December 11, 2001 - Fruitcake Heaven

Put aside your prejudices and misconceptions. Forget the Johnny Carson gags. Take a look at where they make the dessert you love to hate - fruitcake! "We have customers that call and want to know if we've made the fruitcake yet - in mid October! We don't start quit that early!" So says Tim Landry of Baum's Bakery on Florida Blvd. But while you and I were taking down the jack-o-lanterns, before we even started shopping for the Thanksgiving turkey, Tim was already up to his elbows in his first batch of fruitcake.

So why does it have such a lousy reputation? "Because so many bakers make bad fruitcakes," says Tim. "They don't put quality in it. They're making it too cheap. You've got to make it and charge people for it, because people want something that is good, that they can eat. It really didn't get a bad rap till about 15 years ago. People started making fun, that sort of thing." "Johnny Carson had a lot to do with that, didn't he?" I asked. "Yes he did."

Well, here the late night gags just bounce off. Here it's fresh ingredients, carefully selected spices and hands-on love of fruitcake. In fact, their motto is, "If you hate fruitcake, you'll love ours." It'll make you want to stand up and slap your mama - or Johnny Carson! Alas, the fruitcake has fallen victim to the late night jokes as well as changing tastes. Baum's used to make close to 2,000 pounds a year. Now they're down to 400 pounds.