23 October 2006

Review: Swiss Colony Fruit Cake Medley

The Swiss Colony Fruit Cake Medley consists of three different variations on fruitcake: the Butter Rum fruitcake, the Macadamia Nut fruitcake, and the Original fruitcake. The set of three, half-pound fruitcakes costs $30.95, $41.18 including shipping for me. This puts these fruitcakes into the pricier range, but if you purchase just one type—the traditional, for example—the prices are competitive, with 1.25 pound fruitcakes starting at about $19. Shown at right, left to right: butter rum, macadamia nut, traditional.

The ingredients for these cakes are the poorest of any I’ve reviewed so far, with many surprising entries that lead me to believe these recipes have been touched by food technologists. The most bizarre ingredient by far: turnips. Both the butter rum and the original have turnips in them. And to think people are afraid of citron.

Additional ingredients that make me sad are things like corn syrup, invert sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavor, and turmeric. Turmeric is just weird—I’m guessing for color or possibly preservative properties. I did actually e-mail the Friendly Fruitcake Expert for some explanation for these unlikely ingredients, but so far, no word. To the good, the butter rum cake did feature butter quite high up on the list. The macadamia nut cake had (one would hope) macadamia nuts, but also included apricot kernels, I’m guessing to give it a bit of an almond flavor, which it did have. The original fruitcake, being a darker, more traditional fruitcake, had brown sugar, butter, and citron on its list—the other two were citron-free, focusing more on cherries and pineapple (and turnip).

As for flavor: eh. The butter rum had a sweet, pineapple upside-down cake and cherry flavor. There is actually rum in the butter rum, which does give it a bit of depth of flavor, but it’s very faint.

The macadamia nut cake is tasty and reminds me of the pineapple cakes that I’ve sometimes had from Chinese or Taiwanese bakeries. The dough is very un-fruitcake like; instead, it’s more like shortbread, very light in color and crumbly. The cake has got an almond, syrupy, fruity flavor, and the macadamia nuts give it a nice nutty flavor and bite. This is a good tasting cake, but it really isn’t a traditional fruitcake.

The traditional fruitcake uses smaller chunks of fruit than those in the butter rum. Walnuts and pecans both appear higher in the ingredients list here and are noticeable—you can smell and taste the nuts. There is a sweet caramel scent to this cake, more of that praline or burnt sugar flavor, probably from the brown sugar in the ingredients. However, the flavor in general resembles that of a light fruitcake rather than the dark, liquor-infused cakes. I wonder, frankly, how much turnip I taste.

The presentation of these three fruitcakes was mighty cute, I have to say. These definitely had brighter color fruit and batter than the monastery fruitcakes, but were not as intensely pecan-filled as the Collins Street fruitcake. I’d choose the macadamia nut cake as something different, but the other two were pretty mediocre—once again, I can see where people get their biased opinions of fruitcake. For the quality of ingredients I’m getting, I’d prefer to spend my turnips on something other than turnips.

Cryer Creek = Collin Street

I recently received a brochure from Cryer Creek Kitchens. With angst I turned the page to see that they, also have a fruitcake. Really, people, this is a fruitcake blog and all, but fruitcake is kind of RICH and I already have a long list to cover before the holidays are upon us. Now another one was on my doorstep?

I learned upon further perusal that Cryer Creek Kitchens is another brand of Collin Street, whose fruitcake I reviewed here. Ever the investigative reporter, I got positive confirmation from their customer service that "The Fruitcake is the same, as they are prepared at the same Bakery." (capitalizations theirs)

I don't understand why they have two different brands--customer service didn't go into that. They seem to have quite an overlap between products, and I'm assuming much if not all is prepared at Collin Street. I'm not a marketing person, so I won't presume to guess. But rest assured, people, that you need not purchase one fruitcake from both places. They are Both from the Same Place.

P.S. I received the Swiss Colony fruitcakes, and I'm so surprised and excited to share the unusual ingredients I found in them--they're good, and good FOR you!! Review to come soon.

17 October 2006

Gee, I wasn't the first person to have a fruitcake blog

Imagine that (jaded sigh, insouciant drag from a long dangling cigarette, bored look), I wasn't the first to come up with something. I am the queen of mediocrity, it seems. Another fruitcake blog exists and existed before me. And it actually is pretty good--I learned a thing or two, particularly the idea that there are two main types of fruitcake (see link below).

The Fruitcake Zone: What Exactly Are We Talking About?

Having known this before, perhaps I would have given the Collin Street fruitcake a better review. Or maybe not. Perhaps I'm just not as keen on the lighter type of fruitcake.

I'm definitely learning more about fruitcakes as I try each one. In hindsight, although the Collin street cake is still not my favorite, it still is a very nice cake made with ingredients that are (mostly) of fine quality.

16 October 2006

To all you future postal workers out there--be nice to fruitcake lovers!!

Don't mess with the generosity of fruitcake makers. Read about Lucille Greene, who attempted to sue a post office for an employee being "less than courteous" to her as she attempted to mail fruitcakes. Even the lowly fruitcake has fallen victim to the heightened security after 9/11. Not sure how long this will be posted on the Internet, but do things ever really die on the Web?

09 October 2006

They love fruitcake!!

Next fruitcake(s) on the agenda are The Swiss Colony. They own the URL Ilovefruitcake.com. When I googled fruitcake, that site came up as a Google ad. I clicked it and got a page not found error. I think this does not bode well for their fruitcake. Still, the site is cute, although very small. They have a few t-shirts, some kind of group you can sign up for (I just did, but have no clue what I'll be getting), and even an "ask the fruitcake expert" link. I'll need to try that, because the "expert" runs the bakery there so, if he (Art Barsch) indeed is who he is described as being, he could give some great information on the fruitcake creation process.

I ordered the fruitcake medley, which includes three different types of fruitcakes: the original, macadamia nut, and Butter Rum. It does not include the chocolate fruitcake. The idea of a chocolate fruitcake turns my stomach, but I will reserve judgement until such time that I actually get to taste it--after all, how does that differ from the Fraters that I was so interested in trying?