WESTPORT -- Delightfully nutty, moist, and “sinfully rich,” the world-famous Country Fare Fruitcakes made by the crew of volunteers at St. Mary of the Lake Parish are a community-building and parish-supporting tradition you can sink your teeth into.
Over the course of three days this year, volunteers gathered to measure, mix, bake, slice, and wrap several thousand pounds of fruitcake. Keeping with tradition, it’s the exact same recipe — heavy in fruits and nuts and lacking in the dreaded candied citron — that was used by Stephanie Toban when she first baked them for the parish in 1961.
“And it’s still a secret,” added Margie Blau, one of the fruitcake-baking volunteers and a parishioner at St. Mary Parish.
The sale of the fruitcakes has without doubt helped the parish financially, but the making and selling of the bakery items has also been a boon to the community spirit of the parish.
“It’s nice for the community, for getting together with other parishioners,” Blau said. “As it was when (the tradition) first started.”
Though production has in recent years scaled back somewhat, the fruitcakes have become well known, even shipped to people around the world.
“It’s really very healthy — it’s rich, but it has good fruits and nuts in it,” Blau said. “People always come back for it. They’re always looking for our fruitcakes.”
To purchase a fruitcake or two, call St. Mary of the Lake Parish at 608-849-4116 or visit the parish’s annual Old-Fashioned Country Fair on October 18 and 19.