20 November 2006

'Tis the gladsome fruitcake season!

How quickly it arrives! Here we are, the week before Thanksgiving, when people's thoughts are on food of all kinds but especially the fruitcake. I suppose now I'm going to be competing for the attentions of the fruitcake manufacturers--those who would have been so surprised by my orders back in July, why, now, I'm just another customer to them.

I'll try to get to at least one more fruitcake--I'm thinking the Wisconsin Cheeseman, because up in these here parts of the Midwest it's the time of year to do your volume food buying from the cheese and sausage companies, some of which also sell fruitcake. I tremble in anticipation of the tubers I might find in their recipe.

There are a few other fruitcakes I found by some alternative searching on the web (i.e., stumbling upon them). I truly doubt I will get to them this holiday season--well, there's always next year. I'll include their links in another post.

04 November 2006

Review: Claxton Fruit Cake, Light and Dark

The latest fruitcake hails from Claxton, Georgia. Claxton has two types of fruitcakes, the light and the dark. I ordered one of each. (photo to the right shows both boxes--the one on top has a little disclaimer on the photo of the fruitcake saying something to the effect of "this is a photo of the light one--the box really contains the dark one")

The Claxton bakery has an interesting story—founded by an Italian immigrant, and brought to its current level of success by an employee that started working at the bakery when he was fourteen. The cake is shipped with a brochure telling the whole story, which can also be found here, so on to a review of the cake.

The 2-pound fruitcake is $16.95. I ordered one each, light and dark, which came to $33.90 (free shipping!). This cake is distinctive because of its loaf shape; all of the previous cakes have been round (although the Swiss Colony ones were small loaves, the normal size Christmas fruitcake is shipped as a round cake). If you peruse the story in the brochure or website, you’ll see that the fruitcake is baked in very large, wide pans that look like they contain about 10 pounds worth of cake. Those cakes are then sliced into smaller loaves. From a manufacturing standpoint it’s a great idea; I imagine it speeds up the production process. It was a little weird, though, because one of my cakes was the end piece, so had a red waxed paper pan liner on three sides, while the other was the middle section, so it only had the paper on the two ends. You do get the impression of this being a “manufactured” cake.

As for the cakes themselves: both of the cakes have basically good ingredients, except for high fructose corn syrup. Of course there are some preservatives and food coloring, but there are no root vegetables. Both of these cakes contain orange peel, and both also contain almonds, where most of the other cakes contain walnuts and/or pecans. Pecans do figure into these but are much further down on the list, and it is reflected in the flavor of the cakes. (photo to the right shows the dark fruitcake on top, lighter on bottom)

Many of the cakes reviewed here are full of fruit (hence the term “fruitcake”), but the Claxton fruitcake is definitely for those who like fruit and nut in their cakes. The fruit was large and the batter really served as a binder to keep the cake together. Some of the other cakes recommend that you cut the cake while cold but allow it to warm up to enhance the flavors. The Claxton bakery recommends that you serve the cake cold, with which I agree, because as it warms up it begins to fall apart due to the large pieces of fruit and nuts in the batter. It’s almost like candy.

You can smell and taste the orange peel in both cakes, which also contain raisins, pineapple, and cherries. The almonds add a lot of bite but not a whole lot of flavor. As a result, there is more of a fruity, candy-like flavor to these cakes compared to the nuttier flavor of those that contain pecans and walnuts.
The light cake contains artificial rum flavor, but I didn’t taste it at all. The dark cake contained molasses, spices, and dark raisins, which gave it that deeper flavor to which I’m partial. Both had a very rich flavor and a good texture due to the almonds. I prefer the flavor of pecans, walnuts, and booze, but if you don’t, I would highly recommend these for more of a fruity, sweet and rich flavor.