26 December 2006

Merry Fruitcake day

Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas. My family had a fruitcake-filled one. With seven fruitcakes in the freezer, someone had to eat them all.

First, the Swiss Colony and Wisconsin Cheeseman fruitcakes were discarded without further ado. One has only so many calories at their disposal during the holiday season, and one musn't waste them on bad fruitcake.

I assembled the equivalent of a cheese platter with fruitcake: picture above. So if you want to see what a slice of each fruitcake looks like, here they are. From left to right, Claxton Light, Claxton Dark, Collin Street, Harry and David, and Holy Cross Abbey. Gethsemani Farms was not included because everyone in the family has their own half-cake sitting at home, courtesy of my mom, who orders them for us each year.

The family's opinions of the cakes varied widely. Surprisingly, the Holy Cross didn't get the rave reviews I was expecting (it being so similar to Gethsemani). I think rather the family tried the other ones to get a flavor for the non-Trappist type cakes.

Reviews were mixed, but most of these fruitcakes were appreciated for what they were. Some liked the citrusy flavor of the Claxton light fruitcake; others really enjoyed the distinct, almost gingerbread-like flavor of the Harry and David. The Collins Street cake was complimented on its strong pecan flavor.

The cake that ranked lowest on the family list? Claxton Dark, of all things. They liked the molasses flavor but felt it was just too "raisiny," without other fruit flavors.

Finally, for those of you who just received a fruitcake and really don't want it, there is a fruitcake Safe Haven. Please take advantage of it.

22 December 2006

Come waste your time with me!

Just what you need at the holiday season is a place to waste time. And I'm here to help! Advertising Age has listed this blog as number three on its 10 Great Time-Wasting Websites. Though personally, I recommend number one, Will it Blend?

And with great humility I admit that I hadn't figured out how to moderate comments until this morning. Thanks, everyone who has posted, for great comments containing a lot of wisdom, and also a lot of (sigh) fruitcake websites. At least I know what I'll be doing in 2007 (and 2008) . . . eating more fruitcake.

16 December 2006

Ain’t Nothin’ like the Real Thing

My boss is from England and makes Christmas cake (fruitcake for us here Americans). I’ve heard of the wonders of home-made fruitcake, and this one leaves no doubt in my mind that care, good ingredients and a good recipe lead to a delicious cake.

The Boss macerates his fruit (cherries, lemon and orange peel, currants, yellow and black raisins) in red wine first. After making the cake, he soaks it in Kentucky bourbon. The taste is actually much like the Gethsemani Farms fruitcake; they also include wine in the recipe and soak in bourbon. His cake has a much more grapey fruit flavor because of the raisins. There are NO NUTS in his recipe, which obviously affects the flavor but doesn’t detract in any way. (By the way, his theory on turnips is that they add moisture to the finished cake, which sounds plausible to me—though we agree, we still don’t want ‘em in our cake).

So what’s the white stuff on the top? It’s a very hard icing, like a fondant, concealing beneath it a thin layer of marzipan, to gild the lily. The boss “refreshes” the cake with bourbon before serving.

This is a delicious cake (and I’m not just saying that ‘cause he’s my Boss). It’s moist and boozy, and the texture is lovely—with the fruit being relatively small, it cuts nicely. The icing adds a touch of traditional sweetness, while the marzipan a lovely almond flavor. This cake absolutely eats like a meal—one slice and you’re done. But it’s a delicious slice of decadent winter richness the whole way down.

This is the one cake on this site so far that you CAN’T purchase. But you can probably find some good recipes for Christmas cake and make your own. A slice of this cake certainly inspires me to try to make one myself next year.

. . . but then, who would review all those other fruitcakes out there?

Swiss Colony has great customer service

I learned this inadvertently by sending a nastygram to what I thought was an autosubscribe e-mail address. A few months ago, I had subscribed to Swiss Colony's I love fruitcake e-mail subscription service, which up until recently had sent me nothing (no responses to my e-mail to the Friendly Fruitcake Expert, either. He may know fruitcake, but he's none too friendly). So as I unsubscribed, I wrote an e-mail back that I normally wouldn't write: "Your fruitcake is crap." If I had known I was writing to customer service, I would have caged this terse yet accurate assessment in more polite language.

In any case, a short time later I received an e-mail from Swiss Colony's customer service department telling me that they were crediting my account by the cost of the fruitcake (less shipping, I think).

So thanks, Swiss Colony--I still think your fruitcake is crap, but I must admit I've had a fascination from childhood with your gift baskets.

13 December 2006

Welcome to Mondo Fruitcake!

Welcome to the small, decidedly carb-heavy land of fruitcake lovers! This blog was created to review all the fruitcakes out there that seem to be giving fruitcake a bad name--as well as to find the fruitcakes that are actually good--swell, even.

I've ranked all the fruitcakes I've reviewed so far and put links to those reviews in the sidebar. You can get to a company's website by clicking on the review title once you've selected one.

So check your fruitcake ridicule at the door and enjoy the reviews. I eat them all so you don't have to.

12 December 2006

Review: Harry and David 2-pound Traditional Fruitcake

I would call this one "fruitcake for beginners."

The reason is that the cake itself doesn't exactly taste like fruitcake. The fruit includes cherries, raisins, pineapple, orange and lemon peel (and turmeric, son of a gun). I see the ingredient quality goes downhill from there: partially hydrogenated shortening, propylene glycol, mono and diesters of fats and fatty acids? Yikes. There are so many brackets in these ingredients, I'm not sure if that's just a subset of some other ingredient. But what makes this one quite different tasting are the spices: they use cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and molasses. The fruit is cut quite small so there's an even texture, not huge lumps of fruit, and the overall flavor of the cake itself is almost more like a gingerbread than a traditional fruitcake.

This cake--which I actually went to a store to purchase($29.95) includes molasses so has that richer, darker flavor, though it is alcohol-free. It comes in a really adorable tin (they also have a smaller 1-pound fruitcake for $19.95 without the tin), very nice for giving. The garnish fruit on top actually taste different than any others I've had--these really taste candy-like, almost like colored licorice or a jujube.

I've been sorely disappointed with the mass-produced fruitcakes out there--those fruitcakes shipped out by those traditional places one goes to to order fruit, meat, and food baskets for the holidays. So if you wish to send a fruitcake to someone you love (and bully for you!!), I'd say the rule of thumb is: monasteries first; dedicated fruitcake bakeries second; and finally, if you're going to use any of the big food basket places, try this fruitcake.

More Turnip

This is so NOT the world's finest fruitcake. Who would, honestly, order fruitcake from the Wisconsin Cheeseman? I advise against it.

I received the 20 oz. loaf after paying $29.95, about 8 dollars shipping and handling.

Well, to make a long story short, this is the same turnip-laden cake I got from Swiss Colony. I compared ingredients and although the order might be slightly different between the two, the general contents, down to turnips and turmeric, are identical. Upon further perusal, I see that both companies "distribute" these cakes, don't necessarily make them. As to who actually DOES make the cakes, the Wisconsin Cheeseman customer service department could not respond.

So if you want to know how it tasted, see this review here. And don't buy this cake. There are much better ones out there.