Dark Fruit Cake

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I make a wicked dark fruitcake. I always make them around Canadian Thanksgiving — that gives the rum in the fruit time to suffuse into the cake. This year I was a week late but the cakes (I made 9 this year) are done and now aging in the fridge.

The two essential ingredients are the melted semi-sweet chocolate and the molasses. Don’t leave these out.

I don’t use nuts because they have a tendency to go stale. These cakes last well for more than a year.

I gave one I had leftover from last year to friends today — it was better than it was last Christmas!

Here’s the recipe [it’s a forgiving recipe – the amounts of fruit are approximate – I don’t measure, just guess]:

  • 2 lbs. mixed candied fruit
  • 1 lb. red/green candied cherries
  • 1 lb. sultana raisins
  • add whatever other candied fruit you like
  • 8 oz. dark rum
  • 1/2 lb. butter
  • 2 tsp. almond extract
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 c. white sugar
  • 1 c packed brown sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/4 c. molasses
  • [a small jar of grape jelly, strawberry or apricot jam, or marmalade – these days I use marmalade]
  • 3 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. allspice
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg (fresh if possible)
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. cloves
  1. Soak candied fruit and raisins in rum for 3-4 days before making the cakes. Add rum to the fruit, cover bowl with plastic wrap and stir occasionally to make sure rum is absorbed by the fruit.
  2. Preheat oven — 275° F
  3. Prepare loaf pans (4-5 two pound pans) by wiping with butter and sprinkling with flour. [I often use aluminum loaf pans and discard them afterwards or I line conventional loaf pans with parchment — that works very well]
  4. Transfer fruit to a very large mixing container [I use my lobster pot to mix these cakes because I double the recipe and with all the fruit and batter, it’s a large amount of stuff!]
  5. In a second large mixing bowl, cream butter until soft. Add almond extract and vanilla and incorporate.
  6. Add sugar and cream until well blended. Add eggs one at a time beating well until incorporated into mixture.
  7. Add molasses.
  8. Melt chocolate [I use my microwave oven for this] and add.
  9. [Add jam or jelly or marmalade if you’re using it]
  10. In a separate large bowl mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices.
  11. Add about half of this mixture to the candied fruit and mix well.
  12. Add remaining flower mixture to fruit and mix.
  13. Add butter and egg mixture to fruit and mix well.
  14. Fill loaf pans about 3/4 full. [The cakes rise and will spill over into the oven if the pans are too full; I put the loaf pans on a cookie sheet to catch any spill over — I’ve had to clean the oven more than once so I don’t take chances any more]
  15. Place pans in middle of oven.
  16. Bake slowly. Test with a skewer. Cakes are done when the skewer comes out clean. [Takes anywhere from about 1 1/2 to 3 hours]
  17. Remove cakes from oven. Place on a rack to cool.
  18. Once they’re completely cool, remove the cakes from the pans [peel away parchment if you’ve used it].
  19. Wrap each cake in waxed paper. Put each into a ziplock bag and refrigerate for at least a month before using.

Depending on the amount of fruit you use, this recipe makes between 4 – 6 two pound cakes. [Since I double the recipe, I generally get 6 2-lb cakes and 10 small (~1/2-lb) cakes]

These cakes make terrific gifts—that’s what I do with the abundance I make.

A French Face

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My friend Andrea, who is traveling in France (near Avignon) knows of my penchant for seeing faces everywhere. She just sent me this one she saw on her travels yesterday.

Two weekends ago while we were in Ottawa at meetings on a very dark, rainy evening we walked past the Parliament buildings and we encountered this face on one of the towers:

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I keep noticing…

My Old Singer Featherweight

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I haven’t been sewing much since getting back from Bali because my two machines have been in the hospital! I took both for servicing just before I left Halifax expecting them to be ready for me when I got back. Both were working well but I did have some small complaints with each: on the Brother quilting machine the thread cutter wasn’t raising the needle high enough to be in line with the presser foot; the buttonholes weren’t working well on the Pfaff CS embroidery machine. When I got back I picked up both machines – the “problems” were a bit more serious – the Brother is back in being fixed; I started piecing a new quilt on the Pfaff only to find it making noises (and the thread cutter wasn’t cutting the bobbin thread) – so it’s back in the shop.

That left me with my serger (which I don’t use for quilting), and my mother’s old Singer Featherweight. This machine is an heirloom. This one was manufactured in 1956. I had to replace the foot pedal and motor belt, but otherwise it’s the original machine and does it ever still sew nicely! I hauled it out yesterday so I could continue working on the quilt – I put a strip of blue masking tape on the bed to mark 1/4″ and I was set to go.

I haven’t used this machine myself since I got it – my mother gave it to my niece about a year before she died. I’d had it serviced at that point. My sister found it frustrating to use, couldn’t get the threading correct, so I bought her a mechanical low-end Brother machine (with a needle threader, top loading bobbin, and free arm) and I took the Singer.

I’m glad I just stashed it below one of my sewing tables – I will certainly use it more frequently because it sews a perfect straight seam. At one point I thought of putting it on Kijiji, but this machine is a keeper!