If you are not a fruitcake fan you can skip this post all together. Which might be 90% of America, led astray by Johnny Carson several decades ago.
But. If you are appreciative of good fruitcake, ya gotta hand it to the Trappists.
And to Grandma. My Grandma (on Dad's side, born in London) made a kind of fruitcake without nuts, more cake-like than a standard American fruitcake, and very similar to something described at Mondo Fruitcake. It also had a hard white icing, though I would have remembered a thin layer of marizipan beneath. The fruits may not have been so finely chopped, but otherwise it sounds and looks quite similar. Absolutely delicious.
This year, I plainly went off my rocker and bought four (4) fruitcakes for those who live in and visit Castell Skookumchuk, ranked as follows in comparison to Grandma's using an utterly arbitrary percentage rating system:
1. Grandma's English Christmas Cake - 100%. Only remembered, the recipe lost. The gold standard.
2. Assumption Abbey - 95%. Rich, fruity, honey and rum flavors. Right behind Grandma, here.
3. Collins Street Apricot and Pecan Cake - 90%. I could eat a whole bowl of pecans - which seemed to be in abundance around Christmas as a kid - or a whole bowl of apricots, so to find them in combination was pretty good, boosting the ranking of an otherwise only better than average fruitcake.
4. Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey - 90%. Good, dense fruitcake, brandy-soaked, heavy on the raisins and the walnuts, made by the monks in Yamhill, Oregon. Would probably be tied with Assumption Abbey were my apricot infatuation not a factor. Thank you St. Benedict. If not for the celibacy thing and getting up at 3:30AM for Mass followed by work, I might be tempted to drive the three hours to Yamhill to convert and enlist.
5. Collins Street DeLuxe Fruit Cake - 85%. OK, so it is made with a host of artificial ingredients. Who cares?
Only a faint, relict sense of moderation kept me from ordering more for further research, especially:
- Gethsemani Farms, in the middle of Kentucky.
- Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, GA.
Maybe next year. Makes me want to sing Monteverdi's Christmas Vespers just thinking about it, even though I'm tone deaf and don't know Latin.