The cake is shipped with an explanatory note, describing how the cake is made. They certainly keep things local with this cake, even the wrapping paper: per the note, "June watercolors the cake wraps before a letterpress design is printed on them." Here's what that looks like:
The ingredients, listed in this note, ascribe the origins of each ingredient, which are truly locally sourced from around Oakland: the port and brandy in which the dried fruits are macerated is from Alameda, the almonds are from Chico, the Bing cherries are from Escalon. If I lived in the Oakland area I certainly would be proud of the bounty in that area on reading this list. Here's the ingredient list from the back of the wrap:
I hope that's clear (but it probably isn't, knowing me). There are candied citrus peels in this cake, but the rest is dried fruit, including plums, apricots, and cherries. And, unfortunately for this writer, there are a lot of grapes and golden raisins. A LOT of those little guys. Locally sourced, yes, but still a lot of them. Regardless, this is a nice clean, wholesome list of ingredients.
Upon unwrapping the cake, you find a cute little loaf wrapped in cheesecloth. Per the little note, "your cake has been washed with an aged brandy and wrapped in cheesecloth to keep it moist:"
Looks very similar to the Robert Lambert or other smaller fruitcakes I've had. Here it is unwrapped:
And finally, here's a slice:
A nice proportion of fruit to cake, but not very pretty--everything is very brown. Definitely not a super festive-looking cake.
So on to the taste. Well I've been hinting at it with the reference to ALL the grapes/raisins: this cake had that sort of grapey, burnt taste that is not my favorite. I think this also may be due to the inclusion of the dried plums. Come to think of it, port wine is also grape-based, a fortified wine, so gosh, that's a heck of a lot of grape in this cake.
The cake itself has a nice dense crumb and a rich flavor due to the brown sugar, spices, and alcohol, but I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed with the flavor. I was expecting something a bit more dynamic or original. Certainly, June Taylor calls this a "traditional Christmas cake," so is certainly not marketing this as anything more than that, and in that sense it fits the bill.
I did find the cake to be just a bit dry when I first tried it. Referring back to the note packed with the cake (a very useful reference, that), they recommend that it "can periodically be refreshed with more brandy." So before wrapping it up, I brushed a bit of cognac on the outside, re-wrapped in the cheesecloth and put in a storage bag. I also followed the instructions on the note to "refrigerate until the cake is cold and using a sharp knife thinly slice the cake and bring back to room temperature to serve." The next time I tried it, I did just that, let it come back to room temperature before trying it, and that also helped--the flavors and aromas expanded and became more complex.
So I can say I tried to give this cake the benefit of the doubt. This is certainly a delicious, well-made cake sourced from local ingredients and made with care. If you care about food made from "quality ingredients" from "local farmers and artisan producers" (again from that note), then certainly this would be an excellent cake to purchase. And this cake is indeed an experience: the entire experience shows a desire by June Taylor to create a beautiful, well-crafted cake, even down to the wrap.
However, face it, this cake cost a lot of money, and for that money, didn't deliver anything terribly original. If you're trying to balance quality with value, I would recommend checking out the Jampot (Holy Transfiguration Skete), Old Cavendish, or even one of the Bien Fait cakes for something similar at a lower price.