A slice of holiday fruitcake: Collin Street Bakery, TX, Part 2

A Sweet Legend
One hundred fourteen years ago, August Weidmann, a young immigrant from the German town of Wiesbaden, opened a bakery on Collin Street in Corsicana, with financial backing from Tom McElwee, a flamboyant and wealthy local cotton buyer and opera-house proprietor. Weidmann’s specialty was a fruitcake baked by a recipe he had brought with him from his native country. McElwee suggested the trade name DeLuxe Fruitcake for the product.

The answer to the family-who-has-everything holiday gift dilemma. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1906 the business was moved to a location on Sixth Avenue, and there McElwee opened an exclusive hotel on the second floor of the bakery. Enrico Caruso, John J. McGraw, and Will Rogers were among the celebrities who stayed at the hotel at various times.

In 1914 a Ringling Brothers circus troupe, in Corsicana for a performance, bought dozens of DeLuxe Fruitcakes to give as Christmas gifts to friends and relatives all over the United States and in Europe. As a result, the bakery received an overwhelming number of orders from the recipients for more cakes, and the company’s mail-order business resulted.

McElwee died in 1946; Weidmann died the following year. Lee McNutt, R. F. Rutherford, Harry Montgomery, and H. T. Cook purchased the business from McElwee’s widow. L. W. (Bill) McNutt, Jr., Lee McNutt’s son, joined the firm in 1958, and in 1967 became company president. His two sons are also involved in the company’s management.

In 1967 the bakery moved to its current location at 401 West Seventh Avenue. Although there is a retail outlet in the bakery that sells traditional bakery items, the emphasis of the business has continued to be its mail-order DeLuxe Fruitcakes.

Company officials have rejected numerous offers from major food companies to distribute the fruitcakes. The cakes are available only through the bakery or by mail order and cannot be purchased in stores.

This year, the company published A Slice of Life, ($19.95, available in stores and online), a collection of quirky and heartwarming letters from customers for whom the holidays aren’t complete without enjoying—or at least giving—a Collin Street fruitcake made with honey, pecans, pineapples, cherries, and raisins.

Life is Sweet with Texas Blonde Pecan Cake from Collin Street Bakery. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The cakes are shipped to all fifty states and folks who live in about 200 other countries.

In order to have one of Collin Street’s fruitcakes delivered by Christmas, order by phone (800-475-3589) or online by December 10.

Life is sweet!

Collin Street Bakery at a Glance

Established in 1896 at original site on Collin Street in Corsicana to produce fruitcakes

Recipe brought from Germany by baker August Weidemann

Makes more than 1 million cakes a year

Production of Christmas fruitcakes begins in October

To meet holiday demand, the full-time production staff of 100 expands by 600 seasonal workers

Collin Street Bakery

Details

A slice of Heaven from Collin Street Bakery. Life is Sweet with Texas Blonde Pecan Cake from Collin Street Bakery. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas Bake Shops

Historic Downtown Corsicana

A Texas historic landmark, the Collin Street Bakery is located at 401 West 7th Ave, Corsicana, TX 75110

For map, click here

Operating Hours: Monday to Saturday, 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Sunday, 12 noon-6 p.m.

Contact: (903) 874-7477 or (800) 292-7400

I-45/Corsicana

Collin Street Bakery built its 2nd location just east of Corsicana, on I-45 and Highway 287 (exit 229)

For map, click here

Operating Hours: Monday to Saturday, 7:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.; Sunday, 11:00 a.m.-7 p.m.

Contact: (903) 872-2157

Call ahead if you like and have your order ready to go when you arrive.

I-35/Waco

Collin Street Bakery has just built its 3rd location at Bellmead, near Waco,
on I-35 and Highway 31 (exit 338A).

For map, click here

Operating Hours: Monday to Saturday, 7:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.; Sunday, 11:00 a.m.-7 p.m.

Contact: (254) 799-5824

Call ahead if you like and have your order ready to go when you arrive.

Worth Pondering…
Fruitcake Facts

The oldest reference that can be found regarding a fruitcake dates back to Roman times. The recipe included pomegranate seeds. Pine nuts and raisins that were mixed into barley mash. Honey, spices, and preserved fruits were added during the Middle Ages. Crusaders and hunters were reported to have carried this type of cake to sustain themselves over long periods of time away from home.

In the early 18th century, fruitcake (called plum cakes) was outlawed entirely throughout Continental Europe. These cakes were considered as “sinfully rich”. By the end of the 18th century there were laws restricting the use of plum cake.

Between 1837 and 1901, fruitcake was extremely popular.  A Victorian “Tea” would not have been complete without the addition of the fruitcake to the sweet and savory spread.  Queen Victoria is said to have waited a year to eat a fruitcake she received for her birthday because she felt it showed restraint, moderation, and good taste.

It was the custom in England for unmarried wedding guests to put a slice of the cake, traditionally a dark fruitcake, under their pillow at night so they will dream of the person they will marry.

A little publicized method of determining whether a woman was a witch during the Salem Witch Trials was to offer the suspect a piece of fruitcake. If she ate it and lived, it was considered proof that she was, in fact, a witch.

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