Travelling Interstate 35 through central Texas, a large Antebellum-style building is sure to catch your eye in Waco. I had seen it before and made a mental note to investigate if I was ever back in the area. So, on a recent road trip through central Texas, we took time to do just that. The beautiful white building is the Collin Street Bakery and, once inside, your senses of smell and taste will be delighted.
If you’re a fan of fruitcake – which I can admit to being – you’ve probably heard of the Collin Street Bakery. I remember advertising for the “world famous DeLuxe fruitcake” in Sunday papers around the holidays during my youth. Years later, I received one as a business gift and thoroughly enjoyed it. So I was happy to see the sign outside this big white building proclaiming it as the home of the world famous DeLuxe fruitcake. Coincidence? Of course not; I had ingeniously engineered this portion of the road trip to avail ourselves of a visit.
The bakery was founded in Corsicana, Texas – about 55 miles northeast of Waco (and about the same distance south of Dallas). The Waco location is the first outpost, and the staff is every bit as proud of the company’s history and fame. Their story is a long and thoroughly enjoyable one that begins with a young German immigrant named August Wiederman who opened the bakery in 1896 with help from local entrepreneur Tom McElwee. After moving to a larger building, McElwee opened a hotel above the bakery, and it attracted renowned celebrities of the day (who likely performed at the opera house he also operated). In 1914, the Ringling Brothers Circus was in town and ordered dozens of fruitcakes to be sent to friends, family and business associates around the United States and Europe. This was their entry into the global mail order business, where they have been phenomenally successful.
Each year, some 1.5 million DeLuxe Fruitcakes are sent around the world to a client list that includes descendants of the Ringling Brothers, as well as Princess Caroline of Monaco, who continues her mother, Princess Grace’s tradition of sending them as holiday gifts. It is said that the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran even ordered a fruitcake, though that order went unfilled. In fact, the company claims to ship everywhere except Iran and Cuba.
All of that history and celebrity is built upon fruitcake and there are more varieties than we imagined, all sold only by mail order or at the bakeries. You won’t find them anywhere else so, even if you’re not a fruitcake fan, you owe it to yourself to try a bite…or several. But save room for all of the other goodies! There are more than sweets and pastries, but that seems to be what they do best. You can get soup and sandwiches (though they don’t seem to be made on site in Waco), several types of breads and a variety of coffee drinks.
The staff was very friendly, putting up with our indecision with a smile as we tried to narrow down our choices. We decided on several loaves and a souvenir coffee cup for home, and indulged in coffee, strudel and lemon cake to enjoy on the spot…just to confirm that they were every bit as good as the fruitcake we had a sample of. We sat among fellow travelers and a few studious students from nearby Baylor University – apparently nothing fuels the intellect like cinnamon rolls and free Wi-Fi – and enjoyed the big, sunny dining room for a little while before climbing back in the car.
Our recommendation: With free Wi-Fi and excellent pastries, it’s a nice place to spend a little time on your way through Waco. You can relax a bit, grab a bite and take home a true Texas souvenir that you can literally sink your teeth into.
Enjoy more photos from the Collin Street Bakery in Waco