31 December 2011

Happy New Year from Mondo Fruitcake!

A very happy and tasty 2012 to all. I'm heading into my "I'm done with fruitcake" season soon, though I still have a stollen to enjoy. All the best to everyone in the new year!

27 December 2011

Crikey! Suspicious Activity/National Fruitcake Day

Something horrible happened to the blog, somewhere right around Christmas, I think. Thanks to blog follower vkrn for pointing it out. I blame those fruitcake haters. Seems about right that a blog glorifying the fruitcake would be assaulted right around the holidays.

Anyway, stand proud in your love of the fruitcake. Today is National Fruitcake day! Send one to your friend/neighbor! Mention to a colleague at work how much you enjoyed X or Y fruitcake that you had over the holidays! I challenge you to do one positive fruitcake-related thing today. The world will be a better, more tolerant place for it.

17 December 2011

Review: WHO Women Cranberry Orange Walnut Cake

I am going to have to re-think my fruitcake categories. The "Other" category needs to be redefined a bit. I was recently asked about trends in fruitcake, which I hadn't really thought about before (and shame on me for that). What I came up with in response to that question was the trend of remaking the concept of a fruitcake, normally through rejection of the standard-issue candied fruit. Instead, I'm seeing (or at least being made aware of) more cakes that contain either house-made candied fruit, in the case of the Robert Lambert cakes, or dried fruit, such as the Old Cavendish cake. Perhaps this isn't a trend at all but rather something that's been out there for a while, and I've started to discover it as I surge further into the dense forest of cakes of a fruity nature. Regardless, I think this type of fruitcake deserves a category more defined than "other." I would welcome your recommendations as to what this new category would be. Dried-fruit fruitcakes? Gastronomic fruitcakes? Locavore fruitcakes? New wave fruitcakes? Feel free to comment or jump over to the Facebook page to share your thoughts.

In any case, such a fruitcake is the WHO Women Cranberry Orange Walnut cake. Even by its name can one see that it is not defining itself as a fruitcake. Just as no one names a child Adolf anymore, it seems that the very word "fruitcake" might have negative connotations and so is being avoided. That being said, this is one of those alternative cakes that doesn't strictly evoke the flavor of a traditional fruitcake, either. Several readers had recommended this cake; when I went to their site, I didn't see anything specifically called a "fruitcake" so I contacted their customer service and was told that the Cranberry Orange Walnut was the closest thing.

The one pound cake cost $11.95; they also have 2- and 3- pound cakes. With shipping, the cost was $18.15. Here's what the cake looks like:
No hole. I'm not super keen on that (see my previous post about the importance of the hole), but really, not a huge deal. The ingredients? Fabulous: orange peel, dried cranberries, walnuts, brown sugar, flour, dates, butter, eggs, vanilla, a bit of sodium caseinate (not sure if that's part of another ingredient or added for emulsification/stabilization). What? No cherries, citron, pineapple, you say? Correct--this does not contain the standard trinity of candied fruit.

Here's a shot of the cake, sliced:

Chock-full of all the good stuff. As for the flavor: it's not a standard fruitcake. This cake reminded me of the cranberry-orange quick bread that you may be familiar with, with a bright, citric flavor from the cranberries and orange peel. However it is much denser and has a more intricate flavor due to the walnuts and dates. I'd compare this to the Bien Fait cakes in nature because of the use of dried fruit. Hmmm, maybe that new category I mentioned is dried fruit cakes (rather than candied fruit cakes).

This is a very delicious cake, and could be another good alterna-fruitcake on your holiday table. It might be even more delicious with a discreet dousing of rum or brandy. I'm going to put it up towards the top of the "Other" fruitcakes list, but beware: my rating lists may be evolving soon!

09 December 2011

Alabama Fruitcake Redux

Hello all, just heard from Joseph, a dedicated blog reader who's been eating his way through the fruitcakes I've rated. He strongly recommends the Alabama fruitcake I had referred to in a previous post. Says Joseph, "I loved this cake. It is slightly on the sweet side but it was very moist and soft. It had a good balance of fruit and pecans to cake and the pecans and fruits were of good quality."

06 December 2011

Review: Sunnyland Farms Dark and Light Fruitcakes

The more I taste fruitcakes from Georgia, the more I like them. As I had mentioned in a previous post, I bought a set of fruitcakes, the light and dark fruitcake, from Sunnyland Farms. Sunnyland Farm's main business is pecans, so although I was expecting the fruitcakes to have pecans in them, I wasn't expecting anything fabulous. But these are pretty darn good fruitcakes.

I was sent the catalog after my order, something I usually don't like because a) I've already bought what I want, why have a catalog, and b) it's a waste of paper and postage. But I actually enjoyed the Sunnyland Farms one, and read it from cover to cover--at least the bottom of each page, which contained a running commentary of things about the company as well as descriptions of many of the workers there, which was really heartwarming. How nice to be featured in your company's catalog!

Back to the fruitcakes. I bought the fruitcake combo, containing two 1 pound, 7 ounce loaves, one each of the dark and light fruitcake, both containing pecans. All of Sunnyland Farm's prices contain shipping, so I paid (and you would pay) $39.70 for the home box--unadorned fruitcakes. They also have a gold-foil gift box available for $43.20.

Neither of the cakes contain booze, but there's enough flavor in each of them where I didn't really miss it. Yup, that's me, the "I love booze in fruitcakes" woman, saying that. I think the secret ingredient in both that added a bit more flavor was juice: orange juice in the light, grape juice in the dark. Let me break them down a bit.

The dark fruitcake contains brown sugar and molasses, dates, dark raisins, your usual candied fruit trinity of cherries, pineapple, and citron, and a dash of lemon peel. Here's a cake where I actually didn't mind the raisins! They were well integrated into the cake, and they weren't terribly dry or overpowering in their raisiny-ness. Perhaps they're macerated in the grape juice? I'll see if I can find out. I think the juice definitely adds another element to the cake. The brown sugar and molasses gave this cake a truly dark flavor, and I always enjoy the extra complexity dates give to the mix. The thing that makes the flavor of this cake distinctive, however, are the spices: cinnamon and cloves. Cinnamon! I don't think I've seen cinnamon in a cake since the Harry & David one.

The light fruitcake shares the same fruit mixture, but replaces the brown sugar and molasses with regular sugar, and golden raisins instead of dark. There are no spices, but there is orange juice, and I think that addition gives the cake a bright, distinct flavor. It's a very happy looking cake, too, as evidenced by the slices below (light fruitcake on top):

Both fruitcakes share what I feel is a good balance between cake and fruit and nuts. There is enough space between the ingredients where you can taste the cake, and it has a nice, cake-like texture, not gooey.

These were really nice cakes. Since my top Southern style cake, Mary of Puddin Hill, is really no longer available (see the update and comments here), I'm going to move it to the bottom of the list, then move Georgia/Womble's up and these right below. Georgia up, Texas down.

04 December 2011

Bakermaid - for high end department store fruitcakes

Thought this was interesting. A reader had asked about a fruitcake assortment that she had loved. While perusing my list of fruitcake links (you can see them over on my Mondo Fruitcake stack) I came upon one for a wholesale company, Bakermaid. They don't provide a whole lot of detail, as they are wholesale, but they do mention a few of the stores that they bake for. So if there's a particular department store cake you love, but can't find, maybe this can help.