30 October 2010

Next up: College of the Ozarks fruitcake

A reader had alerted me to this fruitcake last year and I had mentioned it then but didn't get to it. I think it's about time I got around to it. They actually have an interesting list of other products they sell, and I'm sorely tempted to try the summer sausage as well as some of the corn-meal. So I'll be ordering this one soon!

Just plotting out my next fruitcakes for the holiday season. I've already reviewed an "other" fruitcake, and since College of the Ozarks is in Missouri, that will qualify (sort of) as a "southern" fruitcake--though of course I'll determine that when I taste it. I shudder to think of which mass-produced I'll be reviewing, but have been considering the Costco fruitcake, recommended by some readers.

Finally, I may just be beginning to run out of monastery fruitcakes, but there's one I haven't done yet: the Genesee abbey in New York. Their fruitcake looks fine, and is available from their site as well as the Monastery Greetings site.

So all that should keep me busy!

New updated fruitcake at New Camaldoli Hermitage

Mark from New Camaldoli Hermitage wrote me the other day with an update on their fruitcake. Evidently, they have a new and improved recipe. Per Mark, "We have eliminated all margarine and use only butter--there are now no trans fats. We are still using raisins and walnuts though! Also, we have new packaging that is made of 100% recycled material."

I had reviewed both their fruitcake and their date nut bread previously. I'm not sure if I'd be able to taste a difference with the new recipe, but I certainly appreciate a trans fat free dessert! Click on the title of this post to jump over to their fruitcake selections. Figures that a hermitage in California would be so health- and eco-conscious, n'est-ce pas?

25 October 2010

Review: Mileeven Irish Fruitcakes

Whoopee--my first "foreign" cake! (Not counting Jane Parker, which I think is made in Canada but that's on the same continent). OK, my first non-continental fruitcake.

Bruce at Bewley Irish Imports sent me three Irish fruitcakes to review. Bewley Irish Imports is a wholesaler, however these cakes will be available at Wegmans supermarkets and some local Irish stores on the East coast. You can contact Bewley Irish Imports to find out the specifics.

These three cakes were all 14 oz. each and should retail in the $13 - $14 range (full disclosure: I received them free).

As you can see on the right, the cakes are attractively boxed. They come in three variations: one without any booze at all; one with whiskey; and one, interestingly, made with Irish stout beer. Very interesting! I was excited to try them.

I will tell you one thing about all three of these cakes: they all look pretty much exactly the same. You can see a bit of a glimpse through the window of the boxes at right, but basically they all look like the photo below--not gorgeously beautiful or decorative, more like a quick bread, which is really what they resembled (plus my horrible camera skills make everything look like mush).

The fruits in this cake are sultanas (white raisins), and orange and lemon peel. Ingredients also include molasses. There were no preservatives or things to make you go "yikes!" in the ingredients--very nice.

The cake itself smelled like gingerbread to me. In texture I'd say it very much resembles a quick bread. The cake was drier than most soaked fruitcakes but I'm not saying it was dry--it had a nice crumb and texture and the fruit was well distributed throughout the cake. Now, if you've been reading this site, you know how I feel about raisins in general--I'm not a big fan of them in my cake. The sultanas were a bit less raisiny than the good old dark ones, but they were still raisins. While trying these, I was always happy to bite into a piece of lemon or orange peel--it gave the cake a bit of variety.

Another thing that disappointed me was that I really didn't notice any big difference between the three cakes. I tried the one without alcohol first, then the cake made with whiskey, concluding with the stout-laden cake. They all looked the same, and they pretty much all tasted the same. The two cakes containing alcohol seemed to have a bit more dimension of flavor to them--a more complex aftertaste, perhaps, or, in the case of the one with stout, a bit deeper flavor right off the bat. But in general, they lacked the overwhelming booziness of a cake that's been dipped or sprinkled with booze. I'm guessing that the alcohol is included in the batter, and as we know, most alcohol is burned off during the baking process. Still, if I were buying one of these, I would go for either of the cakes made with alcohol, and most probably the one made with stout, as I did notice a tiny bit more richness in the flavor.

The boxes shown on the Bewley Irish Imports site for this cake show a cup of tea along with a photo of the cake. I heartily agree--I would classify this cake not in the heavier, boozy, gooey fruit-laden category, but more in the quick bread or teacake category--more like a date nut bread than what we think of when we think "fruitcake". This cake would be delicious with a cup of tea-it certainly was a nice slice with my morning coffee. I'm going to put it into my "Other" category, and suggest it as one of those "gateway" or "beginner" fruitcakes.

14 October 2010

Recipe: Veda's Dundee Cake

As with the previous recipe, this can also be halved. This was my preferred of the two cakes. This cake had a dense, pound-cake like texture. Bits of currants and orange and lemon peel were spread throughout the cake, giving it a lovely, light citrus taste. But don't forget the booze--it was there as well, so the overall taste was delicious, light as fruitcake goes but undeniably fruitcake-y.

I'm not super keen on the round cake pan that Veda calls for--although the cake made is beautiful (see photo), I find that having a hole in the center is very helpful when you're cutting a heavy cake. So you may want to use an alternate cake pan. A tube pan will work but of course, adjust your baking time. 

Veda's Dundee Cake
2 pounds yellow raisins
3/4 pound currants
1 pound each candied orange and lemon peel, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup whiskey, plus additional for sprinkling over finished cakes
Macerate fruit in the whiskey overnight in a large covered container.

1 1/2 pounds unsalted butter (3 cups), softened
1 1/2 pounds white sugar (3 1/3 cups)
10 extra large eggs
Grated zest of 2 oranges
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 3/4 pounds unsifted all-purpose flour (5 1/4 cups)
1 teaspoon each baking powder and salt
2 teaspoons each grated nutmeg and powdered allspice
1/4 pound ground almonds (1 cup)

1/2 pound blanched almonds for decorating
1/4 cup corn syrup

Preheat oven to 300° F and place rack in the middle of oven. Place a pan of water on the floor of the oven.
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Add eggs one by one, beating well after each addition. Add zests and almond extract.
Mix flour, baking powder, salt and spices together and add to creamed mixture until blended. Do not overbeat. Scrape down the sides of the bowl several times. Add almonds.
Fold in fruit mixture until evenly distributed (you may need a larger bowl).
Line four 3 x 7" round pans with double thickness of parchment. Paper should extend an inch above the rim of the pan. Fill pans 2/3 full and level off with the back of the spoon.
Bake for one hour 45 minutes until almost done. Remove from oven one at a time.
Brush cake tops with corn syrup and arrange almonds quickly in concentric circles on top of the cakes. Return to the oven for 10-15 minutes to lightly brown nuts. Check with a toothpick to make sure cakes are done. Cool in pans.
Sprinkle each cake with additional 2 tablespoons whiskey.
Wrap in parchment, then foil, and refrigerate for up to 4 weeks.

Yield: four cakes.

10 October 2010

Recipe: Veda's Dark Fruitcake

See review here. Veda uses muscovado sugar in the cake but tells me that regular US brown sugar will work fine as well. You can certainly halve the recipe if you don't want quite so much. 

And an extra note: this blog is devoted to reviewing commercially-sold fruitcakes. I've decided that I will review one homemade fruitcake a year, and so I'm done for 2010. Trust me, though, these are fabulous!!

Veda's Dark Fruitcake

1 3/4 pounds pitted dates, quartered
1 3/4 pounds pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 pound each golden and dark raisins
1 pound each candied orange and lemon peels, coarsely chopped
1 pound currants
1/2 cup brandy
1/2 cup orange juice

Mix all of the above in a covered container and let stand overnight or a few days. Shake occasionally to mix.


1 1/4 pounds unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 pounds (3 1/3 cups) muscovado dark brown sugar OR packed standard dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsulphured molasses
8 extra large eggs at room temperature
Grated zests of 1 orange and 1 lemon
1 1/4 pounds (4 1/4 cups) unsifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon each salt and baking powder
1 tablespooon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons each ground nutmeg and cloves


1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 pound nuts and 1/2 pound candied cherries

Line five 8"tube pans with parchment, grease with melted butter. Or use 6 8" loaf pans.
Preheat oven to 300° F. Put a pan of water on the floor of the oven to prevent overbrowning.
Cream the butter and sugar together for five minutes until fluffy. Add eggs one by one, beating well after each addition. Add zests.
Mix all the dry ingredients together and add, mixing on low speed until blended. In a very large bowl, fold fruit mixture into batter with two spatulas.
Fill lined pans 3/4 full, level off with the back of a spoon to prevent air pockets. Bake for 1 hour 45 minutes until almost done. Take cakes out of the oven, brush tops with corn syrup, arrange nuts and cherries on top of each cake, and return to oven for 15 minutes more or until toothpick inserted in cake comes out clean.

Cool completely in pans. Remove paper.

Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of brandy per cake, wrap in parchment and then foil. Age a couple of weeks before serving. Additional brandy may be added every two weeks.

Yield: approximately 14 pounds

Cakes will keep up to six months refrigerated.