leave.
  1. Go off the beaten path. While everyone else will be driving M-22, explore LC like a local. Go to Cedar and have a Polish Dog. Eat some Indian Food at NJ’s in Lake Leelanau. Drive the back roads in Maple City, taking in some of the best views you’ll ever see.
  1. M-22 towns. Suttons Bay, Omena, Northport, Leland, Glen Arbor, and Empire. If they don’t have it, you don’t need it.
  1. Good Harbor. Go there for a sunset. Preferably when there are a few clouds in the western sky. It is incredible.
  1. Stop into Leelanau Fruit and buy some fruit products like a local! Fill up on all your Leelanau County souveniers like cherry concentrate, dried cherries, chocolate covered cherries, and Leelanau Fruit swag. And mention you read about us on our blog for a freebie!


Christmas in September

Chocolate doughnut decorated with Leelanau Fruit Company Maraschino Cocktail Cherries.

Chocolate doughnut decorated with Leelanau Fruit Company Maraschino Cocktail Cherries.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! I’m dreaming of a white Christmas. Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way!

Why are we singing holiday songs in September? It’s just past Labor Day! We have over 85 days until Christmas. What’s going on here?

No, we are not trying to get a jump on the major retailers who start advertising Christmas shopping at the beginning of college football season. We are ramping up our production of Glacé fruit mixes for holiday fruitcakes! For us, it’s glacé season!

What is glacé fruit, you might ask? Well, you can click above on the wholesale tab to navigate to our glacé fruit page. For those of you who’d prefer a Cliffs Notes intro to glacé fruit, here you go:

Glacé is the French word for glazed, and refers to fruits that are preserved in a sugar syrup. Glacé fruit can be used in cakes, breads and other sweets, or used to decorate cakes. Traditionally these fruits are used during the Christmas holiday season in fruitcakes.

Glacé fruit, also known as candied fruit, has existed since the 14th century. Whole fruit, pieces, and peels of fruits are placed in heated sugar syrup. The fruit absorbs the moisture from within and the sugar syrup eventually preserves the fruit. Depending on the size and type of fruit this process can take anywhere from several days up to a month.

LFC  glacé mixes include our cherries, along with pineapple, orange and lemon peel, and turnips. These mixes will be delivered to select bakeries throughout the United States and Canada in the next couple months, who will use them as ingredients in traditional holiday fruitcakes!

Since we began producing fruitcake mixes in 2012, we have become fans of the delectable holiday treat. And no, not just because we make the mix.  Bakeries are doing incredible things with fruitcake, and let us tell you, they are delicious.

lfc booth pic

Last week, Renee and Ben traveled to Toronto, Canada, to participate in a bakery supply showcase dubbed “Christmas in September.”  This show was a great opportunity for us to interact directly with the bakers who use our glacé mixes in their bakeries.  It was a rewarding experience to hear people come up to our booth and tell us how much they love our products.

table pic

As we get closer to the holiday season, we will post a recipe for you to use our mixes and make a holiday fruitcake for yourself. Don’t want to bake? I don’t blame you! If you have a Costco store nearby, try one of their bakery fruitcakes. Chances are the fruit mix came from our Buckley plant- and it all began with a cherry!

Merry Christmas- in September!

Hello, Governor Snyder!

From left, Renee Spaulding, Al Steimel, Governor Rick Snyder, Glenn LaCross, Gary Swenson,  and Ben LaCross

Cherry harvest is a time of year when our other life activities must get put on hold. Our fruit is so perishable, we work 24/7 to harvest, deliver, and pack the best cherries to be processed into maraschino cherries, ice cream cherries, frozen tart cherries, and cherry concentrate.

Many times that means we must decline invitations to great summertime events with our non-cherry family and friends. But sometimes, we must take a few moments, break our routine, and do things that become special memories for us.

Ben received a call one evening during harvest from a man named Mike. Mike’s friend, Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan, was vacationing in Leland, and they wondered where they could get some tart cherries. Ben has had the opportunity to get to know the Governor over the past 4 years, and so we invited the whole group of vacationers, Governor and all, to tour our plant the next day.

Governor Snyder has had a great impact on the state of Michigan since he took office in 2012. His first piece of legislation signed into law was the Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program, a law that allows farmers to verify they are using best practices and improving their environmental stewardship. For a Governor who comes from a tech background, Governor Snyder appreciates the value of agriculture and value added processing in our state.

The Governor had never been inside a cherry processing plant before. He was amazed at the laser sorting equipment, our pitters, and the technology involved in our process. We talked to him about our workforce, how challenging it is to hire 75-100 employees for 4 weeks in the summer. He asked questions, ate cherries fresh from the orchard, and got a firsthand look into our business.

Governor Snyder inspects a tank of tart cherries fresh from the orchard.

Governor Snyder inspects a tank of tart cherries fresh from the orchard.

Mike, the governor’s friend, runs a large bread business.  Mike and his wife, Stacey, were very interested our techniques and processes.  We were proud to give them a deeper appreciation for the cherry industry.

Governor Snyder and friends left that day with cherry pie from Chimoski’s Bakery, plenty of cherry concentrate, dried cherries, and maraschino cherries. We made sure they took plenty of fresh, pitted tart cherries right off the pitting line. We stocked them up with LFC logo gear.

But the most important thing we gave the tour group was an experience. When the Governor thinks about cherries, I have no doubt, he will think about Leelanau Fruit Company!


Glenn LaCross, Governor Rick Snyder, and Ben LaCross in front of the Leelanau Fruit plant.

Glenn LaCross, Governor Rick Snyder, and Ben LaCross in front of the Leelanau Fruit plant.

LFC Blog first post

Welcome to the inaugural blog post for Leelanau Fruit Company! We are excited to launch our new website, and we hope this blog will be a great resource for consumers, our customers, and the general public. It is our goal to post regularly, most often on Tuesdays. The best way to make sure you don’t miss any of our posts is to “like” Leelanau Fruit Company on Facebook. We will provide a link to the newest blog posts there.

So what can you expect to read about in this blog? We plan to post about the latest happenings at our company, our farms, and in the cherry industry. It all begins with a cherry, and the cherry will be the foundation of our blog.

We see this as a space for you to get to know us better as a company. We will profile the people who make up LFC, share recipes for how you can use our products, highlight some of the food items that contain LFC fruit products, and link to articles with great information about cherries.

I’m Ben, the farmer, and you can read my bio in the “Our Team” section. I will be writing much of this blog, because when I am tending our orchards at 3 miles per hour in a tractor, I have quite a bit of time to think of things to write! Misha Hunter is our resident chef and baker extraordinaire, and she will provide most of the recipes you can use at home using our products. The recipes will be test-baked in her kitchen and taste-tested by all of us, so you can trust they’ll be delicious!

But please, feel free to give feedback on the blog. If there is something you’d like to learn more about, ask a question in the comments section or email me at We’d love to hear from you!

In the meantime, share our company page with your friends on Facebook. We are excited to tell you the story about how the beautiful cherries- grown in our orchards- become maraschinos, ice cream cherries, and glace fruit.