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In the 1940s, a German immigrant and Texas businessman gave up baking bread for baking fruitcake. If you think that’s nuts, you should try their product.
It’s about 30 percent pecans.
“We use 20,000 pounds of pecans a day, during season,” said Hayden Crawford. “That’s a truckload of pecans every other day.”
Crawford is a partner at Collin Street Bakery — which was founded in 1896. This afternoon, Crawford’s two-stepping around giant mixers and boxes of dried fruit in his lizard-skin boots. Every year this bakery in Corsicana, Texas churns out one million fruitcakes.
There are many varieties of fruitcake, and the traditional treat has a bruised reputation in some quarters (consider doorstop jokes, for example).
But this fruitcake still sells worldwide. The golden Sultana raisins, bright red cherries, green pineapple and papaya are bound together by flour and honey, mixed by giant metal claws, and hand-decorated by women in hairnets. They churn out up to 20,000 a day during holiday season.
The deluxe fruitcake has made Collin Street Bakery famous. Early on, circus showman John Ringling started sending the treat to friends abroad.
Hayden Crawford, a partner in Collin Street Bakery. (Lauren Silverman/Marketplace)
But sales in the US started to wane for the first time about 15 years ago. Crawford says some people just didn’t want to buy a cake with all those rainbow colored toppings. So the bakery moved away from the candied fruit classic.
“We have an apricot [cake] from Australia, we have an apple cinnamon [cake] which you see here,” Hayden said. “Then we have the Texas Blonde.”
Instead of the red and green fruit on top, The Texas Blonde just has baked pecans. Crawford says the fruitcake makeover also meant fixing its image problem.
“So instead of calling them fruitcake, we called them pecan cakes,” he said. “And that changed pretty dramatically the sales for our cakes.”
Even with the name change and free samples in every store, not every customer is convinced. Alma Garcia won’t eat the fruitcake. “It’s just so sweet,” she said, laughing.
Instead, when she comes it’s for the cheesecake and the chicken sandwich.
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