Wednesday, October 28, 2009

christmas cake

Another day at home - small boy has pink eye so we had to weather the clinic waiting room, with all the panic about H1N1 around and wait for a prescription. Of course, picking up the prescription we walked past a display of monster trucks, garbage trucks, hot wheels, etc all of which set my boy into a passion of "I wants".....Grr. I managed to emerge with eye drops and one colouring book of Tonka trucks. And one fairly disgruntled boy with pink eyes.

Kelly got me to thinking about christmas baking about a month ago in a post on her blog at So yesterday I dug out my recipe and I'm amassing the ingredients to start baking my version of Dark Fruit Cake. Now I know that fruit cakes are the but of jokes everywhere but I love my version of the cake. And some others do as well. My secret is that I grind up the nuts and the candied peel and use dried cranberries and apricots in place of the glace cherries (which I loathe). And these days, making the cake reminds me of my bridezilla days. I baked my own wedding cake - dark, fruit cake for a traditional english wedding cake. I have no experience in icing (this cake is usually iced in royal icing) so a friend of D's was going to do it for us. I spent a weekend baking the cakes in early September for our wedding in late October. But then D's friend suffered a ruptured appendix and bowed out of the icing committment which I completely understood. But then I was left with my three tiers of cake - uniced. What to do? I scoured my wedding directory and asked bakeries - the answer was always the same - we only ice and decorate cakes we make. I didn't want anyone else's cake, I wanted mine (you know - true bridezilla) and I was actually googling how to do royal icing and considering fondant icing, when I came across a tiny listing of a bakery that would ice your cake for you. I called and explained my dilemma and they told me to bring in my cake along with pictures of the icing design I wanted. So off I went. I walked into the store and landed up in an eyeglass store - oops. But no - the bakery shared half of the location with the optometry store! A little chinese lady came out behind the bakery counter, took a look at my cake and a look at my pictures (magazine examples of the kind of swiss dot finish I was looking for) and said she would charge me $60 for the complete three tiered cake and I was to call 3 days prior to when I wanted it picked up to remind them. Oh and I had to give them cash. So I ran down the street to the cash machine, leaving my cake and pictures behind. When I got back, the lady at the optometrist counter took my money, explaining that the bakery lady had had to go and pick up her granddaughter from school. Had I made a mistake? My cake was gone somewhere now and I could only hope that it would all turn out.

Three weeks later I called the bakery and they said that the cake would be ready for pick up on the Friday afternoon on the day before our wedding. D and I set off in my little Honda to pick it up. We arrived at the store and they brought out a huge cardboard box. We peered into the top and I almost cried. They had done an absolutely wonderful job - even better than I had hoped for. Gingerly we loaded the box onto D's knee for the ride to the church hall to leave for the caterers the following day. The caterers, following vaguely expressed wishes for fresh flower decorations on the cake did a wonderful job as well and I almost cried again when I walked into the hall and saw the cake. The photo is curtesy of our wonderful wedding photographer, Sherrin Kovach of Sherrin Kovach Photography Ltd (www.

Dark Fruit Cake - adapted from the Canadian Living Cookbook

4 c. mixed candied peel and dried fruit*
2 c. sultanas
2 c. golden raisins
1/2 c brandy or rum
1 c. almonds (ground)
2 c. flour
1/2 c. butter
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1 c. brown sugar
5 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp each cinnamon, allspice and mace

* I use some of the flour and chop the candied peel in a food processor until it is tiny pieces. The balance of the fruit is dried cranberries and apricots chopped finely in the same way.

Soak fruit and peel in brandy for a couple of hours. Meantime cream butter and sugars until creamy, then beat in the eggs, one at a time and then add the vanilla extract. Mix together the dry ingredients and add them and the fruit mixture to the batter and mix until the fruit is covered with batter. Pour the batter into a well-greased and papered baking tin and bake for 3 1/2 hours at 275 deg. The cake will keep well wrapped for 6 weeks. (we froze the top layer of our cake and served it at our son's christening some 20 months after the wedding)

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