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Like the cheerleader who didn't put out for the football captain (despite the captain's boasts), fruitcake ought to be welcome at any party. How did a good dessert get a bad reputation? Coast to coast, it's a national joke. So who's to blame for the bad rep? "There's only one fruitcake in the entire U.S," TV talk host Johnny Carson once kidded, "and it's passed around year after year, from family to family!" Rep. Fortney Stark (D-Ca), recently insulted a colleague on the Senate floor, "You are a little fruitcake. You are a little fruitcake. I said you are a fruitcake." Hey, no fruitcake could possibly be as distasteful as a politician, Republican or otherwise. Nope, I remain a registered, card-carrying Texas fruitcake fan.

German, Czech and Scottish immigrants brought Old World family recipes to Texas, replacing German almonds with Texas pecans. Sweet cake, candied fruits, chewy pecans? Heck, what's not to like? In 1988, Carson repented, heaping praise on Gladys Farek's 5 ft. by 6 ft., 150 lb. Texas-shaped fruitcake ($998!). This'll impress your foodie friends- Gladys' Bakery's authentic Czech recipe is (honestly) stirred in a cement mixer. But it's no doorstop. Round or Tannenbaum-shaped, with tender candied cherries, Gladys' tastefully seasoned 2-3 lb. beauties ($24.95-33.95) are 50% pecans, 0% alcohol, and the cute brochure resembles a 1950's cookbook. Visit www.gladysfruitcakes.com or phone 1-800-725-5254

You'll appreciate Ringling Bros. Circus vision once you've tasted Texas-based Collin Street Bakery's melt-in-your-mouth Deluxe ($18.95-44.45). Mr. Ringling's staff was the first to request overseas shipping of this American classic. (Today, Collin Street ships to U.S. military bases worldwide!) Essential at every yuletide party of my Ohio childhood, it's still the moist-est and cake-iest alcohol-free cake I've tried. Topped with green, yes, GREEN pineapple, how festive! The trademark tin (featuring cowboy, Alamo, AND stagecoach!) is built-in gift wrap . Order at collinstreetbakery.com or U.S. 1-800-292-7400; International +1-903-872-8111

Dark chocolate chips, plump, wine-y currants and golden raisins make The Original Ya-hoo! Baking Co. fruitcake truly Original. "We don't use any of those nasty red and green things," crows marketing manager David Millican, and he oughta crow; The mellow cherries are preserved, not candied. The cakes are from 1 _ to 3 lbs.; Wagon wheel ($20.95-29.95) in red tin, or Texas-shaped ($20.95-26.95) in gift box, both alcohol-free. Co-workers, kin or classmates will holler for 18 individual Li'l Yips ($22.95) in a 2 lb. box. www.yahoocake.com or 1-888-869-2466 (toll free)

To age fruitcake- soak cheesecloth in rum, brandy, cognac or bourbon, then wrap the entire cake in the cheesecloth. Repeat twice weekly 'til you can't wait anymore. To keep moist- snuggle a whole apple in the center hole (or in the cut). To get a good reputation, SHARE! I’d like to send a Texas-shaped fruitcake to Howard Dean. With a big, ol’ fork and knife!

www.Dishmag.com / Issue 192 - July 2017
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