20 December 2009

Slate: Embrace the fruitcake!

Sara Dickerman on Slate.com, wrote a lovely article about fruitcake--go take a look. The phrase "In fact, I'd argue that fruitcake, with its aging and its complexity, is essentially the charcuterie of the baking world" had me at hello. What a lovely idea. I want a t-shirt made with that phrase on it. I agree with Ms. Dickerman, fruitcake is the final frontier for foodies--it's time to give it its due. Dickerman makes her own fruitcake, which sounds phenomenal. I've said a few times on this blog that the home made ones just about always seem to be the best ones, and the ones she describes sound delectable.


steveinisrael said...

I don’t know how to do a blog, and would not attempt to compete with yours anyway. But with your permission, Isabelle, I am going to list ten cakes that you have reviewed—and that I have bought and tried—in the reverse order of my own preference:

(10) Collin Street. As you said, only if you like the taste of sugar and nuts would you like this one. And besides, it’s way too expensive. And they try too hard to make it look nice.

(9) Claxton. This is what most people where I live think a fruitcake is, because it is UBIQUITOUS. Civitan gave up selling it years ago, but now every supermarket, everywhere, carries it. Sad to say, in the world of fruitcake amor, it’s like kissing your sister.

(8) Southern Supreme. You didn’t like it much, Isabelle, but it has become a North Carolina holiday tradition. Not a true fruitcake, it’s nevertheless a very charming nut-cake with down-home deliciousness—IF you get it fresh, and IF you order a two-pounder or heavier. This cake loses its allure in smaller sizes.

(7) Our Lady of Guadalupe. Visually impressive, but so chunky with translucent fruit the monks could slice it thin and use it for stained glass. Not enough cake going on, however, to be a fruitCAKE.

(6) Holy Spirit Monastery. Wonderful potential, with detectable peach flavor, but not nearly sweet enough for me. While one doesn’t want a fruitcake to be too sweet, it is, after all, a dessert.

(5) Assumption Abbey. The most eye-pleasingly iconic of all these cakes, and you chose it well for your blog photo. Not as dense as the others, however. The one I tried came across slightly springy and spongy by comparison. Still good-tasting, in an old-fashioned way. (I noticed Williams-Sonoma sold them again this year.)

(4) Holy Cross Abbey. My mother-in-law declared this is the one that seemed most like the cakes she made and remembered as a young woman. Spicy, dark, dense, and a bit of an overbaked ugly duckling.

(3) Grandma’s Bakeshop. Like the North Carolina cake, this one needs to be bought in the two-pound loaf, or preferably the 3 or 5-pound ring. For a light cake it’s very pretty, and the alcohol flavors are prominent. It’s so sticky-syrupy you wonder if it’ll send you to the dentist, but a lot of holiday goodies are like that.

(2) Gethsemani Farms. I agree with you—when this one has arrived each November for the last several, I’ve wanted to say “Baby, you’re all I need.” But then this very year, having ordered it after you reviewed it, came my new Number One . . .

(1) Womble’s Fruit Cake. Okay, it’s not a monastery cake. It may even be mass-produced (especially if its alcohol-free sister the Georgia Fruit Cake goes out in quantities of 65,000, as their website claims). Womble’s isn’t a looker, but it still appeals strongly to the other two gastronomic senses: taste and smell. If they have fruitcake (or “fruit cake” in this case) in heaven, surely this will be the one.

Isabelle said...

Hi SteveinIsrael:

Thanks so much for your post. I think you've added your own astute reflections on each of these fruitcakes, and I hope a lot of people give them a look.