Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Delightful Christmas Fruitcake Recipe

Despite Edward Gorey's feelings about it, there are those of us who actually look forward to the annual appearance of The Christmas Fruitcake. And during the cold and dismal month of January when there is little else to look forward to, a nice piece of leftover fruitcake, a Mandarin orange and a pot of Earl Grey tea will help make the month almost bearable.

Obviously, Mr. Gorey just never found
the right  fruitcake recipe ...

Now if your only experience with fruitcake is one that has come from a tin or a box, then yes, it undoubtedly deserves being tossed into a hole in the ice. The insomniac's  very own mother made hers from a mix, which required only the addition of a few eggs to the contents in order to become a perfect example of just such a fruitcake. The only reason it was included in her yearly Christmas baking repertory was to appease her father-in-law, who had emigrated to Canada from England but who retained his fondness for English fare. Every Sunday, for as long as he was able, Grandpa Smith would come for a traditional Sunday supper of Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding - the pudding never quite living up to his expectations. Mincemeat Tarts and Shortbread, his other favourites, are recipes which remain to this day in one's own recipe collection, although the insomniac  has managed to find a never-fail Yorkshire Pudding recipe with which to replace her Sainted Mother's.

Christmas dinner was always finished off with the Canadian prairie version of British plum pudding - steamed carrot pudding. The very thought of this pudding causes an involuntary gag reflex, and it's safe to say that particular recipe was not saved. Before completely writing off Christmas puddings altogether, the insomniac  contacted Alastair of App'y Talk to see if he might be able to suggest a good recipe. He was kind enough to supply the following, originally published in Michael Barry's “Radio Times” Cookery Year. Hopefully, one will manage to avoid burning the place to the ground when attempting to set the brandy-soaked pudding alight, providing some unexpected entertainment for the family on Christmas Day.

Click to enlarge.

The following recipe remains the constant favourite after many years of intensive Fruitcake Research, and came from a very old issue of Victoria Magazine. Clipped from that same issue were recipes for California Fruitcake and Canadian White Fruitcake, both equally delightful variations of the traditional dark. Email if you'd like a copy of either. It's always best to make fruitcake by the end of November at the very latest, as it needs a good 3 to 4 weeks of marinating in brandy-soaked cheesecloth before consumption. The insomniac  does not care for, and therefore never includes, the candied cherries in her fruitcake, and one year will attempt to make her own candied peel. But not this year.

Click to enlarge.

Marinating in the brandy.
Fa la la la la ...

Twice as much brandied fruit as batter.
... la la la la.

Two hours later.

Lying comatose in its brandy-soaked bedding.
Been there - done that, as they say.

Since the currants, raisins and mixed peel are already out, you might as well make some mincemeat. Again, if your only experience with this delicacy is a store-bought version, one can understand why you might be somewhat hesitant, but suggests you try this old family recipe in spite of your reservations. As there is only one individual in this household who actually enjoys Mincemeat Tarts at Christmas, this recipe is generally halved. It tastes just fine without the suet and, as does everything, improves with the addition of 2 to 3 tablespoons of brandy, whisky or rum.

Click to enlarge.

As with the fruitcake, the mincemeat should be allowed to mature a week or two before use. The Mincemeat Tarts are made with a shortcrust pastry from an out-of-print book of classic English recipes called Farmhouse Cookery, Recipes from the Country Kitchen. Custom has it that one tart should be eaten for each of the twelve days of Christmas to ensure twelve happy months ahead. No arguments here.

Numerous copies of this book have been
purchased for gift-giving over the years.
One has always had good luck finding them on eBay ...


Until next time, the insomniac  wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams, of Fruitcake and Mincement and whatever other traditional family favourites are on your Christmas baking list this year. Which obviously she would love to hear about, as there's always room on her personal baking list for new additions. Goodnight, my pretties.

IA


PostScript: The shipment of Edward Gorey items did arrive this week, including the Fruitcake Holiday Cards (in case you find them just as amusing as the insomniac  does), Dracula Puzzles and Toy Theatres, Fantod Pack Tarot Cards, and some excellent seasonal reading entitled The Twelve Terrors of Christmas. And with the fruitcakes now done and 25 cm of snow this week so far, it is  beginning to feel a lot like Christmas around here. Yay!

21 comments:

  1. I feel related to Mr Gorey as I never have found a proper recipe for the fruitcake. Maybe it was only swedish fake copies of the real one, I don't know... But I'm glad that you added your recipe here, then I can try it and tell you later if I threw the cake to the fishes or not :).
    I won't start anything about christmas until last day in november.

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    1. Maybe it's the candied peel in Sweden? Martha Stewart has a good recipe for making your own, if you think that might be the problem. And if you can't find candied fruit, dried fruit is just as nice - dried pineapple, mango, cherries - whatever you can find. And then for sure you wouldn't throw it to the fishies, and you would definitely be thanking the insomniac  in January, when you unwrap that last loaf and have it with your tea!

      Hope to hear about what you're baking at the end of November! :o)

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  2. I am definitely one of those who shy away from fruitcake, especially because of the cherries! But on the other hand I've always had a soft spot, or a curiosity about, English cookery. And the way that you are talking about it makes me even more so!

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    1. No argument about the cherries here - they definitely spoil the best fruitcakes! They're so ... plastic tasting or something. Maybe you'll give it a try without the cherries and with whatever dried fruit you have on hand! And maybe you'll even try a flamed pudding at Christmas! :D

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  3. My late mother, Manchester-born English lass, made her own fruitcake, from scratch. Even after she married my Canadian father and moved to Canada.Everyone had a turn at mixing the batter, something to do with good luck. She made the traditional dark, rich cake and it was delicious.

    Perhaps the fruitcake loathers would do well to either make their own or find someone who makes a superior version. Because nothing says Christmas like a really well made fruitcake.

    Ali

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Ali!

      And yes, it wouldn't seem like Christmas without fruitcake. Or mincemeat tarts. Or shortbread. Quite a few things, actually! ;o)

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  4. We all used to stir the cake for luck, but my great grandmother was said to make them in November one year for the next Christmas. I.E. 13 months early !!

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    1. Now there's a tradition we'll have to incorporate in the future - everyone stirring the fruitcake for luck. Although we might have to wait for grandchildren, as neither of the offspring ever hang around the kitchen when it comes time to bake. Or clean up.

      One cannot imagine any kind of sweet lasting in this household for thirteen months, let alone how organized one would have to be for that to happen!

      Thanks again for the pudding recipe, Alastair. Really looking forward to trying it out this Christmas! :D

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  5. Fruitcake is very traditional at Christmas in Australia, and my mother makes a very popular booze-soaked one, but alas, I have never liked fruitcake. I adore Edward Gorey, however, and that card is wonderful! I have the Dracula toy theatre and the Fantod deck. :)

    You make me very envious with your talk of Christmas snow. Christmas is sunshine and BBQs in Australia... not quite the same! ;)

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    1. The reaches of fruitcake are apparently far and wide! Do you suppose if you asked your mother to lessen the candied cherries and increase the booze it might make the fruitcake more tolerable? ;o)

      The card is very funny, isn't it? On the Christmas wishlist this year is a copy of the book Elephant House, as one would be very curious to see the inside of the house Edward Gorey inhabited!

      And when it's -30C here in December, you will probably thank your lucky stars it's sunshine and barbies where you are! :D

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  6. I'm with Edward, fruitcake is yucky!!! I'm of the opinion that the only good cake is chocolate cake, anything else is wasted. Haha :)

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    1. Be prepared to receive a loaf in the mail, then!! Mwahahaa! :D

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  7. I got such a kick out of that Edward Gorey illustration! Thanks for sharing these recipes. I've never tried making fruitcake, myself. I might just have to give it a shot!

    I just got a chance to check out your Pinterest page and your online shop. What a lot of eye candy! I love Gothic antiques and Neo-Victorian decor, so you've provided a lot for me to look through!

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    1. Gorey definitely had a quirky sense of humour, didn't he? Hopefully you will try a recipe - and even more hopefully, you'll actually like it!!

      So far, one has only had a chance to check out your Etsy shop, which is awesome! But as it looks as though it might be a late night tonight, heading over to Pinterest right now! :D


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  8. Never had a fruitcake. My boyfriend is from England and insists that they can be quite good if made right, but I actually highly doubt he's had one- he hasn't lived in England since he was two years old. Will have to try one of these recipes one of these days...

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    1. Nooooo - never had fruitcake? That might be a good thing, actually. Maybe you could surprise your boyfriend with one for Christmas. Wouldn't that be a thoughtful gift ... LOL!

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  9. I can almost picture myself sitting in the Gothic Mansion on a dark and blustery afternoon in the Alberta wilds with some delicious fruitcake, a Mandarin orange and a cup of earl Grey Tea. It truly would make the winter more bearable.

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  10. I have only had fruitcake out of a tin and I liked it. I love fake cherries. I wonder if most people who do not like fruitcake have even tried it.

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    1. Honestly, fruitcake out of a tin is just fine when there's no time to make your own! Although we'll have to agree to disagree about the fake cherries ... ;o)

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