22 May 2006

Review: Gethsemani Trappist Fruitcake


The cake against which all past and future fruitcakes will be judged. I’ll try to stay objective but I’m disclaiming right now that this is the one I’ve grown up with, the one I look forward to every holiday season, and the one that comes to mind when someone says "fruitcake." It’s also why I don’t have the anti-fruitcake bias—I’ve grown up on good fruitcake. I suppose out of full disclosure I should mention that my brother is a monk and has visited and stayed at this monastery. But he’s Benedictine, not Trappist, and our family had been eating this fruitcake many, many years before he became a monk, so that did not influence my opinion in any way.

The $28, 2.5 pound fruitcake isn’t as pretty as the Collin Street fruitcake; it’s darker and not quite as ornate. It’s got a really nice tin, though—those monks did a good job there. The ingredients are a delight to read, especially after the rather disappointing ingredients included in the Collin Street brand: just about everything on the list you could buy at the grocery store, including the very cute “oleomargarine”—my mother has old recipes calling for “oleo.” The worst things I could see in the ingredients are the ubiquitous food colorings in the fruit and the preservative sodium propionate at the end, but there are quite a few reassuring ingredients listed, like butter, “pure flavorings and spices,” and my favorite: Kentucky bourbon.

And now, the experience. The aroma is of fruit, bourbon, and caramel. The flavor is not overly sweet, and is a combination of vanilla, spices, bourbon, and fruit. As with Collin Street, the cake is dense and moist. There are some pretty large pieces of fruit and nuts (pecans and walnuts) in this cake, so depending on what you’re biting into, you might be tasting one or the other, or the cake itself. There is an overall taste of booze, either the bourbon that the cake is soaked in or the wine that I was surprised to find is part of the recipe. I wouldn’t call it overpowering, but it makes its presence known and adds to the depth of flavors. I’m pretty sure fruitcakes got started back in olden times when you went all out on special occasions and took all your high-end ingredients and combined them. This really tastes like that to me: a very rich experience.

26 comments:

Nancy said...

That sounds yummy, especially the nuts and bourbon. I like the dignified tin much better than the cowboy one on Collins street.

Keep up the good work, let me know if you need any help finishing up this beauty...

Nancy said...

Yum, save me a piece, if you can.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you more than I can properly express. Lea Ann

Judy said...

I love fruitcake! We got used to it and loved it every Christmas. We got it at the PX at the army base where my dad was stationed.

Judy

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for your blog. I am a big fan of **good** fruitcake, and thanks to you, I am ordering one of these fruitcakes for the holidays.

Another fruitcake which I would like to see you review is the fruitcake variety sampler from Bakermaid (carried by Bloomingdale's and other stores). I especially enjoy the apricot and pineapple-macadamia nut varieties. Figis carries something similar (maybe the same thing?).

Keep up the great work!

Isabelle said...

Hi Anonymous, thanks for the tip! Adding it to the (ever-expanding) list . . .

Anonymous said...

Does it have a lot of big whole nuts like Collin Street?

Isabelle said...

Hi Anonymous, my Gethsemani Farm fruitcake has unfortunately been all eaten up (I should get another one for the holidays), but of what I remember, Gethsemani doesn't have any, or a small amount of whole nut garnish on top, and the nuts themselves are, I'd say, about medium.

sharon said...

I'm a fruitcake addict and only just found your site. Based on your recommendations I have ordered myself one and eagerly await it's arrival. I'm drooling already!
Great blog! Keep up the good work........

Terry said...

I grew up loving Dad's fruitcake - my parent's owned a bakery / gift shop during my preteens. The nuts and dried fruit were soaked in a good brandy for a day or two; his recipe called for barely enough "cake" batter to hold each loaf together. Cakes were aged for two months wrapped in brandy soaked cheese cloth without either preservatives or refrigeration. A childhood chore was to periodically remoisten the cheese cloth with a spray bottle filled with brandy. Dad's fruitcake set the standard by which all have been judged for almost sixty years.

This month I discovered Gethsemani’s fruitcake during a trip through Kentucky. Man O Man!! My memory of Dad’s fruitcake almost evaporated when I tasted their fine product!! Different than Dad’s, but equally as good. I will give it as holiday gifts, which I have never considered with other fruitcakes. If you like fruitcake – you may become addicted to Gethsemani Trappist Fruitcake.

Anonymous said...

it's been quite a frustration every Christmastime looking for a good fruitcake in all of my 7 yrs. in the US and I haven't found one I that really liked (in San Diego), they're all too sweet. So I will try your recommendation coz I prefer dark,moist, with that unmistakable taste of liqueur, fruitcake. Can't wait to try this!

Anonymous said...

Every year around this time I absolutely crave fruitcake and every year I end up buying some mass produced awfulness from the grocery store. I have been dying to find a decent fruitcake and based on your post and the subsequent comments, I decided to try the Gethsemani fruitcake. I was afraid it would be too alcohol-y but decided to throw caution to the wind and am so glad I did! It is absolutely delicious! I have been slowly devouring the 20oz cake I bought and am planning on going back to buy more. Thank you so much for posting this and solving my fruitcake dilemma!

Mark said...

This is the second year I'm ordering from them. Nothing, NOTHING beats their fruitcake!

I also order their other products...bourbon fudge and aged cheese.

God bless these monks!

GregLee said...

You might be interested in this NY Times article from 1988 on the Gethsemani monastery and fruitcake making.

Craig Windt said...

I have just ordered my first fruit cake ever and I've decided to to with the Gethsemani cake. I can't wait to get it, although I have to wait for Christmas!

Isabelle said...

Congratulations Craig! I hope you won't be disappointed--I never am with the Gethsemani cake.

Joan said...

I also grew up getting a Gethsemani farm fruit cake every Christmas. As a child I love it toasted for breakfast with butter on it....memories!

Anonymous said...

I am trying this one for my family. Hope it goes over well, sure sounds good! Thanks for this site, very helpful!!

Craig Windt said...

I received my fruitcake today. I was planning on waiting until Christmas to break into it, but couldn't wait. I am amazed at how good it is! What have I been missing all of these years?? I will certainly order more in the future. (Oh, and I think I got a little drunk from eating my tiny slice - lol.)

Anonymous said...

What went wrong. I just got my fruit cake from the monks and it is full of artificial everything. Looking at the label makes me want to gag.

Miguel said...

After reading this post I ordered 2 1/2 lb Kentucky Bourbon Fruitcake, update on the price, now on Sep 2011 the price is $37.75, it ships for free. Great post thanks!

Isabelle said...

Thanks for the update, Miguel!

Anonymous said...

Gethsemani price update for September, 2012: $39.50 for a 2 1/2 lb. fruitcake; shipping included.

Julanar said...

Does anyone know of a place/website where I can get just one of the smaller (20 oz.) version? I noticed on the Gethsemani website that you can only buy three or six at a time.

Isabelle said...

Julanar, looks like you can only buy a single if you combine it with something else. Look at the "combinations" section of the website. I recommend the Bourbon fudge, it's deliciously heavy on Bourbon.

Jim said...

The very best, and I've had some great cake