09 June 2008

Review: Hermitage Big Sur Fruitcake

I ordered a 3 pound (!) loaf from the Hermitage Big Sur Bakery, associated with the New Camaldoli Hermitage, for the total cost of $38.91 with shipping. The packaging is quite eco-friendly looking and no tins are available:

And here’s a look at the loaf itself—unassuming and hefty, though not very elegant:

I believe they do a final dip into brandy before they ship it to you—it was very moist when it arrived, but has been getting less so as I’ve had it in my fridge. Let me tell you, three pounds is a lot to get through—I’ve had a few pieces but the rest are in the freezer.

This is a very good fruitcake, but there’s something in it that’s not my favorite. I may have identified the two culprits—raisins and walnuts. I’m not a big fan of raisins—I don’t like the sweet, grapey flavor that they add to, well, frankly, any dish they’re put into. Walnuts are a fine nut for eating, but they are a little bitter and although I don’t mind them in a cookie, I prefer pecans in my fruitcake.

That being said, if you don’t mind either of these, you’ll like this fruitcake. Ingredients include the standard “fruit mix,” as defined in the ingredients as cherries, pineapple, and citrus peels. There are margarine and vegetable gums but nothing else too bad in the ingredients, and on the good side, there are two alcohols listed—wine and brandy.

There are dates in this cake, which I normally like, but I think they are overpowered by the raisin flavor. The fruit was in pretty large chunks, and there was (yay!) a pronounced alcohol flavor to the cake. As mentioned earlier, it was very moist when I first received it, which was nice.

Let’s talk about a flavor in this cake that I call “burnt.” I think what I might be tasting is carmelization of the raisins in the batter. I checked the last two posts where I mention this burnt element, and both cakes contain raisins. It’s not my favorite flavor in a fruitcake, but apparently it’s not so off-putting that I’ve stopped eating the cake.

So in conclusion, this is not the most elegant cake I’ve purchased—it doesn’t come in a tin, and it’s a loaf, not round, shape. But it’s a nice, large, moist loaf with a very good flavor--if you don’t mind raisins--and I’d say it’s a good value.


Anonymous said...

Just received one from my Parents for Christmas! It's a moist fruitcake, with a dark brandy/molasses and nutty flavor. One of my favorites. Tried making my own last year, but put too many apricots in it...Good, but not great.
Marc Hoss - Mahtomedi, MN

Anonymous said...

Just finished my first slice of this cake. This is the first year I've allowed my usual holiday-season fruitcake obsession to carry over into late winter / early spring. Anyway, THIS STUFF IS GOOD! Ultra-moist, with deep, rich, boozy flavor, this is a real plate licker!
You're right about the "grapey" sweetness, but I think it's nicely balanced by the nuts and other fruits.
The three-pounder will not last long...

Hyman said...