Let's be honest, fruitcake is a not-always-appreciated holiday tradition.

But at Crossroads Chapel Hill, the signature restaurant at The Carolina Inn, A Destination Hotel on the University of North Carolina campus, Pastry Chef Annika Loureiro has put a unique spin on the festive (sometimes) favorite, turning fruit cake haters into fruit cake lovers.

Coca-Cola is the crucial ingredient in this atypical fruit/spice cake that helps to perfectly balance tangy cherries and the savory flavors of Chinese Five Spice, which typically includes star anise, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and Szechuan pepper.

The cake is something of a happy accident. Loureiro wanted to make a cherry ginger cake to accompany a foie gras dish served at the inn.

“The dry cherries we had were very sour – a tad lacking if you will," she explains.

To remedy this sourness. she recalled a cherry cocktail made with a salted cola reduction, sherry, maraschino cherries, vanilla, rye whiskey and ginger syrup.

In order to create this same flavor profile in the cake, she cleverly reconstituted the dried cherries in Coca-Cola and added a mixture of spices. The resulting recipe is an adaptation of silky banana bread that replaces mashed bananas with reconstituted cherries. Its spicy flavor is sophisticated, and the sweetness of the Coca-Cola adds a touch of nostalgia. The cake's savory notes complement a rich foie gras torchon served at the restaurant.

Follow this recipe below to make it at home... and consider adding a scoop of ice cream.

Cherry Coca-Cola Spice Cake

Cherry Cola Spice Cake

1 teaspoon Chinese five spice

1 teaspoon ginger powder

2 cups dried cherries

2 12-oz. cans of Coca-Cola

1 cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar

5 eggs

1 ¼ cup vegetable oil

½ cup milk

2 ¼ all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare two loaf pans by spraying with non-stick spray and dusting with flour.

Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat, add the ground spices, stir and once fragrant, about three to five seconds, remove from heat and let cool. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and cooled spices. Set aside.

Combine the cherries and Coca-Cola in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until fruit is plump, then blend the fruit and liquid in a blender.

Once this has cooled, measure 1 3/4 cups of puree and add to a mixing bowl. Slowly beat in the cooled spice mixture, sugar and the eggs, one at a time, then the oil and milk.

Once well combined, add the dry ingredients in three parts., scraping down the sides of the bowl before adding each addition of flour.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 30 minutes, or when internal temperature reaches 200 F.

Let cool on a rack before slicing and serving.