The Mystical Monk-Baked Fruitcake that Enraptured Williams-Sonoma and Enraged Deadspin
|Assumption Abbey fruitcake. You can even cut it with a knife!|
"It's definitely a different cake," says Hampton. "There are lots of jokes about how you have to cut fruitcake with a chainsaw. This is a moist cake. It's not hard at all. Even people who dislike fruitcake have been converted by ours."
The recipe is derived from one used for generations by the English nobility (or at least their servants). It calls for candied pineapple; golden, black and current raisins; cherries and orange and lemon peel, all soaked for a week in Burgundy wine. After it's baked, the monks inject it with a shot of rum. It does not contain meth. "And you'd get sick before you get a buzz," Hampton adds.
Assumption Abbey received the recipe from Chef Jean-Pierre Augé who got it (whether by stealth or through more honorable means remains unclear) from his former employers, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, aka Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. Hampton isn't sure why Augé, who currently lives in St. Louis and sometimes teaches at the Kitchen Conservatory, decided to give the recipe to the monks.
"That was in the late '80s," he says. "I've only been around ten years. But it's been very good to us."
That is indisputably true. Part of the creed of Trappist monks, besides not talking except when necessary, is to earn their living by the work of their hands. Some Trappists make cheese. Some brew beer. The Trappists at Assumption Abbey made cement blocks. But the monks were getting older, Hampton explains, and less suited to back-breaking labor. Plus there wasn't much profit in it. So they decided to switch to baking fruitcake.
If you're planning to make a joke now about the similarity between cement blocks and fruitcake, you can stop. It's probably already been made.