The Mystical Monk-Baked Fruitcake that Enraptured Williams-Sonoma and Enraged Deadspin


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The monks inject rum into a batch of fruitcakes.
The Abbey usually turns out 25,000 cakes per year at the pace of 125 per day. The five monks, plus a few employees (including Hampton), bake for eight hours a day, five days a week, February through December, except for holy days. Everything is done by hand, except for the batter, which is processed in an industrial mixer.

"But the fruit in the batter is mixed in by hand," Hampton says. "The baker puts on a pair of large gloves and sort of swims around in it."

Once the cakes are baked, injected with rum and blessed (yes, these are holy fruitcakes), the monks pack them away for several months so that the flavors can meld. Though you can buy an Assumption fruitcake at any time during the year, 90 percent of them get sold in December, for reasons that should be obvious. Only about 10,000 of the fruitcakes get sold by Williams-Sonoma or other brokers; the monks handle most of the orders themselves.

Even prior to Deadspin, the abbey and its fruitcake had attracted national attention. After a feature in People magazine in 1990, the Abbey sold a whopping 32,000 cakes. That was too much, though. The monks felt no need to hire extra employees or start working double shifts.

"It's very unusual from a business point of view," Hampton admits, "but from a religious point of view, they want just enough to fill their needs. They don't want to invade their time for prayer."

At that point, Hampton had to go. There are still 10,000 fruitcakes that need to be shipped before Christmas.


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