17 September 2009

A box redesign, and some confusion about monks

I just received my first catalog since about January or maybe December. You know what that means, don't you? It's almost the time when the rest of the world launches into Fruitcake Season. For me, it's just business as usual. If anything, I've been a bit tardy--I think I've had more fruitcakes reviewed by this time in previous years.

In any case, I've received my Texas Manor fruitcake, which I will review soon, but I wanted to report on the catalog I just got. It's from Holy Spirit Monastery, and it looks like they did a redesign on their packaging. I don't think I got one of their catalogs last year (I tried their cake the first time at the end of last year, and did an online purchase), but it's very nice indeed. They have a few different fruitcake size options, and also sell other items, like fudge, including one that I would love to try: "Southern Touch," which contains peaches, pecans and a touch of peach brandy....yum. In any case, if you look at my review of this cake, previously they had a rather austere but real tin. I'm just checking the catalog right now and they might have ditched the tin altogether: they say that the round cake as well as the loaf are "packed in attractive gift boxes." They are actually pretty cute boxes, but it doesn't look like they've updated their website to match their catalog, so I can't show them to you.

Here's what's weird, though: the original tin I got last December had a sticker on it proclaiming the cake to be from "Brother Basil's kitchen." When you go to the website, there is copy there describing a Brother Patrick as their master fruitcake-baker. However, my catalog disagrees, claiming that indeed Brother Augustine is the master fruitcake-maker. So who is it?

Frankly, Ragtime Cowboy Joe (yeah, I don't know him, either) could make my fruitcake--I don't care, as long as it's good. Most monasteries don't really say who, in particular, makes their cakes. It's kind of funny that Holy Spirit is trying to put a human edge on this and just succeeds in confusing me.

It don't matter. This catalog looks darn good, and also includes some pretty calendars if you're into contemplative abbey photos, as well as other foodstuffs, like apple butter and some Trappist coffee from Venezuela. I think the catalog contains a much nicer presentation of their products than their website. If you're into fruitcake, you may want to request one. I'm thinkin' I need a bit of a Southern Touch to my holiday season . . .

12 September 2009

Next fruitcake: Texas Manor Bakery

The next one is by a Southern food conglomerate, Ya-hoo! Baking, aka M.K. Commercial Kitchens. They make the Texas Manor fruitcake, as well as this adorable cake that I was sorely tempted to purchase. Perusing their site, they have a lot of tempting looking cakes available. I wonder if they look beautiful but taste like cardboard, like many of those lovely cakes circulating in mediocre restaurants across America? I'll use the Texas Manor fruitcake as a litmus test to find out.

Review: Hermitage Big Sur (New Camoldoli) Date Nut Cake

Oh, I'm so sad. I wanted so hard to like this cake. How could a date-nut cake be bad? But it was really not at all what I was expecting, and really didn't appeal.

Similar to the Hermitage Big Sur fruitcake, this cake comes in a very simple, eco-friendly box, quite appealing in these green times:

In the interest of full disclosure, I did not actually purchase this cake; it was generously donated. Cost, though, for the 3-pound cake is $36.00, plus shipping, so I would assume for me it would have been around $39 or so.

As the fruitcake was, this cake is large and sturdy. It's really not very pretty. I realized when reviewing these photos that I may have had the cake upside down, but I'm not sure how much better it would have looked right side up:

It's a very dark cake, and I have been remiss in not noting all of the ingredients, but as with the fruitcake, it is dipped in brandy and aged. The cake actually comes wrapped in plastic to seal in the moistness.
Since the loaf itself is not super attractive, here's a shot of a slice:

Quite a few walnuts in a dark batter, and I didn't notice large chunks of date. I guess I was mentally comparing this with the date-nut bread that I create, which has a lighter batter and lovely chunks of date and nut in it. This was different: the batter was not light, and there was an overall raisin flavor that I tasted with the fruitcake. I didn't get an overall impression of "datiness."
If given a choice, I would go with the Hermitage Big Sur fruitcake over this. This is going to the bottom of the Other list. Good ingredients, but an overall murky, non date-like flavor.