Daniel Benjamin just might be the man who finally wins you over to fruitcake. The former pastry chef at The Umstead Hotel and Spa has opened lucettegrace, a pastry shop (named for his two young daughters) that he describes as a “contemporary patisserie” in downtown Raleigh. Perhaps the most surprising item on offer, listed among the macarons, financiers, pain au chocolat and other French patisserie classics, is “Fruitcake 2014.”
Needless to say, this is not the fruitcake that is the perennial butt of jokes this time of year. It’s an epicurean confection of almond cake, gingerbread, homemade pear membrillo, mascarpone cheesecake, and candied and salted nuts. And it’s just one of the mouthwatering temptations that earn the “contemporary” billing, along with the likes of bourbon pie croissant and chocolate chunk cookies made with brown butter and Escazu goat’s milk chocolate.
There’s ample seating — banquette, counter and communal table — to enjoy these sweet delights along with a cup of Larry’s Beans coffee. If you’re in the mood for savory, the bacon and Parrano cheese Danish might hit the spot. Or the Dixie Cannonball: a breakfast sausage biscuit with hoop cheddar, cream gravy and scallion, served warm.
“I like to try different things,” Benjamin says, so — except for the core list of French patisserie classics — you can expect the selection to change frequently.
Be sure to try that Fruitcake 2014 while it lasts. Fruitcake 2015 will no doubt be something different.