NPR for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

At Legendary Collin Street Bakery, A Nutty Twist On Texas Fruitcake

Every year a bakery in Corsicana churns out 1 million fruitcakes. Despite the bruised reputation of the traditional treat, the fruitcake still sells worldwide.

In the 1940s, a German immigrant and Texas businessman gave up baking bread for baking fruitcake. If you think that’s nuts, you should try their product.

It’s about 30 percent pecans.

“We use 20,000 pounds of pecans a day, during season,” Hayden Crawford says. “That’s a truckload of pecans every other day.”

Crawford is a partner at Collin Street Bakery – which was founded in 1896.

One recent afternoon, he’s two-stepping around giant mixers and boxes of dried fruit in his lizard-skin boots.

The golden Sultana raisins, bright red cherries, green pineapple and papaya are bound together by flour and honey, mixed by giant metal claws, and hand-decorated by women in hair nets.

They churn out about 20,000 a day during the holiday season.

The deluxe fruitcake has made Collin Street Bakery famous worldwide. Early on, circus showman John Ringling started sending the treat to friends abroad. In the 70s, the red metal tin even shows up in a scene from "The Godfather." In the '80s, orders from Japan picked up.

But sales in the U.S. started to wane for the first time about 15 years ago. Crawford says some people just didn’t want to buy a cake that looked like a box of Skittles. So the bakery moved away from the candied classic. 

“We have an apricot [cake] from Australia, we have an apple cinnamon [cake] which you see here,” Hayden says. “Then we have the Texas Blonde.”

Instead of the red and green fruit on top, the "Texas Blonde" just has baked pecans.

Hayden says the fruitcake makeover also meant fixing its image problem.

“So instead of calling them fruitcake, we called them pecan cakes,” he says. “And that changed pretty dramatically the sales for our cakes. But you can’t fool people all the time.”

Even with the name change and free samples in every store, not every customer is convinced.

Alma Garcia won’t eat the fruitcake.

“It’s just so sweet,” she says, laughing. Instead, when she comes it’s for the cheesecake and the chicken sandwich.

Well, maybe the bakery could experiment with a cheese fruitcake. 

Lauren Silverman was the Health, Science & Technology reporter/blogger at KERA News. She was also the primary backup host for KERA’s Think and the statewide newsmagazine  Texas Standard. In 2016, Lauren was recognized as Texas Health Journalist of the Year by the Texas Medical Association. She was part of the Peabody Award-winning team that covered Ebola for NPR in 2014. She also hosted "Surviving Ebola," a special that won Best Long Documentary honors from the Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). And she's won a number of regional awards, including an honorable mention for Edward R. Murrow award (for her project “The Broken Hip”), as well as the Texas Veterans Commission’s Excellence in Media Awards in the radio category.