Corsicana: From October to December it’s all about fruitcakes
Over the course of 60 days, from late October until early December, the 123-year old Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana produces nearly 800,000 pounds of fruit cake set to travel the globe.
The bakery ships its famous fruitcakes to customers in all 50 states and 196 foreign countries, said Hayden Crawford, the bakery's vice president and part owner.
While you may have heard about this historic fruitcake through its cameos in legendary movies like The Godfather, what you may not know is how it is produced.
The bakery opens an entire side of its massive kitchen just dedicated to the holiday fruitcake backing rush.
Workers use large mixing bowls that hold between 250 and 300 pounds of batter.
"You don't find this kind of mixers anymore. That's probably is 60 or 70-year old mixer. It will actually reach in, almost like hands, and fold the ingredients together instead of beating them," Crawford said.
The process is deliberate and the recipe is down to a science.
First, workers mix the dry ingredients: pecans, pineapples, papaya, golden raisins and orange peels.
Butter, honey and flour go in, but the cherries are delicate. They must be added last and then gently folded into the batter so they don't burst.
The mixing bowls are then hoisted up into a "distributor" and put into baking pans.
Each pan is weighed and meticulously decorated by hand.
Each pecan is arranged on top of the cake, and each candied red cherry and green pineapple placed in its proper position, is done so by experienced hands.
The bakery's fruitcakes are baked with love as well.
Crawford said the bakery in Corsicana, which is where all of the fruitcakes are baked, goes from about 70 employees to about 500 during the Christmas season.
He said the seasonal employees not only feel like family, some are actually related to each other.
"So, we have families and generational families, fathers and sons and daughters and mothers. They come in. They decorate the cakes, get their Christmas money, and go home happy," Crawford said.
The cakes are baked for an hour and 15 minutes.
Then, they're sent to a specially designed cooler to bring temperature down enough for the workers to handle them.
The apricot glaze has two purposes.
It's tasty and it keep the oxygen out, to preserve the dessert as long as possible.
"It's almost like polishing wood."
The glaze also makes the cake pretty, for lack of a better word.
Because remember, perfection is the goal.
"It (the fruitcake) goes on the holiday table. You're walking up and you're looking at our presentation. We want to make sure that it's the prettiest it can possibly be," Crawford said.
All of the workers efforts show, you can't always trade technicians for technology.
The Collin Street Bakery continues to produce a sweet tradition that has been more than a century in the making.
It has two locations in Corsicana and one in Waco.
According to the company's website, the fruitcakes come in one, two, and four pounds and a variety of flavors like apricot, and strawberry fudge pecan.
While the fruitcake baking has slowed down, the bakery will continue to make smaller fruitcakes (onesies and twosies) throughout the year.
Crawford said, from around 1977 until recent years, the fruitcake became a joke nationwide.
He attributes plummeting sales to a comments made by a late night talk show host who joked there was really only one fruitcake in the world and that it just get's passed around from person to person.
The comment allegedly implied that people disliked the cake so much they that if they got one they would re-gift it instead of eating it.
Crawford said fruitcake bakers from all over suffered.
However, a new generation unfamiliar with the "fruitcake stigma" is making the fruity, nutty cake popular again.