Saturday, December 12, 2015

Countdown to Christmas 14 - Fruitcake Capital

I would love to know if any reader can suggest an Australian city of town  which could claim to be this nation's fruitcake capital. In USA, Claxton, a small town in Georgia with a population of only 2740, claims to be the Fruitcake Capital of the World.
Claxton Water Tower 
There are two bakeries in Claxton and between them, they bake more than 4 million pounds (approximately 2 million kilograms) of fruitcake per year. Claxton Bakery, the larger bakery run by Dale Parker produces a light cake which begins with a blend of olden and natural raisins and then  candied (glace) pineapple, cherries, lemon, orange peel and nuts ( almonds, walnuts and local Georgia pecans) are added. Batches of cake batter are mixed in relatively speaking small quantities at a time - 375 pounds ( 183 kilograms approximately). This is done a fairly low speed in a mechanical stainless steel mixer, not dissimilar to a cement mixer  and the speed is low so as not to pulverise the fruit. The thick batter is levelled  into the pans by hand. This method goes back to the bakery's origins  a century ago when Italian immigrant, Savino Tos relocated his bakery from New York to Claxton. The current owner's father, Albert Parker  was once a young apprentice who went on to buying the business.
Original Claxton Bakery 

The second bakery, the Georgia Fruitcake Company makes a darker, richer cake spiked with bourbon. John Womble, the current bakery owner, claims that the fruitcake is making a comeback as a popular outdoor, energy giving food to hikers, walkers and campers because their recipe will not spoil when its opened.  the rich tasting fruitcake has allegedly even been taken by one mountain climber to the top of Mt Everest!

It is interesting to note that Claxton considers tourism  associated with  fruitcake sales  essential to its economic survival, unless of course you take into account the popularity of its only other claim to fame, the annual Rattlesnake and Wildlife festival!
Of course,  there is another contender for the title on the horiazon . Corsicana in Texas, dismisses Claxton's claim, and promotes itself as the Fruitcake Captial. The Corsicana bakery, the Collin Street bakery claims to be older, making delectable fruitcake from a traditional recipe from Wiesbaden, Germany and introduced to USA by Gus Weidmann. This is another story, and If I have a spare day, I might delve into this part of fruitcake history a little more.
Tomorrow, I hope to introduce you to a woman whose life was devoted to fruitcake.
* Information in the post came from www.npr.org and company websites.