With great pleasure I present a guest review from vkrn, a reader who first suggested the Bien Fait cakes.
I purchased both the Bourbon fruitcake with nuts and the Brandy Fruitcake with nuts online from Bien Fait, a small bakery in Greensboro, Vermont, which gives all its proceeds to Greensboro Wonder & Wisdom, a local nonprofit which works with children and seniors. Bien Fait offers their bourbon fruitcake with or without nuts (walnuts and pecans), and their brandy fruitcake only with almonds, so fruitcake fanatics who don't have allergies to those nuts can breathe a sigh of relief. In addition, to round out the ingredients, Bien Fait uses currants, figs, raisins, cranberries, golden raisins, brandy, prunes, dates, apricots, orange peel, and lemon, in the brandy fruitcake; the bourbon fruitcake contains raisins, golden raisins, figs, bourbon, prunes, currants, dates, apricots, walnuts, pecans, and orange peel. They emphasize that their fruit contains no preservatives or artificial flavorings, a welcome relief from the commercial fruitcakes in the stores now (Costco, that means you).
Both the brandy and the bourbon fruitcakes come in unassuming brown thin cardboard boxes, about 3/4 the size of a red brick. The box is adorned only with an oval Bien Fait sticker on top, and the fruitcake itself is wrapped in holiday-themed tissue paper. Underneath the tissue paper are the cakes, first bundled in two layers of plastic, with cheesecloth still wrapped tight up against the cake itself. The fruitcakes come with little external adornments, but their simple packaging completes the air of homemade goodness, which Bien Fait supplements with a little card sporting pictures of its bakers, hearty-looking New Englanders topped with hair netting.
The cakes themselves were crammed with nuts and fruit, with no need to wonder when you'd bite into another morsel. I'd even hazard to guess that they were 90% fruit and nuts. For this fruitcake lover, the generous portion of fruit and nuts made for great mouthfeel and chew, and there was enough orange peel to make me happy. Both the bourbon and brandy options were dark cakes, which were moist, not pasty or dry. With the fruit, the cakes ranged possibly a little overly sweet -- they would be great paired with tea or coffee. Only the subtlest hint of alcohol lingered in the mouth after every swallow, to the point where I wouldn't be concerned about feeding the cake to youngsters. Possibly a touch more alcohol would have balanced out the sweetness.
For fruitcake lovers, these cakes are definitely a must-try -- and this is coming from someone who has made it her mission systematically to order the best-quality fruitcake on the US market, and who eternally regrets missing out on fruitcake while in Scotland on business.
The cakes are priced at $15 each, very reasonable if you were local and picking up the cake at Bien Fait's Vermont store. But they do tend on the small side if you consider the price plus shipping. Keep in mind, though, that all proceeds support the nonprofit Greensboro Wonder & Wisdom. Bien Fait fruitcake is therefore a small indulgence for your tastebuds, while your money goes to benefit children and seniors in this difficult economic climate. It's a rare opportunity to buy online while also supporting local efforts to improve American communities.