Fruitcake

Bob McNutt’s sticky truths about fruitcake.

NAME: Bob McNutt | AGE: 50 | HOMETOWN: Corsicana | QUALIFICATIONS: Third-generation president of Collin Street Bakery, in Corsicana, which has been selling its DeLuxe Fruitcakes since 1896 / Oversees production of more than one million fruitcakes a year, which the bakery ships by mail-order to almost two hundred countries

• Fruitcake goes way back. We think it probably originated in ancient Egypt. You know, people have always celebrated grand occasions—birthdays, anniversaries, weddings—with cake. Fruitcake celebrated the bounty of the harvest.

• Now it’s kind of a love offering. Fruitcake means holidays and family and people coming together. It’s associated with things that they hold near and dear to their hearts.

• Fruitcake wisecracks? They’re part of the season. I think it has to do with the fact that there’s not a standard of identity for fruitcake. I mean, you can take anything—a pound cake with a couple pieces of fruit thrown in—and call it a fruitcake. It’s like steak: You can get a prime cut that just melts in your mouth, or you can end up with shoe leather. There’s such a range.

• The DeLuxe Fruitcake is 80 percent fruit and nuts. It’s 27 percent pecans by weight, with a lot of glacé fruit: cherries, pineapple, papaya.

• Good pecans are critical.

• I like my fruitcake sliced thin; it’s a subtle thing. Cold slices are better, when the cake’s been refrigerated. And I like it maybe with a little bit of whipped cream.

• Princess Grace of Monaco was a big fruitcake fan. She bought our cakes every year. Shortly after she died, we received an order from Princess Caroline. There’s a lot to be said for tradition, for people reconnecting with the past.

• Our recipe and our quality do not change.

• One time we had a British guy walk in and order 24 cakes. In the course of conversation, we asked how he was enjoying his trip to America. “Oh, it’s been fine,” he said. What had he enjoyed the most? “Well, just Corsicana.” Where else was he going? “Well, this is it.” As it turned out, he hadn’t gotten his order of fruitcakes in on time for them to arrive in England for Christmas. So he flew from London to DFW Airport, took a taxi to the bus station, took the bus to Corsicana, and walked four blocks from the bus stop to the bakery. We gave him a ride back to the airport.

• We go to great extremes for our cakes. We have our own pecan-shelling facility in Corsicana, for example. And we grow our own pineapple and papaya in Costa Rica. Our philosophy: We simply do not know how to make our cakes any better.

• Just try it. We get a lot of people—many, many people—who’ve never had fruitcake. Then they taste it, and they say, “Wow, I had no idea it could be that good.”

• I’ve got a jar in my office for all the great fruitcake jokes. So far it’s still empty.

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