The world is divided into those who secretly adore fruitcake and those who openly abhor it. It’s time for those of us who appreciate a good, hearty fruitcake to come out of the pantry and stand up for the confectionery that’s gotten such a bum rap in recent years. (See my post entitled “The Fruitcake Bigot.”)
I’ve eaten bad fruitcake, but, then, I’ve eaten good—the kind my mother made that soaked up a fifth of bourbon before reaching perfection. I prefer a light-colored, cakey version with just cherries and nuts, not one overly-packed with sticky, candied fruits. They’re hard to find, unless you bake them yourself and I gave that up some years ago.
Recently, I’ve settled for a hearty concoction made by the Trappist monks at Assumption Abby in Ava, Missouri. Trappists are members of the Cistercian Order founded in France in the 11 century. The southwest Missouri monastery, established in 1950 by a group of monks from Iowa, is one of 17 Trappist orders in the US. Their recipe was developed by Chef Jean-Pierre Augé, who once cooked for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
The Assumption Abby fruitcakes are slow baked, dark, rich, and aged. Everything from marinating to mixing to marketing is done by the monks. This year I bought one of the cakes at Straubs. They’re expensive. On the monastery website, a two-pounder sells for $32.50; at Straubs, $38.99; Williams-Sonoma, $44.95; and Amazon, $49.95.
At the pace that I’m eating this cake, it should last me from Advent till Easter. My kids and grandkids would laugh if I tried to serve it to them, as would my friends, most of whom I consider to be fruitcake snobs. So I will savor a small slice from time to time this winter with a cup of tea by the fireplace.
Should you wish to order a fruitcake directly from the monks, contact information is listed below. If you’re apprehensive about the purchase, you can request shipment in a plain brown wrapper : )
Assumption Abbey Bakery, Rt 5, Box 1056, Ava, MO 65608. Toll Free: 1.888.738.0117; On line: www.assumptionabbey.org/fruitcakes.asp.