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Opening my mind to fruitcake

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After too many years of laughing at fruitcake jokes, I've decided it's time to open my mind to the possibility that the mass-produced crap has given a bad name to a noble tradition. So, I am going to buy a fruitcake from a reputable source for a fair trial.

My husband has great admiration for the monastic tradition, so I'm going to buy one of the mail order monastery fruitcakes. I'm considering the Gethsemani monastery in Kentucky, the Abbeyville monastery in Missouri, or the Holly Cross monastery in Virginia. I'd appreciate any input or recommendations from fruitcake-loving CHs.

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  1. Id suggest that instead iof buying it that you make your own fruitcake if you want to know what a really good fruitcake tastes like.

    I like Alton Brown's fruitcake recipe as a good place to start. You need to use dried fruit instead of the purchased macerated fruit to get the proper results but you can varity the fruits that you use according to your taste and availability.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Kelli2006

      Another vote for Alton Brown's Free Range Fruitcake recipe. It is simply addictive.

      1. re: jmcarthur8

        Same here. I froze a few slices last Christmas and had one last week with tea. Amazing. Thank you, son, for making it....

      2. re: Kelli2006

        I know I'm in the minority, but I made the Alton Brown fruitcake last year and didn't care for it. I made the recipe exactly, and I found the fruits to be a bit too tart for my liking. And if you don't already have many of the ingredients, it's not an inexpensive recipe to make. I read quite a few reviews and finally decided on the Gethsemani Farms fruitcake. Just placed my order yesterday, so I can't tell you how it is. If you can believe it, there is a website dedicated to fruitcake: http://www.mondofruitcake.com/. They have an explanation of the different types of fruitcakes, so that might help you make a decision.

      3. I've never met a fruitcake I didn't like, so I'm no help at all in recommending any. What I can do is suggest that you learn what you can about the ingredients of each and go with whatever has your favorite stuff and/or the least of what you aren't crazy about. Lots of people are grossed out by the "yucky green chunks" (dyed candied citron rind), some folks don't care for candied pineapple, I'm not a big fan of loads of nuts. I like mine dark and sticky, with just enough cake to hold everything together; most people nowadays prefer a lighter cake. So find out what you can and judge for yourself, in addition to whatever recommendations you get here.

        1. I do think you'll be happier with a fruitcake made from dried fruits rather than sticky and/or neon candied stuff.

          2 Replies
          1. re: sandylc

            That's why I suggested looking around. Some of us are pretty fond of the sticky and the "neon" stuff, although a lot of the better dried fruits are pretty sticky as well. IF your ideal fruitcake would be a sort of poundcake with non-sticky dried fruits and plenty of nuts, then any that I'd recommend would not do at all. Most of the mail-order companies give perfectly adequate descriptions of their product, so that one can easily decide whether that's what one would or would not like.

            1. re: sandylc

              Absolutely leave out that candied citron crap!

            2. Take a look at these Home Cooking threads: http://www.chow.com/search?query=frui...

              1. The monastery fruitcake sounds lovely. Give it a good soaking with rum or bourbon, your choice, and wrap it up until Christmas. Then slice in as thin as you can and have it with a cup of hot tea.

                1. Another vote for Alton Brown's "Free Range" fruitcake. It takes a little time and isn't CHEAP to make... dried cherries, blueberries, currants can be a little pricey. But worth the time and money. Think last time I made it I did a double recipe and easily got 6-8 mini-loaves out of it to give as gifts. When I told giftEEs that it was fruitcake... got some groans. Said just try it... got positive feedback from everybody.

                  1. For the last 2 years I've sent my parent's in Virginia the traditional fruitcake from Gingersnaps.org. Gingersnaps.org is part of a non-profit United Way agency serving mentally challenged adults in the Houston, TX area. I have not tasted it myself but my parent's love it. My aunt stopped by last Christmas and my mother convinced her to try it (my aunt doesn't like fruitcake) and she was in love. I plan to send her one this year also. I'd also suggest the gingersnap cookies from this organization. I use them to make the crust for my pumpkin cheesecakes. Delicious!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: kbrock_atx

                      Thanks for mentioning this. I had never heard of them but I see I should be able to find them at a farmer's market I sometimes go to. I'm going to check them out this year.

                    2. If you like moist, lots of stuff (nuts and fruit), not much cake, and would prefer your booze in a glass rather than mucking up your baked goods, then this may be the fruitcake for you. I've been eating them for over 50 years (the most recent, just last week) and swear by them. http://www.collinstreet.com/pages/onl...

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: grampart

                        + 1 for Collin Street Bakery.

                        My mother loved fruit cake and made her own every year. Dad would eat one slice to preserve domestic harmony, my brother and I would choke down a bite or two, but otherwise she had it all to herself. I think she made it that way on purpose. After she passed I got nostalgic not only for the foods she made that I loved but also the ones I couldn't stand and I ordered a fruit cake from Collin Street. I was very pleasantly surprised. I would have to differ from your description, however; compared to my mom's, there's virtually no fruit in Collin Street's fruit cake! The nuts are also much better quality than the ones off the pecan trees on our property.

                        Over the years I've tried several store-bought fruit cakes and didn't like any. I also have ordered from a monastery - as I recall it was in Oregon - but found it inferior to Collin Street. I haven't had one in several years - I didn't like it enough to go for it every year - but wouldn't mind having one again.

                        No way I'm going to go to the trouble to make one on my own.

                        1. re: grampart

                          Collins Street fruit cakes are the only kind that I like. In my family, we cut them open and portion them out. You only need a small chunk so it goes into the freezer for desserts throughout the holiday season.

                          Heaven.

                          1. re: grampart

                            Another vote for Collin Street Bakery. The only fruitcake I like. Maybe because it has as many pecans as fruits. However, I don't recommend the more creative cakes that they've added the last few years. They seem pricy, but they are very dense, so a little goes a long way.

                            1. re: grampart

                              "would prefer your booze in a glass rather than mucking up your baked goods, "
                              (I loved my Nan's fruit cake, she made it every year, MONTHS in advance... she'd pour booze over it every two days, seal it back up in the tin... it was a treat... in small slices of course!)

                              1. re: cgarner

                                Great-grandma James was a pious teetotaller, but she'd buy a bottle of brandy every year for her fruitcakes. She made hers soon after the New Year, maybe six or seven of them, and she'd wrap them in cheesecloth, lay them in covered tins and put them on shelves in the pantry. Every so often she'd sprinkle more brandy over each one … Yes, cgarner, SMALL slices. As much as I adored her fruitcake, and as huge an appetite as I had then, I could not have eaten too much more than the little wedge I got at each serving. We took about a month going through it …

                              2. re: grampart

                                WARNING: I am wearing my party pooper hat ;-(

                                Collins Street Bakery fruitcake ingredients:



                                Ingredients: pecans, cherries, corn syrup, sugar, flour, pine-apple, raisins, eggs, invert sugar, honey, liquid soybean oil & hydrogenated soybean oil, papaya, water, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup solids, orange peel, natural and artificial flavor, sulphur dioxide, red #40, blue #1, tumeric (color)

                                Go Homemade!!!!

                                1. re: sandylc

                                  If you can make a "healthy" fruitcake that tastes as good as theirs, you have my congratulations. But I don't think you can.

                                  1. re: grampart

                                    I'm thinking more in terms of quality than health. But when something is of better quality, the health thing can be an added bonus.

                              3. While I admit my mind is not all that open to fruitcake (not yet anyway) I have found suitable and lovely replacement breads that highlight jam instead of fruit studs and require some aging and are expected to improve with time. One such recipe is this by DL:
                                http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2009/04/...

                                My adoration for all things honey is satisfield and any number of delicious homemade jams and chutneys compliment a room temp or slightly warmed slice.

                                Fruitcake is one of those treats that has defenders and detractors, but what stops me in my foodie tracks is the smell of fruitcake...I just don't have the joy for it.

                                1. Yes, DEFINITELY try making a fresh one!
                                  Try the White Grooms Fruitcake on the recipe section here at CH, but I substitute coarsely chopped candied pineapple, candied lemon peel, golden raisins, and candied ginger for the fruit suggested in the recipe.
                                  I also like Alton Brown's improved fruitcake found in his "I'm Just Here For More Food" book.

                                  1. Bake your own or leave it alone! ~~ Thank me later!

                                    1. Laurie Colwin's black cake is TO DIE FOR!!!

                                      http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes...

                                      1. I started making my own, and it's amazing, and not difficult.

                                        I used plain dried fruit (not the gross candied fruitcake stuff, or general candied fruit) - a mix of raisins, sultanas, prunes (about 2/3 of the weight), plus some dried cherries or blueberries, and some dried guava or peach for the rest. They're cut up as needed, and marinated in dark rum syrup for 24-48 hours. Then grated zest rather than candied peel, and nuts, plus the The batter is just enough to hold the fruit and nuts together.

                                        After baking, I poke holes in it with a skewer, and brush with more rum. The rum brushing reoccurs every few days for a month, adn then it's ready to eat.

                                        Mmmm....

                                        I find the key is to use good quality, subtle ingredients. Avoid the candied peel, anything that has "fruitcake" or "candied" in the label, maraschino cherries, etc. And it needs to age for best effect.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                          PERFECTION!

                                        2. I know it's after fruitcake season, but I figured I would put in a vote for next year: Mary of Puddin' Hill in Texas. While I don't mind mixed drinks, I can't abide with the boozy taste of fruitcake - and theirs is alcohol-free. Imagine a lot of pecans, candied fruit, and "goo" to hold things together - yum.

                                          1. I made panforte, Italian fruit cake this year and it's delicious. A bit tricky to make, but worth the effort and it lasts quite a while.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: monavano

                                              I love panforte. Which recipe did you follow?
                                              I love this one:
                                              http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2012/02/...

                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                http://www.apricosa.com/2009/10/panfo...

                                                I used this one. After adding the honey caramel, it was like quick set concrete! But, I managed to pull it together and get it set in a spring form pan.
                                                I would definitely make it next year.
                                                Oh, I added some brandy too, for , ahem, preservation sake ;-)

                                                1. re: monavano

                                                  Thanks for the link. Cute blog and an interesting variation (brandy is perfect whatever the reason :)
                                                  But, these days I protect my teeth and break nuts down to a crumble. I would be afraid to chump into whole nuts in a delicious nugget.