I never expected I’ll taste it again, the dark moist fruitcakes packed with wine-cured cherries, orange, nuts and raisins, melting in my mouth with the bouquet of brandy – the taste of the happy Christmases of my childhood.
That was until I discovered Ju.D Lao’s fruitcakes yesterday.
For 39 years now, she’s been selling fruitcakes every Yuletide season, baking a thousand of them in her home at Greenmeadows, Quezon City and recruiting neighbors’ maids, out of school youths, poor people in need of jobs, to help her out.
The neighbors would start buying as soon as she rolls down the tarpaulin showing the array of her products on the wall beside her gate.
Ju.D’s family is into heavy equipment but she finished Fine Arts from UST – though the only art she exhibited afterwards was the design on the golden box of her fruitcakes. “I started doing fruitcakes right after I graduated from college,” she revealed.
As a young girl, Ju.D Lao often visited her godmother in Iloilo who introduced her to fruitcakes made in the United States full of spices, strange liquors and very sweet glazed fruits.
Later on, in Switzerland, she tasted fruitcake a la mode which she enjoyed so much, she began experimenting with European fruitcake recipes
“I’ve never attended cooking classes, but I love to read cook books. I do a lot of experimentations on recipes that catch my fancy. And since I’m from a big family, we’re never short of guinea pigs or should I say, brave and curious souls,” she explained.
It took her six months to develop the classic fruitcake recipe which she sells to this present day. In 1975, she started selling them under her own brand, Ju.D’s Fruitcakes.
At the time, a two-pound fruitcake loaf costs P50. The Philippine population was 35 million and people earn a little over than a hundred pesos a day.
Ju.D’s suppliers then were all in Cartimar since they were the ones who had the imported PX goods. She had to go to Divisoria and Quiapo every now and then to buy fresh eggs.
Through the years; Ju.D’s business endured the scarcity of imported ingredients; rotating brownouts; devaluation of the peso and all sorts of calamities.
In the 1980s, she came up with fruitcake cookies – the “Chewy Chewkies”. The kids of her customers loved them because they tasted like fruitcakes without the brandy.
In the 90s, Ju.D worked on different flavors, Ju.D Gold, a honey-based fruitcake; Ju.D Blue- Blue Mountain Coffee fruitcakes; Ginger Cranberries and Ginger Apricot Fruitcakes and even a Coffee flavored Prune Fruitcake.
In 2009, she came out with assorted premium nougat and whole range of petite cookies in flavors such as New York Peppermint and Classic Chocolate Chip.
Strikingly, although the fruitcake business is seasonal, Ju.D thinks of her fruitcakes every blessed day of the year, how to make them better for the next season.
She starts selling in November, “But since Fruitcakes can “stand the test of time”; we usually keep a few classic fruitcakes on hand for anyone who had the urge to have fruitcake between January to November. If not it’ll take 3 weeks time to have them aged.”
One customer, John Fernandez (Brother of director SoKi Fernandez), managed to keep Ju.D’s fruitcake unrefrigerated for 7 years.
Fruitcakes can be kept for a very long period of time because the brandy and rum preserve the fruitcakes.
“The oldest fruitcake is in London, 125 years old. John Fernandez wants to keep his for 25 years. When we asked him to open his, we sent him 24 pieces to compensate him and in the hope that he can keep them for 25 years.”
“My youngest sister, Margie, kept one piece for 20 years, but her house was flooded during Ondoy. That was her biggest regret cause she really brushed the fruitcake every now and then just to keep it in the best condition.
However, John’s was a special case. “We advise customers to have them refrigerated after they open the product. If not, it should be refrigerated after the Christmas season.”
The best way is to wrap it with a cheesecloth and seal in a freeze Ziploc, but since it’s so hard to get cheesecloth now, the next choice is a greaseproof paper. Aluminum will melt into the fruitcake.
Ju.D’S PASTRIES AND CONFECTIONERY
For orders, call (02) 633-1188 or (02) 633-0260.
Orders may be picked up at Greenmeadows, Quezon City Philippines