Kitchen Chore

It started Saturday when I bought the candied fruit for the Christmas Fruit Cakes. I picked up a quart of rum as well. Came home, dumped the fruit into the large covered Tupperware bowl, added some rum and now the mixture is soaking until coming weekend when I’ll bake the cakes (I flip the covered bowl twice a day to make sure the rum gets absorbed by all of the fruit).

Yesterday, I pulled out the cake recipe to see what ingredients I had in the house and what I needed to buy: flour, white sugar, molasses, bakers’ bittersweet chocolate, baking powder, eggs (I had brown sugar, baking soda on hand). Then I checked the spices – ginger, allspice, clove, nutmeg – had enough of each of those but no cinnamon. So I headed to Bulk Barn to pick up some cinnamon. While I’m standing in front of the spices I think it’s a good idea to pick up fresh amounts of the other four as well. I came home, emptied the old spices out, washed the bottles and put the fresh spices in. Even made labels for the jars.

Then, I looked at my spice rack and think to myself – I meant to renew those before I moved out of the house, then after I moved into the apartment – it’s two years and I still haven’t done it. So I did the deed – I dumped out all the spices and herbs, put the jars in the sink to soak. Cleaned them, removed labels and set them aside to dry.

Spice Jars (With Matching Tops) Drying

Today, I made a trip back to Bulk Barn with my alphabetized list of spices and herbs (that way it was easy to find what I needed since the spices in the store are arranged in alphabetical order) to get small amounts of each to fill my clean, dry spice jars.

Just finished the job. Each jar is labelled. The spices and herbs are actually stored in alphabetical order (I’m sure they won’t stay that way but it’s a good starting point). I didn’t replace everything – only those I might actually use – didn’t bother with herbes de provence, garam masala, 5 Chinese spice, whole allspice, whole cardamom… in other words, stuff I’d picked up for a single recipe and never used again! So I actually have about 15 jars to spare which I’ve tucked in a shoe box and stashed in the cupboard above my refrigerator for when I might need one.

Addendum (Oct 16) – Just for information – the price on the back of many of the jars was 49¢! That tells you just how long ago I bought the original spices. I’ve refilled the jars many times over the years but I bet the spices in some of jars were 20 years old.

Now to return to sewing a back for the latest quilt.

Christmas Cake 2015

IMG_5756 I’ve shared my Dark Fruit Cake recipe before — usually I make them around Canadian Thanksgiving which is in 10 days or so, but this year I started earlier because I’m travelling to Peru at the end of the month and November is too late for the cakes to age enough. So I started last week by adding 10 oz of dark rum to a large Tupperware bowl with a sealing lid, 2/3 full of candied fruit — by yesterday the fruit had soaked up all the rum and smelled wonderful. This afternoon I made the cakes. I’ve ended up with 5 half pound loaves, 7 one pound loaves, and 3 two pound loaves (and then I still have one two pound loaf in the fridge from 2014) — that’s more than enough for gifts this season! I have to admit I cut a very thin slice from one of the mid-sized cakes to make sure it passed quality control – lovely (even if I say so myself). They’re all now wrapped in wax paper, stored in the fridge in ziplock bags for when I will want to wrap them for Christmas giving.

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 (a mixture of regular and deluxe which includes pineapple and cherries)
  • 1 lb. red/green candied cherries
  • 1 lb. Thompson 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 (this year I used coconut palm sugar – seems to have come out all right)
  • 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; in fact this year I added the marmalade to the fruit when I soaked it and not in the wet ingredients]
  • 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 (Add the marmalade at this stage).
  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 and haven’t added it to the candied fruit to soak]
  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]

If you enjoy a tasty dark fruit cake, do try this one.