30 November 2011

Review: Eilenberger Bakery Texas Pecan cake

Hello, all. OK, I've gotten over my grumpiness and have decided to finally review this cake. In case you're wondering why I'm grumpy, it's because I ordered the Texas Pecan cake, not the fruitcake, from Eilenberger. So what you're getting here is a review of a pecan cake, not a fruitcake. And that is exactly what I got.

I bought the 1.5 pound Texas Pecan cake, which cost $23.95 plus shipping. Shipping was $7.50 to the middle of the country, so the total was $31.45. As I had previously posted, it's a very cute box--I'm a sucker for dogwood blossoms:
Very cute. Here's a photo of the cake, done in the style that I can only call "MondoFruitcake Ugly:"

Lots and lots of pecans. And some fruit. You would have thought at this point, noting how many pecans there were, that I would have thought to myself, "gee, where's the fruit in this fruitcake?" I even went so far as to TAKE A PHOTO OF THE INGREDIENTS, included herewith, without noticing the name:
Or maybe I was distracted by this:

This picture implies that Eilenberger has been around awhile, and indeed they have been around since 1898, per their website. Their website also mentions that they are "the oldest bakery in Texas still operating in its original location." And that's saying something, considering all of the fruitcake companies based in Texas. I actually think it's really cute.
In my defense, most Southern style fruitcakes are very, very nutty. And there are some fruitcake makers nowadays who, in an effort to shirk the scourge of the fruitcake name, choose to call their fruitcakes something else. For example, I hope to be trying a sample of the Women Helping Other Women Cranberry Orange Walnut cake very soon. I contacted their customer service and asked "which cake is the most like a traditional fruitcake?" and that's what they told me. They don't actually have a cake called a "fruitcake," yet they have several cakes that contain fruit. Hey, I'm not judging; I can understand why they might do it. But enough excuses; let's get on to the cake.

As you can see from the ingredients, there is a lot of icky stuff, but I will believe them when they say that it contains less than 2% icky, since most of those ingredients (except for the high fructose corn syrup) seems to be part of the candied fruit. There are some nice pieces of fruit in this cake, though not as much as a regular fruitcake. That could be an advantage to those who aren't super into the fruit in a fruitcake.

This cake DEFINITELY has nuts in it--that nut being the pecan. I am a fool for a good pecan. It's my favorite nut. In texture this cake resembled some of the more candy-like southern cakes--barely enough "cake" to hold the ingredients together, and that "cake" was more like candy--very sweet and gooey in texture.This cake really accents the pecan, with a hint of some candied fruit, in an almost candy-like batter.

What I don't like about this type cake is that I feel the batter holding the ingredients together has an uncooked quality to it and tastes a bit like raw dough.

This would be a good cake to get if you a) really like nuts; b) like a very sweet, candy-like cake without a lot of cake in it, and c) like a fruitcake without so much fruit in it. Hmm, just re-read that last sentence. A non-fruity, non-cakey, non-fruitcake.

Buy it if you like pecans.

26 November 2011

Lookee what's coming!

Look at what I literally found at my doorstep today (albeit in boxes):

That's the Women Helping Other Women Cranberry Orange Walnut cake on the left, and the Sunnyland Farms dark and light fruitcake combo on the right. It is truly the gladsome fruitcake season!

25 November 2011

Guest review: Beekman 1802 Fruitcake

Happy day-after-Thanksgiving, and welcome to the gladsome fruitcake season! Our friend vkrn is back with a guest review. This time she's reviewed the Beekman 1802 Fruitcake sold on the Williams-Sonoma site.


I stumbled upon the Beekman 1802 Heirloom Recipe Fruit Cake on the Williams-Sonoma website when I was surfing for interesting untried edibles. Always a sucker for any food marketed as traditional, I plunked down $45 (sans shipping) for what Williams Sonoma called a "moist, dense cake bursting in flavor." As Beekman 1802 sells its fruitcake only through Williams-Sonoma, you are unable to buy the cake via Beekman 1802's own website, but the company does devote considerable webspace to describing the history of its fruitcake and gives you a link to its recipe. 

Beekman 1802 was founded by the self-styled "Fabulous Beekman Boys," otherwise known as Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell. Ridge is a physician and former VP of Healthy Living at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, and Kilmer-Purcell is an author and regular contributor to NPR and Out magazine. They now run a farm and store where they sell their own products such as cheeses, soaps, and other sundries.  The company names itself after William Beekman, who was something of a master of all trades. As a boy, he had fought in the Revolutionary War, and later settled down to become a merchant, judge, and state senator. Beekman 1802 promotes two different versions about the fruitcake's origins. The first one states that Beekman's housekeeper named Generous created a locally famous alcohol-soaked fruitcake that she sold during the holidays for extra cash. The story printed on the box itself states that Beekman himself was the mastermind behind this supposedly popular product. Whatever the case, now Black Cat Bakery in Sharon Springs, NY, bakes the Beekman fruitcake. 

The cake arrived in a sturdy brown cardboard box, impressive for its size and 1 1/2 lb heft, and nestled amidst sparse tufts of dried straw. What's baked into the cake is straightforward: dried figs, dates, dried apricots, golden raisins, dark raisins, dried cherries, dried pineapple, pecans, butter, white sugar, brown sugar, eggs, salt, white flour, and Lairds Applejack Brandy. Kudos to Beekman 1802 for banishing unpronounceable ingredients.  As unadorned as the box, so is the cake's appearance itself, plainly wrapped in cheesecloth -- none of those festive nuts or glistening red and green cherries studded on top. Instead, the cake boasts a thick crumbly crust, baked a deep tan, that is relatively hard to cut through. Unlike other fruitcakes, the interior is also relatively dry -- it would be a stretch to say it was even moderately moist. That, as well as the pronounced lack of any alcohol flavor, made me wonder where the Lairds Applejack Brandy had gone.  Because my cake was so dry, cutting it did not yield nice thick slices like those pictured on the Williams Sonoma website. Instead, my slices tended to crumble into a messy pile. Perhaps the dryness reflected the vagaries of the bakery's oven. Biting into the cake, while not precisely the equivalent of taking a mouthful of sand, did not have me rapturous over a moist crumb. Instead, I was glad to have my tea at hand to wash it down.  Such a dry cake made the individual pieces of fruit stand out, only because they tended to fall out of the surrounding cake. The figs -- listed as the most common ingredient -- were certainly an aggressive presence, because I was biting into them frequently and their numerous tiny crunchy seeds unfortunately compounded the sensation that I was delving into gritty sand rather than a fruitcake. Much less notable were any of the other fruits except for the raisins -- again, a detraction. Finally, I didn't note any significant contribution of pecans, which was unfortunate because I like a balance of fruits and nuts  Let's just say I wasn't looking forward to demolishing the remains of the Beekman fruitcake, and it sat around like a large brick in my kitchen for a few days before gradually disappearing. 

Worth the $45? I would vote to invest that cash towards another fruitcake.

22 November 2011

That which is unattainable is highly prized.

I want this. This is what I want. Celui-la, j'en ai envie.

Friend of Mondo Fruitcake Glenn called my attention to the fruitcake made by the monks of the Cistercian Abbaye Val de Notre Dame. It looks delicious, and has a really interesting back story that involves (slightly) the Abbey of Gethsemane in Kentucky, where my favorite fruitcake comes from. You can read more of the story of the fruitcake here. It seems they got the idea of selling fruitcakes from the Abbey of Gethsemane and went down there around 1985 to learn more about business operations (but not surprisingly, didn't share their fruitcake recipe).

The article I linked to above is an old article and seems to be referring to another monastery, but Glenn has done his detective work and believes he has figured it out. He explains more below:

Now there isn't a lot of info online but what I was able to gather is that this fruitcake was originally made by the monks of the Cistercian Monastery of Notre Dame in Hockley Heights, which is situated in Orangeville, Ontario, just outside of Toronto. These monks were from the same order of the Oka monastery in Quebec.

About 10 years ago, the Monks at Hockley Heights, due to low vocations, were forced to leave and the monastery was taken over by a Ukranian order of Studite monks. By leaving Hockley Heights, they returned to Val Notre-Dame Abbey at Saint-Jean-de-Matha in Oka, Quebec and took the fruitcake with them. This is now the home of the fruitcake which they now sell on their website.

Intriguing! According to the article there may be green tomatoes in the mix, which blows my mind. Regardless, it's yet another fruitcake to add to the monastery fruitcake "to be reviewed" list -- and there aren't too many left. Other than New Skete in New York, I believe I've tried pretty much all of the monastery fruitcakes in the US.

But here's the kicker. Take a look at the sales conditions:
GAAAAAH!!! So close, yet so far away.  No worries, I will work my connections and see what I can do. But one day--this cake shall be mine.

Thanks very much Glenn for bringing this fruitcake to my attention!

19 November 2011

Golden apples.

I just received a newsletter from June Taylor, a company based in Berkeley, California, USA, that sells locally to farmers markets and have quite interesting organic products.

They have a fruitcake, called here a Christmas cake, which looks quite lovely. The fruit is macerated in port; the cake is soaked in brandy. I have a sneaky suspicion I would be transported if I purchased this cake, much as I was with the Robert Lambert fruitcake.

But. $50. For one pound. This cake must be made from angel’s wings, jackelope whiskers and unicorn horn.

Still hope to try it one day!

Update on Mary of Puddin Hill

They are, then they are not. A reader had mentioned a while ago that she had received word that Mary of Puddin Hill might be closing. However, their site is still around.

I e-mailed their customer service to see if I could find out more, but my e-mail bounced. Sometimes some companies just aren't as on top of their Internet traffic as others, but still. Does anyone have any updates?

12 November 2011

Dag nab it. Ordered the wrong cake.

I was planning on providing a review of the Palestine, Texas Eilenberger Fruitcake. Unfortunately, after perusing what I actually received, as well as their site, it looks as if I got the Texas Pecan cake. Dag nab it. Listen, I only have a certain number of calories I can expend each holiday season eating fruitcake. I'm sure I've devoted at least 500 of them to eating something that isn't even a fruitcake. Shame on me.

I need a while to brood over this. Review of this cake (heck, I ate it, might as well review it) coming soon.

01 November 2011

Next fruitcake is from.....

The American South. Texas, to be exact. This time, a recommendation from a reader, Eilenberger from Palestine, TX. Here we go--it's fruitcake time!