For years, my mother-in-law sent us a tin of Christmas fruitcake from a famous Texas bakery. My husband went nuts for the stuff, thin-slicing that ring of joy in hope that it would last till the next year. My thrill came when his mom ditched the fruitcake for frozen gift-packs of Lou Malnati’s deep-dish pizza sent from their homeland — Chicago. This month, in an effort to assuage his jones for fruitcake (the local version), and provide you with options for holiday treats, I offer this sweet road map to Christmas baked goods, rooted in traditions from afar.
Buon Natale, and pass the pannetone, whose leftovers — assuming there are any — make a mean French toast. Seattle’s Italian community has been turning to Borracchini’s Bakery (2307 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle, 206-325-1550, www.nowcake.com) for loaves of that raisin- and citrus-studded sweetbread since the Rainier Valley neighborhood was better known as Garlic Gulch. But here’s a less traditional idea: candy-cane cannoli from Holy Cannoli. Here at Belltown’s piccolo bakeshop (2720 Third Ave., Seattle, 206-841-8205, www.holycannoliseattle.com), proprietress Adrienne Bandlow pipes peppermint candy and other holiday spirits (buttered rum cream!) into petite pastry shells, wrapping boxes to-go with a Christmas-y bow.
And a jolly good Christmas to you from The British Pantry(8125 161st Ave. N.E., Redmond, 425-883-7511, www.thebritishpantryltd.com), where expats stuff their stockings with gifts from jolly old England and we can all stuff our faces with house-made mince tarts prepared, as is custom, with suet, raisins and spices. Plum pudding, imported and domestic, is yours for the steaming. Owners Alvia Redman, her brother Neville, and Mavis, their mum, want you to know their proper English fruitcake is no laughing matter: theirs is a nut-free caky confection, available dolled up with marzipan, royal icing and Santa-fied snow scenes.
Feliz Navidad. Yes, they love fruitcake in El Salvador. Pick up a loaf of torta Navideña at Salvadorean Bakery(1719 S.W. Roxbury St., Seattle, 206-762-4064, www.thesalvadoreanbakery.com), dried fruit-filled and flavored with nutmeg and the licorice lure of anise. If it’s a Mexican Christmas-sweet you’re after, says owner Ana Castro, her bakers make a mean capriotada — a Mexican bread pudding also popular at Lent.
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Glaedelig jul! Nielsen’s Pastries(520 Second Ave. W., Seattle, 206-282-3004, www.nielsenspastries.com) moves a lot of kringle year-round, especially so at Christmas. And because my man’s a fan of former owner (and part-time Danish baker) John Nielsen, and the work of his protégé, Darcy Person, this is where I’m getting a fruitcake fix this year. Nielsen’s comes larded with candied cherries and pineapple and a double dose of raisins (golden, dark) and nuts (pecans, walnuts). My son will be a pig in mud with a pink marzipan pig in mud — its hoofs dipped in chocolate, and you might fancy a chocolate covered julelog, sliced to reveal a marzipan center.
Joyeux Noël. For the French version of a julelog, head your sled to Eastlake’s Le Fournil (3230 Eastlake Ave. E., Seattle, 206-328-6523, www.le-fournil.com) for a classic sponge cake-and-ganache bûche de Noël. Have a slice (foresters call that a “tree cookie”) or a full log, available in three versions: chocolate, raspberry and — bonjour Seattle! — mocha.
Frohe Weihnachten. Steal away to Germany in Lake City at Kaffeeklatsch, 12513 Lake City Way N.E., Suite H, Seattle, 206-462-1059, www.kaffeeklatschseattle.com), where Berlin-born Annette Heide-Jessen and her baker-boyfriend Brian Hensley have your Christmas stollen, baked with rum-soaked raisins, slivered almonds and candied citrus fruits. Get your German-accented cookies, too, including springerle and zimtstern. And you won’t need to leave any for Santa, because he’ll be here too, for two photo-op fundraisers (2-5:30 p.m. Dec. 8 and 15). Proceeds benefit the Lake City Community Center. On the Eastside, Hoffman’s Fine Cake & Pastries (226 Parkplace Center, Kirkland, 425-828-0926, www.hoffmansfinepastries.com) is another fine spot for stollen, made here with almond paste. And those who find gingerbread cookies too tame might opt for the stronger-flavors of German pfeffernuesse (pepper nut) cookies. Fruitcake? Ja, they’ve got that, too.
Nancy Leson: firstname.lastname@example.org