Red Truck Bakery brings good taste back to much maligned holiday desserts.
Fruitcake Rescue Mission
It’s fruitcake season again. You know, that time of year when globs of garish candied fruit get wedged into cake the consistency of concrete that is often—mercifully—drenched in booze. But Brian Noyes, owner of Red Truck Bakery in Old Town Warrenton thinks fruitcake has gotten a bad rap. He is on a mission to make over the much maligned holiday dessert, long the butt of every standup comedian’s holiday jokes—and people are taking notice.
Noyes left a 30-year career as an art director (Smithsonian, Preservation, House & Garden and The Washington Post) to make baking a full-time pursuit. He launched Red Truck Bakery in 2007 from his 1954 red Ford pickup truck—purchased from fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger—selling his jams and baked goods, including his seasonal fruitcake, on weekends. He opened his retail store in a renovated 1921 Esso Filling Station in 2009 and since then has been lauded for his sweets—twice landing on The New York Times’ annual roundup of favorite mail order gifts. And there’s a reason. The guy knows how to bake.
Case in point: His Havana Fruitcake, available again in mid-November. While on assignment in Cuba years ago, Noyes learned how to make a tropical version of the cake (now his version) from the proprietress of a traditional paladar—a small, family-run restaurant. Noyes says, “People have told me time after time that they thought they didn’t like fruitcake.” But his version—filled with pineapple, macadamia nuts, pecans, raisins, coconut and spices, and soaked with dark rum—isn’t what most of us expect from fruitcake. It actually tastes good.
“The secret,” Noyes says, “is a light-hand on the spices and giving the cake enough time to age properly.” Noyes and his team make the cakes in early October and November, wrap them in cheesecloth and let them sit. He explains, “They need time to mellow so that the booze isn’t harsh, but permeates the cake.”
Noyes is no stranger to marrying booze and baked goods. One of Red Truck Bakery’s signature items is Moonshine Double-Chocolate Cake made with rye spirits from Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville. His newest menu item, Red Truck Bourbon Cake—a blend of top-shelf bourbon, cherries, a bit of almond and a splash of root beer topped with a royal icing glaze—was inspired by a recent trip to Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail.
Noyes’ next mission? The traditional mincemeat pie. “Nowadays what one finds in grocery stores is a bogus, cloying version which has turned off a generation,” he says. Red Truck’s mincemeat pie is based on an old southern recipe and uses fresh Granny Smith apples, raisins and currants, a splash of quality brandy and suet. It’s the real thing.
Red Truck will ship their creations all over the country, but don’t dawdle. There’s only so much fruitcake to go around.