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Fruitcake Mystery Fans Emotion

Every Christmas the cakes arrive like clockwork at their intended addresses, she says, whether they're bound for California or the Caribbean. Not so this year.

When United Parcel Service drivers delivered packages from Richmond to Coburn's daughters in Oklahoma and Utah, no fruitcakes were inside. All the other contents were there, Coburn says, just no cakes. Her daughters told Coburn that neither of the boxes appeared to have been tampered with.

Coburn took the contents for all of her out-of-state holiday packages to The Mail Room Dec. 11 for shipment. The mailing company is located at Cox Road and West Broad Street in Innsbrook, near Coburn's home. She says she handed over "two big shopping bags'" worth of items to a Mail Room employee. The holiday loaves, she recalls, were wrapped tightly in aluminum foil and bore the names of all intended fruitcake recipients. Coburn says she didn't witness the gifts being boxed.

Who knows what happened next? The Mail Room did not return Style's calls for comment.

Losing two cakes intended for her daughters is a travesty, Coburn says. The fruitcake recipe is her great-grandmother's, one passed down through generations and practiced every Christmas.

The effort begins Thanksgiving night and takes weeks. Skimping is prevented, Coburn says, by family heirlooms — old-fashioned scales.

The cakes are made with a pound each of flour and butter and eggs, plus dates, and red and green cherries. The mixture soaks in ample amounts of Virginia bourbon. For proper settling, she bangs the pans on the counter before placing them in the oven. The cakes bake slowly, taking three hours or more. Coburn calls them delicious — "really like a pound cake with fruit," she says.

She pledges she'll make and mail fruitcakes again next year, despite having two disappear. "It's funny but it's not," she says. "Everybody makes jokes, but nobody would believe how upset my family is over fruitcakes. It's just not Christmas without them." — Brandon Walters

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