Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Christmas cake

     I can not imagine Christmas without this cake on the table. It has been a staple in my family for as long as I remember. I am not a fan of fruitcake. There are a million of them out there and maybe three I have tasted that I enjoyed, but I love this recipe. This is a very dense cake filled with all kinds of fruits, nuts and peel. It is also not overly sweet, the molasses really cuts the sweetness of all the candied ingredients. I recently found out, this is actually my grandmother's mother's recipe so it has been in the family for ages. My grandmother Craig also makes a variation of this cake with strawberries in it.
     Most of my aunts on my Mom's side make this cake and I will give a few variations, after the recipe. The recipe is posted as I got it, if you have any questions feel free to drop me a line and I'll give any help I can.

Grandma Fisher and Marlyn

     If you are wondering why all the pictures of my grandmother look so similar, they're all from her 90th birthday. I have very few photos of my family to choose from but just wait till I get back from raiding the photo albums this Christmas.

     The recipe is fairly straight forward and no tricky baking techniques, but it is a large recipe, families of eleven, remember. The beauty is that this freezes well so any extra keeps for ages. It may even be the one fruitcake you can give as a gift at the holidays people will actually appreciate. LOL

Mom’s Christmas Cake

12 oz. currants                       
8 oz. glazed red cherries
16 oz. mixed peel                    
8 oz.  glazed green cherries
16 oz. mixed fruit                    
16 oz. maraschino cherries red
15 oz. small raisins                   
16 oz.  Maraschino cherries green
15 oz.  large raisins                 
8 oz.  glazed pineapple ring
8 oz.  pecans                         
12 oz.  walnuts
8 oz.  almonds                        
4 cups white sugar
3 cups butter melted                
3 cups mild molasses
2 cups milk                            
10 eggs
2 tsp. Each salt, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, & baking soda
8 cups flour

Mix fruit the night before you bake your cake. Coat the fruit with flour approx. 2 cups.  Mix remaining ingredients and add to fruit stir well and put in pans.  Put a pan of water in the bottom of your oven during baking to prevent your cakes from drying.  Bake in a 325 degree oven until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.  Approximate baking time for a loaf pan is 2 hours.  Baking time may vary according to your oven temperature.  I add extra fruit to my recipe I add what ever fruit I like best.  As I am always doing things on the spur of the moment I sometimes coat my fruit and bake the cake as soon as I can mix it and get it in the oven. I use Pam and flour on my pans.  I find the light aluminum throw away pans are best.  You may use any size just vary your cooking time.

     There it is, as I got it a couple of years ago. If it is any help, a cup is 8 oz. It is important to coat the fruit with flour so it doesn't end up in clumps through the cake but you don't have to wait over night. Mom says she has made it an hour after and it has turned out fine.The point of contention is the amount of flour you need for the total recipe. Are the two cups for the fruit in addition to or subtracted from the eight cups? Mom and I used it in addition to and the cakes were really crumbly, not dry, just crumbly. Marlyn subtracted from and found her fruit settled to the bottom of the pan and she wasn't all that pleased with it.( It was still delicious, by the way. I had several pieces) This year I'm going to split the difference, two cups for the fruit and seven for the cake for a total of nine and see what happens.

     As you can see, it is a big recipe. I use a 28 litre stock pot to hold it and a wooden spoon like a canoe paddle to mix it. I combine the sugar, eggs, milk, butter and molasses in one bowl, it just fits in my stand mixer, then combine all the dry in another. I alternate the wet and dry in a third, under the stand mixer and as the bowl gets filled, empty it over the fruit. When I have all the wet and dry mixed and in the stock pot with the fruit I do a final mix so it is all well combined. It sounds far more complicated than it really is and will save you a lot of effort trying to mix it all in one enormous bowl. My Mom gets my Dad to mix it for her. LOL

     The fruit, use what ever you like. I couldn't get maraschino cherries last year and just used all glazed. There was originally a pound of dates, 2 cups, in the recipe but Mom didn't care for dates so she omitted it. I'll be putting it back in this year. I was also thinking figs, prunes ,dried apricots and candied ginger would be good too. This is one of the few recipes I'm hesitant to alter because I really like it the way it is, but who knows. Marilyn also uses maple syrup in this recipe. I'm not sure if she replaced all or just some of the molasses, they are a direct substitute as outlined in the sugar substitutions in the apple butter recipe.

     Check your oven temperature, I burned the entire batch the first year I made it because my oven runs way too hot.This is not the recipe you want to fail. Also, because it cooks rather slowly, keep the pan of water full so the cake doesn't dry out. I used to always cook with a pan of water in the oven. A chef I worked with told me moist heat helped in all kinds of cooking and I did notice the difference.

          This cake gets better the longer it sits, so I'll probably make mine next weekend, the weekend after at the latest. Mom has had to hide some from my Dad because he really like it too and he would have it all gone by Christmas. Well she doesn't have to save one for me anymore Dad, it's all yours. LOL

     There you have it, other than Grandma Craig's mincemeat pie, my hands down, all time favourite, wouldn't be Christmas without it, recipe. Good luck and happy baking. 

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