13 November 2008

What's a fruitcake worth?

Are you awash in fruitcake catalogs? I am. Funny how that is. I've received at least three to four different catalogs so far this season, as well as this English muffin weirdness--I'm still tempted, but I just don't know who I know who would want English muffins that much.

Anyway, the strange thing is that just about every fruitcake company has sent me not one, but two or more catalogs. I normally do my purchasing on the web, so these catalogs are quickly perused, then tossed into the recycle bin. But I feel sad, almost guilty, when I get the catalogs from the monasteries. I'm guessing these guys aren't awash in money like the guys selling sausage, so I just feel bad that they're wasting their postage and paper on me. Sigh. I guess I can see what I can do about being taken off their mailing lists.

Anyway, enough of that rather boring ramble. Today's message is for all of you who want to know the cost of these fruitcakes without having to peruse each review. Actually, perusing each review (which I recommend, drives up those website hits, thanks!) is a good way to learn about the taste, etc., of the fruitcake, but what about the cost? What's the best value overall? Do you even care about value when it comes to fruitcake?

Well, I think everyone buying a fruitcake should consider the flavor that they prefer first; the quality of ingredients second; but also how much you want to pay, of course. So I did a cost comparison of each of the fruitcakes I reviewed, and I found some shocking, yes shocking revelations about cost.

First, a couple of caveats: my reviews might have some old prices in them, depending on when they were posted. When I went back to check prices, a couple of the fruitcakes had gone up in price, one (Gethsemani Farms) as much as $4. Also, my comparisons are a bit apples to oranges. Many of the fruitcakes were in the 2-2.5 pound range, but I had a couple that were 1-1.5 pounds and one, Swiss Colony, was a collection of three, so it's a little hard to compare. For a couple of those, like the Wisconsin Cheeseman and aforementioned Swiss Colony, I went back to their site and found a standard 2-ish pound cake and got the cost and shipping there.

I fired up my spreadsheet software and compiled the following for each fruitcake: the cost; the shipping fee, if any; the total amount paid; the weight of the cake; and then I divided both the cake cost, and the cake cost plus shipping, by the weight of the cake to get the price per pound, or "value," I shall call it.

I'm not going to enumerate each column of info in this post; I'll just make a few observations and list a few highlights.

First, monastery fruitcakes are still a good value. Yes, even including shipping and the cost of their better quality ingredients, Gethsemani, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Assumption were at the top of the list in value. Even the one with the highest cost to poundage ratio, Holy Cross, was still near the average value of the fruitcakes.

So what is the average cost per pound for the fruitcakes I've reviewed so far? It's $14.83 per pound without shipping; $17.48 per pound with shipping included. Shipping is the real wacky part of all of this; there are quite a few companies that include shipping in the cost of the cake, while others don't. So I've paid $0 to a whopping $12.32 for shipping (Guadalupe). I'm in the middle of the country, in the cold Middle West, so you can gauge accordingly.

I'll leave you to gnaw on those nuggets for a bit. I'll reveal more of my fruitcake data mining in another post.


Anonymous said...

Why not make your own fruitcake? That's what I've been doing for the last two days for gift giving.

I don't particularly care for most fruitcakes made for retail in America, as most of them contain "tooth-achingly sweet, nuclear, gummy fruits." I make mine with good quality dried fruit and candied ginger, macerated in brandy or rum; lightly spiced with cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and allspice, with pecans or hazelnuts. Once baked, the cakes are set up to age and are spritzed brandy every 2 to 3 days for at least 2 -4 weeks.

Nothing beats a good, homemade fruitcake.

Anonymous said...

Hi Isabella,

Just curious as to what fruitcakes you plan on reviewing this year?

Is the Texas Manor Fruitcake (from The Original Ya-Hoo! Baking Company) on the list?

When my mother lived in Texas during her teen years, this was the fruitcake her parents purchased every holiday season.

I have never had it, but just wondering what you would think of it.

Myself, I don't generally buy fruitcake. I prefer to make my own, so I can control the quality and what goes in it (it's also a lot cheaper than buying fruitcake!). I also like mine with lots of booze :), but no candied fruit--as I think they just taste strange.

However, your reviews of the Monastery fruitcakes are really tempting me...

Isabelle said...

@Anonymous: I agree completely with you, I have tried at least two home made fruitcakes that were absolutely delicous. But there are so many commercial ones out there just aching to be eaten, I feel it's my duty to do it! Bravo for you, though, for making your own. Maybe when I retire, I'll dedicate myself to making my own . . .

Isabelle said...

@Roxanne, thanks for the tip. I do have that on my list of fruitcakes to review--can you believe I have at least 10 more fruitcakes to review? For all of the fruitcake hatred out there, how can all of these places stay in business?

Anyway, I have one more monastery fruitcake in the fridge, then I think I'll do something completely different--perhaps something more high-end (aka expensive).

Stay tuned!