“It’s fruitcake weather,” announces Buddy in “A Holiday Memory,” Truman Capote’s autobiographical and poignant recollection of growing up in rural Alabama during the Great Depression.
In spite of limited resources and difficult times, seven-year-old Buddy and his eccentric elderly cousin, Miss Sook, rejoiced in the meaning of Christmas by preparing fruitcakes to send to people they admired.
In Texas, about 50 miles south of Dallas, there is a small town where it is fruitcake weather year- round.
Corsicana is home to the Collins Street Bakery and the world famous Collins Street fruitcakes—the dense, moist confections, filled with candied fruit and nuts and packaged in beautiful holiday tins.
A slice of the decadent cake may very well bring back some holiday memories to you.
When I was growing up, our family received a Collins Street Bakery fruitcake each December from one of my father’s clients. My younger sister still remembers jumping up and down with joy when the fruit cake arrived.
The bakery was founded in 1896 by August Wiedmann, an immigrant from Westbaden, Germany with the help of Corsicana businessman and entrepreneur, Tom McElvee.
Within the first ten years of operation, the little bakery outgrew its location and built a new facility that boasted an eight-room hotel on the second floor—a place to accommodate visiting celebrities like Will Rogers and Enrico Caruso.
In 1914, when the circus came to town, another component of the already booming business was born. Ringling Brothers Circus (it did not merge with Barnum Bailey until 1919) is credited with taking the cakes with them as they traveled town to town and giving them out as gifts. The people loved the cakes so much that they would write to the bakery and ask to have another one sent to them—thus the beginning of the mail-order fruit cake company that we know, today.
Lee W. McNutt, Harry Cook and Bob Rutherford purchased the bakery from Wiedmann in 1946, and it has remained in their families ever since.
It being fruitcake weather in Dallas, my friend Kathy and I set out for Corsican Friday morning. Of course, we could have ordered one online, but the short road trip seemed more appealing. You get to visit the shop, see all the confections (they now make pies, cookies, candies and more) and sample the goodies.
Besides the original fruit cake, there is pineapple, apricot, apple spice and of course, Texas Pecan.
Also on display is a cake created by Chef Roland Mesnier, former White House pastry chef. It’s a spice cake with pumpkin, gingerbread buttercream icing and can be ordered through Collins Street Bakery.
The historic downtown bakery (there are now several new locations) is on 7th Street near the town square. A portion of the interior resembles a museum, exhibiting newspaper clippings, letters and telegrams from happy fruit cake recipients all over the world.
“We’ve even sent cakes to Queen Elizabeth,” bakery staff member Olivia Coleman said.
As Coleman showed us around the bakery pointing out items and memorabilia, she said to us, “you have to see our bread box.”
A vintage bread box. Everyone had one when I was growing up. I wanted one, but they are currently out of stock.
Apparently Ms. Kay of Duck Dynasty has one, though— bakery staff members spotted it on the reality TV series.
In addition to the historic downtown bakery, there is a newer location just off Interstate 45 that serves meals of soups, salads and sandwiches as well as the bakery items.
In fact, there are now five Texas locations. An added bonus—they are pet-friendly.
They offer an exercise area for your dog and welcome them to dine with you on the patio. This makes Collins Street Bakeries an ideal stop when you are traveling with your canine family member.
Wheels, BubbleLife’s special Boston Terrier contributor,has patronized both the I- 45 and I-35 (near Waco) locations and gives them each a “four paws up” rating.
Visit www.collinsstreet.com for a complete line of bakery items and locations.
A colorful fruitcake makes a beautiful presentation on your holiday table—and be sure and send one to someone you admire this Christmas.