Current Weather
The Spy FM

Georgia Town Makes Claim For Fruitcake Capital Of The World

Filed by KOSU News in US News.
December 12, 2012

In the small town of Claxton, Ga., two bakeries make more than four million pounds a year of the holiday treat. Both bakeries say Claxton is the fruitcake capital of the world, despite a similar claim made by a company in Corsicana, Texas.

“We actually begin with a blend of golden and natural raisins,” says Dale Parker, vice president of Claxton Bakery, the larger of the town’s two fruitcake companies. “A lot of folks ask us what are the little green things in fruitcake, and that’s simply candied pineapple.”

There are also candied cherries, lemon, orange peel, and nuts — almonds, walnuts and Georgia pecans.

The bakery makes fruitcakes in relatively small batches, only 375 pounds at a time.

The candied fruit, nuts, and batter tumble together in a huge stainless steel barrel, rotating kind of like the way a cement mixer works.

“You couldn’t do that high speed because if you did you’d pulverize the fruit,” Parker says.

The batter is so thick that workers level it in the pans by hand before the sheets go into a revolving oven.

The bakery goes back over a century when an Italian immigrant named Savino Tos moved from New York City to Georgia. Dale Parker’s father, Albert, worked in the bakery as a young boy and eventually bought the business. Back then, fruitcakes were a delicacy at a time when many couldn’t afford to buy fresh fruits and nuts.

Fruitcakes don’t last forever, but they will stay fresh for up to six months at room temperature and for at least a year in the refrigerator.

Fruitcakes are often mocked. Most famously, former Tonight Show host Johnny Carson contended there is just one fruitcake and that it gets re-gifted as people send it house to house every year. As you might imagine, people in Claxton don’t think it’s funny.

“Yeah, he said that, but he would not come locally and make that statement. He’d only say it on TV,” says Claxton mayor Luther Royal. He says the town of about 2,000 revolves around fruitcakes. It brings in tourists to a place that otherwise might only be known for its rattlesnake festival.

And Royal says the cakes have been a good negotiating tool for both him and the former mayor. “He would take a case of fruitcake to Atlanta and come back with a mile of asphalt. And we still do that. We take the Claxton fruit cake to Atlanta every year in December and give to the elected officials,” he says.

The second bakery is called the Georgia Fruit Cake Company. Its cakes are darker, and some are spiked with bourbon. Owner John Womble says that though the fruitcake market is older, a new generation is interested.

“The younger people that we’ve picked up are generally hikers, bikers, outdoors people who found out that you can take fruitcake with you, you don’t have to worry about it going bad once you open it,” Womble says. He even got a letter from one fan who said they took one of his cakes to the top of Mount Everest.

If fruitcake is done right, Womble says, it will look like a stained glass window when held up to the light. The bourbon fruit cake, he notes, is “a very rich tasting cake. But it’s not overpowering … We have volunteers who just want to stand around while we’re pouring the bourbon on actually.”

Baking starts for the holiday season in August. The Claxton Bakery sells its cakes in large retail outlets, and they are now being marketed on the QVC network.

At Womble’s bakery, Betty Selph’s family sits at the counter. Selph is a typical customer. She lives about 50 miles away, and like many who stop by, she grew up eating home made fruitcake but loves this one.

“I taste my mother’s fruitcake,” she says. “How can you describe it any better?” [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

Leave a Reply

5AM to 9AM Morning Edition

Morning Edition

For more than two decades, NPR's Morning Edition has prepared listeners for the day ahead with two hours of up-to-the-minute news, background analysis, commentary, and coverage of arts and sports.

Listen Live Now!

9AM to 10AM The Takeaway

The Takeaway

A fresh alternative in morning news, "The Takeaway" provides a breadth and depth of world, national and regional news coverage that is unprecedented in public media.

View the program guide!

10AM to 11PM On Point

On Point

On Point unites distinct and provocative voices with passionate discussion as it confronts the stories that are at the center of what is important in the world today. Leaving no perspective unchallenged, On Point digs past the surface and into the core of a subject, exposing each of its real world implications.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center