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 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.