Here’s a fairly unique holiday story for you: The Benedictine monks at the 50-year-old New Camoldoli Hermitage in Big Sur have been struggling to offset an annual budget shortfall by advertising, for the first time, the super-moist, brandy-dipped fruitcakes they’ve been putting their name on for decades. As the L.A. Times reports, the monks lost a big donor a few years back (he died), and fruitcake sales fell from about 9,000 cakes a year a decade ago to just 5,000 last year, after consumers discovered that they’d started outsourcing the baking to a Monterey bakery.
The cost to maintain the Hermitage has skyrocketed, and there simply aren’t sufficient funds or manpower to make the cakes anymore using the museum-worthy, WWII-era baking equipment on site.
Nevertheless, the brothers stand behind the product, and they hope that once they dig themselves out of debt they can modernize their kitchen facility and bring the fruitcake production back in-house. “It really is a superior fruitcake,” insists Father Robert, who’s been at the Hermitage since its beginnings in 1959, when some Italian monks purchased the sprawling, idyllic property with the help of a grant some Miller beer heirs.
Earlier this year, the Hermitage hired their first lay director of operations, Mark Giulieri, who’s already been responsible for a sell-out year on the fruitcake front — thanks to a direct marketing push by email, a few local TV appearances, and perhaps the L.A. Times piece itself. The Hermitage’s website is promising that if you email Mark now, you can get a 10% off coupon for a fruitcake next year.
Cash-strapped monks look to fully tap their baking power [LA Times]