All done! Now that the Christmas cakes have been baked, it’s time to start another batch of fruits for next year’s cakes. These fruits, soaked in white rum and port wine, consist of equal parts currants and raisins, and to a lesser degree, diced prunes. The suggested ratio is 1:1:1/4 of raisins, currants and prunes.
Douse the fruits in Jamaican overproof white rum and a good port wine. Put enough rum and wine to saturate the fruits and seal in an airtight glass jar. Keep in a dark area, away from sunlight.
A quicker method is to infuse the fruits in alcohol and warm in a covered pot over a very low heat a day or so before baking your cakes. I let my fruits soak for a year because that reinforces the tradition of baking these cakes at Christmas time. If they’re not soaking, I’m probably not baking.
The recipe below makes approximately 4 pounds of cake. I usually make 4 cakes: 2 six-inch and 2 approximately 3-4 inch cakes in round cake tins.
1/2 lb. butter (softened at room temperature)
1/2 lb. dark brown sugar
2 tsps. vanilla
1 tsp. of almond flavouring
2 tsp. lime juice, freshly squeezed
1 tsp. lime or orange rind
6 medium eggs
4 cups mixed fruits (raisins, currants, prunes, citron, cherries, dates)
6 ozs. plain bread crumbs
6 ozs. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. ground allspice
1 cup white rum (I prefer Wray & Nephew, Jamaican white overproof rum)
1 pt. port wine/brandy
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Prepare tins by lining the bottom of each tin with 2 circular sheets of brown paper (brown wrapping paper is good) cut to the size of the pan. Next, line the entire pan with parchment paper, placing it over the brown paper circles at the bottom of the pan.
Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Mix browning, vanilla and almond flavors, lime juice and rind.
Add eggs, beating in one at a time, until completely blended into mixture.
Mix in breadcrumbs, flour, baking powder, salt and Jamaican all-spice (or other all-spice).
Add alternately with rum and port wine.
Add drunken fruits and add cherries (remove cherries from juice) and mix in thoroughly.
Pour into prepared baking tins 3/4 full.
Cover and bake, approximately [1 hour].
Baking time varies according to the size of the container. If you use 9-inch round containers, you probably need about one-and-a-half hours for baking. The thicker the cake, the more baking time is needed. You know your cake is done if you stick a fork or toothpick in the middle and it comes away with a slightly moist, not extremely wet mixture.
You can moisten your cake with more port wine after it has cooled. Enjoy!
In honor of the season, I’ve included two wonderful short stories about Christmas, one of which is centered around the ritual of baking Christmas cakes:
The zaniest, craziest story I’ve ever heard about Christmas has got to be David Sedaris’, Six to Eight Black Men. It is the story of Christmas in Holland and it involves Santa Claus and you guessed it, six to eight black men.
Mini Ghirl doesn’t handle right: She needs new tires. We’ve done twenty-one thousand miles in twenty months, mostly up and down the Northern California mountains and coastal areas.
From East Bay to PCH (Pacific Coast Highway, i.e.), to Santa Cruz (and places in between), to Yosemite (Aah, Yosemite, I’m coming back to you soon), to Mount Diablo in Clayton and Mount Tam in Marin (Don’t get jealous of Yosemite, Mount Tam! I’m going to check out one of your pancake breakfasts next spring and your play in the woods next summer), to Point Reyes Seashore, to San Rafael. It’s no wonder my poor little birdie has worn out her threads!
Then there were trips up and down Alpine and Page Mill Road, Skyline Boulevard and Highway 17, into lots and lots of lovely Open Spaces (mostly the MROSD’s). That’s a whole lot of miles and plenty more to go!
Thanks to my friends over at Petrol Blog, I’ve learned about the Michelin Super Saver+ tyre. But why can’t I find it here in the United States? Michelin is an American company, isn’t it? And we here in the Bay Area try to be environmentally (i) friendly, (ii) conservative, and (iii) aware. All the better, when you save money by reducing gas (petrol) consumption.
So Michelin! Why the lower level/standard energy savers in America??? I want my American resident Mini Ghirl to have what her European cousins have: super saver, energy saver tires. Do something about it, Micheline Man!!! I’m late! I’m late! My Mini wants only the same things you offer to Europe — the best energy saver tires/tyres that Michelin makes. And just so you know, mountains and coasts up Mendicino way and beyond, and as far afield as Oregon and Washington states are calling meeeee! (There is the Sylvia Beach Hotel on the Oregon Coast, for example, just waiting, waiting for me and Mini Ghirl!!)