It’s the week after Canadian Thanksgiving – time to make the Christmas Fruit Cakes which are a staple gift for family and friends. It wouldn’t be Christmas without Judith’s Christmas Cake. I do them this early because they need time in the refrigerator to allow the rum that has absorbed into the fruit to osmose into the cakes themselves resulting in a dense, moist dark fruit cake.
The process started a week ago when I bought the fruit, dumped it into my 27 cup Tupperware mixing bowl with lid, added 8oz of dark rum, mixed it, covered it, and let the fruit stand for 5 days.
Yesterday was cake baking day. I invited my friend Ruby to join me – with that extra pair of hands the cakes came together in half the time!
An Oven Full of Fruit Cake
Here’s the recipe [it’s a forgiving recipe – the amounts of fruit are approximate – I don’t measure, just guess – I must end up with a 18-20 c of fruit; the Tupperware mixing bowl is ~ 4/5 full]:
- 2 lbs. mixed candied fruit (a mixture of regular and deluxe which includes pineapple and cherries)
- 1 lb. red/green candied cherries
- 1 lb. Thompson raisins
- 1/2 lb dried cranberries
- add whatever other candied fruit you like – I add at least 1/2 lb chopped dried dates
- a 10-12 oz jar of a good orange marmalade
- 8 oz. dark rum
- Soak candied fruit, raisins, cranberries, dates in rum for 4-5 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 (Add the marmalade at this stage). I have a large 27 cup Tupperware mixing bowl with a lid that is perfect for this job.
- I turn my Tupperware covered container twice a day – by the end of 5 days, all the rum has absorbed into the fruit.
- 1 lb. butter
- 4 tsp. almond extract
- 4 tsp. vanilla
- 3 c. white sugar
- 2 c packed brown sugar
- 12 large eggs
- 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate
- 1/2 c. molasses
- 6 c. flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 3 tsp. baking powder
- 3 tsp. cinnamon
- 2 tsp. allspice
- 2 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp. ginger
- 1 tsp. cloves
- Preheat oven — 300° F
- Prepare loaf pans (8-9 two pound pans) by wiping with butter and sprinkling with flour. [I use aluminum 2 lb loaf pans and discard them afterwards; even so, I line them with strips of parchment from side to side – holding the parchment with clothes pins so when I add batter to the pan they keep the paper in place; makes lifting the baked cakes from the pan much easier]
- Transfer fruit to a very large mixing container [I use my lobster pot to mix these cakes because this is a double recipe and with all the fruit and batter, it’s a large amount of stuff!]
- In a second large mixing bowl, cream butter until soft. Add almond extract and vanilla and incorporate.
- Add sugar and cream until well blended. Add eggs one at a time beating well until incorporated into mixture [I actually used 14 large eggs this year – the cakes have come out fine]
- Add molasses and mix.
- Melt chocolate [I use my microwave oven for this – 1 min. stir, then a second minute and stir – if your chocolate still isn’t fully melted you can microwave a tiny bit longer] and add to batter and mix.
- Set aside while you prepare the dry ingredients
- In a separate large bowl mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices.
- Add about half of this mixture to the candied fruit and mix well.
- Add remaining flower mixture to fruit and mix.
- Add wet mixture to fruit and mix well. [You need a strong wooden spoon and even then you may need to dig deeply enough that your mixing hand is involved in the procedure!]
- 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]
- Place pans in middle of oven.
- 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]
- Remove cakes from oven. Place on a rack to cool.
- Once they’re completely cool, remove the cakes from the pans [peel away parchment if you’ve used it].
- 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 8-9 two pound cakes. [This year I got 9 2-lb cakes and 8 small (~1/2-lb) cakes]
If you enjoy a tasty dark fruit cake, do try this one.
My friend JoAnn has MS and is now bound to her motorized wheelchair. She’s out and about on her own a lot – zipping over to the Games Centre nearby to use the gym, off for coffee round the corner with friends.
When the temperature is low, it’s cold on her legs. So she needs a warm blanket. But the bulk of the blanket makes it difficult to carry her stuff with her – she asked if I would add zippered pockets to the inside of the blanket so she can hook the blanket In place and have what she wants to take with her securely on her lap.
Inside of JoAnn’s Wheelchair Blanket
Not a problem – I cut a wide strip from some PUL fabric I’d bought to make a raincoat for myself (it’s not going to get used for that, I can tell). I decided on the PUL because it’s waterproof and it will keep what JoAnn’s carrying with her dry.
I made self-contained pockets – PUL front and back with raw side edges covered by bias tape. I used a heavy weight (#5) zipper with larger pulls because JoAnn’s hands have lost dexterity. There’s a top compartment large enough for a magazine, a small pocket on top of that for money, and a lower pocket for other stuff – Kleenex, etc.
JoAnn gave me the measurements she wanted and I worked to her specifications. I attached the pocket pouch to the inside of the blanket at the centre so it sits squarely on her lap. To each side I added some colourful webbing tape to hold carabiner clips which she hooks to ties on the sides of her wheelchair.
The blanket was too long – it would have become caught in the front wheels, so I cut off 18″ from the bottom and bound it with a batik fabric using a standard quilt binding technique.
JoAnn is now ready for the next cold day.
If you know someone in a wheelchair, this might be a useful gift for her/him. Just an idea….
You gotta take a look at these art pieces by Kathleen Ryan:
Mouldy Pear – “Soft Spot” by Kathleen Ryan
“Artist Kathleen Ryan creates a conversation between the beautiful and the grotesque in her oversized sculptures of mold-covered fruit. The New York-based artist uses precious and semi-precious stones like malachite, opal, and smoky quartz to form the simulacrum of common green rot on each fruit.”
Really, take a look at her painstaking work, it’s breathtaking.
This is the completely edge-stitched, bordered top panel.
The photo doesn’t do this panel justice – I have nowhere to hang it and photograph it in a way that allows me to align it perfectly. I laid it on my bed and adjusted the sides as best as I could with my photo software. But you get the idea here.
The narrow chartreuse inner border was a good idea – it brings out the brighter greens. The wider darker blue grunge border stabilizes the blues in the panel. I’m also happy with the subtle diagonal flow in parts of the piece.
Now to build a back
Fabrics For The Backing
These are the two main fabrics I’m planning on using – I also want to build in a bit of piecing using the blues and greens from the top. That’s a job for tomorrow.
Yesterday I sat down at my iMac to play with my Pfaff TruE3 embroidery software to discover it won’t run on my recently updated operating system!
The first line problem is the dongle driver which is incompatible with Catalina (the new OS 10.15); there may be problems further in I don’t know about and can’t know about until I get past the registering of the dongle.
It infuriates me – I bought the software for a whopping amount of money a year and a half ago and now I can’t use it. I immediately contacted Pfaff TruE3 Embroidery Software support who replied they had no information on whether the dongle manufacturer was planning a dongle driver update! TruE3 was only compatible with Mojave (10.14). No help there, obviously.
So by the weekend I’m in a bind – I can stitch out embroideries I’ve already created but I can’t modify them to any great extent and I can’t create anything new.
I’m going to have to ask around among the women I know who have invested in Premiere+ and see if I can spend a bit of time on their computer creating a design to quilt this new quilt with – that’s if that software will actually run on an updated Mac!
Came across this wonderful crochet set of bagels by Kate Jenkins.
Bagels by Kate Jenkins
Her work is quite marvellous and ingenious! Check it out:
Decadent Baked Goods Replicated in Crocheted Wool by Kate Jenkins
I crochet well but it never crossed my mind to create something like this! Truly amazing – if you click on the link you’ll see all of her terrific pastries.
I’m making headway – I’ve got all the circles edge stitched and about 2/3 of the Xs – It’s taken me several hours each of the last three days to get this far. Tomorrow afternoon I hope to be able to finish the remaining Xs.
Circles Appliqué Quilt – Edge Stitching
I’m stitching using embroidery rayon (in many different colours to more or less match the fabric I’m stitching – the stitch is a narrow blanket stitch (l: 2mm, w: 1.5mm) making sure I’m using the needle down position so I can pivot the fabric to keep the stitching along the raw edge.
Once I’ve finished the edge stitching, I will add a narrow chartreuse inner border, and a navy/teale grunge outer border to finish the top. I have fabrics for the second side – I will do some piecing as I assemble it so my narrow width of fabric can be extended to fit the width of the quilt.
What I have no idea about is how to quilt the sandwich! The last time I did a quilt like this I simply stitched the underlying block edges as squares through the circles and Xs. However, this time the arrangement of circles and Xs doesn’t lend itself to that. I’ve discussed ideas with several people and heard many suggestions. Were I doing the quilting on a long-arm quilter I’d just do some open curvilinear design but I will be stitching in the hoop so I need to come up with some kind of “block” idea that will fit within my 360mm x 200mm hoop. (I have a large reversible hoop but I’ve learned the hard way that whatever design I create has to not cross the centre line.) I need to let this percolate for the next week or so when I’ll be ready to do the quilting.
I don’t usually remove the wrappers from a ball of sock yarn – I work from the inside out so I need the wrapper to keep the outside end in place. However, this time I should have looked – I would have discovered that at ~200m into the ball I’d encounter a white strip to designate the start of the pattern repeat! Missed that. So I’ve ended up with two unmatched socks.
I began the second sock by pulling yarn from the ball until I thought I’d got to a colour matching the start of the first sock. After six rows I could tell I was off and unskeined more yarn until I got a closer colour match. However, once I got into the second sock and came upon the white bit I realized what had happened. At that point I had two options – to undo the knitting back to the cuff, or keep going. I chose to keep going. I now realize I could have cut out the white length and most of the next 20 rows of yarn and likely got close to matching the first sock but that thought didn’t occur to me until I got close to the heel and by then I’d invested too much time to unravel back to before the white stripe. Instead, I unwound the yarn till I got to the start of the red section and began the heel, then brought in the blue after finishing the gusset and carried on with a blue foot. The result is two unmatched socks.
Surely one of my friends is comfortable enough to wear these socks as a “pair” – they’re as warm as all the others even if the feet are vastly different (the legs are somewhat similar).