The holidays are upon us. That time of year for parties, decorating, shopping, presents, and . . . fruitcake, a word that strikes fear in the hearts of many.
Decades ago when my great-Aunt Gertrude visited at Christmas, she always brought my family one of her homemade fruitcakes. Aunt Gertrude was a lovely person. I remember she wore lace-collared dresses, tons of face powder and rouge, and smelled of lilac perfume. She reminded us kids of Aunt Bee from “The Andy Griffith Show.” Aunt Bee was always bustling around the kitchen in Mayberry cooking up something good.
Except, our Aunt Gertrude was a terrible cook. And her fruitcake was proof of that. It weighed 5 pounds and reeked of bourbon. Placing it in the center of the dining room table, she would go on about how she made it July, setting it in a tin of bourbon and putting it in her cellar to cure. My brothers and I would roll our eyes at the mention of her dank, musty cellar.
Before her visit, Dad would be in full lecture mode, admonishing us to each eat a piece and tell her how delicious it was. It’s a good thing Auntie was hard of hearing and missed it when he himself would mutter “harder than the hobs of hell” as he sawed away at it. The minute she was gone, that cake became bird food.
With childhood memories of great Aunt Gertrude’s cake in mind, I steered clear of holiday fruitcakes. That is until last spring, when on a visit to Claxton, Ga. (an hour north of Savannah), I stopped by the Claxton Bakery and sampled some fruitcake from the Claxton Fruit Cake Co. It was hands down the best I have ever had. It was moist, studded with golden raisins, candied pineapple, glazed cherries, walnuts, almonds, and Georgia pecans. And, no liquor, so I was not drunk after one slice.
In a telephone interview, owner Dale Parker said, “The company started as a bakery in 1910 in what is now our store on West Main Street. Albert Parker, my dad, started working in the bakery in 1927 when he was 11 years old. In 1945, he bought the business, and it’s been family-owned since then.”
He went on to say, “We bake year-round for our bakery and area supermarkets. Our biggest sellers, throughout the year, are the individually wrapped slices called ClaxSnax and the chocolate-
covered fruitcake nuggets.”
Parker added, “Our busy season is Labor Day to mid-December. That’s when we mix 86,000 pounds of fruits and batter per day, dividing that into batches weighing 375 pounds each, the ovens are going 24 hours, six days a week. In our short, four-month busy season alone, our product count is 4 million.”
No wonder the water tower that stands over downtown has written on it, “Claxton, Fruitcake Capital of the World.”
CLAXTON BAKERY, 203 West Main St., Claxton, Ga., 800-841-4211, claxtonfruitcake.comFrancis Folsom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.