23 October 2008

Review: Mary of Puddin Hill Pecan Fruitcake

I bought the 1.5 pound pecan fruitcake for $23.95 plus shipping and handling, which ended up being $30.90. Here’s the box it comes in:

Here’s the loaf: it comes in a pan that looks like the type that they can bake it in; it’s cardboard (although silver on the outside and nice looking, as cardboard goes). They also have larger cakes; the 2- and 3-pound cakes come in tins.

One of the best things about this cake is that it comes with its own storage bag and twist tie. What a great idea! Fruitcake is not something most people eat at one sitting (no, me neither), and I think that including this bag shows some nice knowledge of the customer and concern for the quality of their fruitcake.

I purchased the pecan fruitcake, but they also have variations with walnuts, apricots, and other combinations. The very first ingredient on their list is pecans, followed by dates, pineapples, cherries, sugar, wheat, eggs, and baking powder. That’s it. By the way, the pineapples are processed with turmeric—that could be why several fruitcakes have turmeric listed. Not sure. But a very fine ingredients list, I must say, and I really feel it is reflected in the quality and flavor of this cake.

I am not a big fan of Southern style fruitcakes, because I like my alcohol. As usual, this one doesn’t include it. But the flavor of this cake is really nice. First, you have to like nuts, because that really is almost all it is. The cake batter is actually very difficult to find, and in effect the cake is very candy-like in consistency, almost praline-like because of the abundance of pecans. The chunks of fruit (including my favorite, the date) add a little novelty to the heavy nut flavor. This cake has a very clean, fresh, home-made flavor. It’s not goopy; doesn’t taste carmelized; even the candied fruit tastes fresh and is neither hard nor gluey. There are no off flavors. Make no mistake, this is plenty sweet, though.

This goes right to the top of my Southern fruitcake list. It truly stands out because of the quality of the ingredients, the freshness, and the flavor. The cost is certainly justified—have you seen how much nuts cost lately?

Reviewing this one makes me feel a little bad about the Collin Street fruitcake review I did when I was just starting out and didn’t know my Southern style fruitcakes from any other kind. Until recently, they were at the top of my list of Southern style fruitcakes, but they really deserve to be dethroned by this one. It’s a goody.

UPDATE: Since this review, Mary of Puddin Hill has shut down operations. See updates here (read the comments, too).


Anonymous said...

Being good Texans and southern fruitcake lovers, my wife and I independantly came to the same decision you did. Mary of Puddin Hill beats Collin Street hands down, in spite of Collin Street's fame in these parts. Mary of Puddin Hill makes a moister, more flavorful cake without ending up gooey and sticky.

You should try Mary's Apricot fruitcake for your next "Other" review. It's heaven on earth.

Anonymous said...

Isabelle, I have just ordered three of the one-pounders from Our Lady of Guadalupe on your recommendation ("there is NOTHING wrong with this fruitcake!"), plus a 2.5-pounder from Gethsemani, just for insurance. I hope the Our Lady's are really good (I'm giving them as gifts), better than the ranking you've given them on your sidebar. I tried Assumption Abbey last year, and Holy Cross the year before, and I don't think they're up there with Gethsemani. By the way, have you tried the one from Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Ga.? It's got peach brandy, and it looks very credible in the photos. Just go to holyspiritmonasterygifts.com and follow the links.

Isabelle said...

To Ray: I feel gratified that Texans are backing me up on this decision! I'll add the Apricot fruitcake to my still expanding list--you would think I'd have gotten them all, after three years ...

To anonymous, I'm both flattered and nervous that you ordered on my recommendations, and would love to hear what you think of them! If you're a Gethsemani fan then I think everything pales, but I do like the good quality and slight variations that the different monastery fruitcakes bring. I'll add the Monastery of the Holy Spirit to my list--thanks for pointing it out.

Anonymous said...

To Isabelle, Ray and Anonymous,
Isabelle, don't feel nervous. I just ordered a lot of fruitcakes based upon your and Anon.'s recommendations. (I even ventured outside of your recommendation field to the UK.)
Thanks for your website and Anon.'s and other commentors' contributions.
Mike (Oly, WA)

Isabelle said...

Hey Mike from Oly(mpia?), let me know how the UK cake is--my sister sent me a huge list of them that could keep me in business until I die.

HMH said...

I love your site but must disagree re: the Mary of Puddin' Hill fruitcake because--as you mention--it isn't a cake at all but a candy-like confection.

I love at least a bit of moist, dense, flavorful CAKE interspersed w/the fruit & nuts, and keep going back to the Collins St. DeLuxe, which has at least some recognizable cake in it.

And Southern fruit cakes don't have to be booze-free; that's up to the customer. I wrap mine in a cloth wrung out in Grand Marnier or Calvados or rum or Irish whiskey (or all the above :o) for several weeks before I cut it.

But as you also confess in another post, no commercial cake compares with a good homemade one. I just started again making my own this year because I couldn't afford a commercial one with times so hard.

I use Rose Murray's excellent Banana Fruit Cake recipe from her 1979 "Christmas Cookbook". Not enough banana in the batter to identify as banana, just enough to give the cake a great moist texture and deep rich flavor. Lots of dates, just enough candied fruit, hint of cinnamon/nutmeg/clove.

Makes two 9x5" loaves totaling ~6 lbs. of cake, and the cost of my ingredients was ~$20 (I candied my own orange peel & pineapple) instead of the $~100 6 lbs. of bought fruit cake would cost me by your average price table.

Anonymous said...

We found this blog recently and ordered Mary of Pudding Hill and the Holy Spirit Monastery cakes as a result. On her own, my mother ordered two Collin Street cakes (blonde and regular, I think). So we had a real taste test at Christmas! The Mary of Pudding Hill cake was beautiful but we found it just too sweet. It doesn't seem to have any spices in it at all, so it doesn't taste like we expected a fruit cake to taste. Collins Street cakes DO meet our southern fruitcake expectations, however. The Holy Spirit Monastery cake was definitely boozey, but not enough for my mother, so I guess next year we go to the Gethsemani one!

Thanks for the blog -- we're a family that likes fruitcake and we've had a lot of fun with it!

Isabelle said...

Glad you like the blog - all fruitcake lovers (especially fruitcake families) are welcome!

JonBales said...

When I drive from Dallas to visit family in Arkansas, I pass right by the Mary of Puddin Hill bakery. They have a small store attached to the bakery and it's a wonderful place to stop. I remember something about candies and other confections but I never got past the fruit cake tables. They had samples you can try before you buy. I could live there! I think I walked out with at least a pound of every fruitcake they offered the last time I stopped. I have to agree that their fruitcake has the least "cake" of any that I've tried - mostly fruit and nuts with a tiny amount of cake to bind everything together. I think this is my favorite fruitcake aside from the monestery fruitcakes. If you ever find yourself passing thru Greenville, TX, the bakery is on the south side of the Interstate. A little hard to get to but definitely worth the trouble if you're serious about fruitcake!