Two hours to prepare the pans (lining with parchement), mix the dry and wet ingredients, add dry to the fruit and mix well, add wet to the whole thing and mix again using a very strong long handled spoon/spatula/whatever you have including hands! I put my lobster pot in one of my kitchen sinks so I can reach inside it easily. I kept licking, then washing, my right hand as I mixed the fruit and batter.
I have 9 two pound loaf pans and 5 small pans now in a 325° oven and it already smells divine!
The small loaves will cook in about an hour/hour and a half; the larger loaves will likely take between 2 and 2 1/2 hours. I’ve set the time on my watch and will keep checking the oven to make sure all is well there.
Because the cakes are all packed in tightly, it takes longer for them to bake – the great thing is this concoction is very forgiving and because I want it baked but moist, slightly underbaking them isn’t a bad thing. I’ll take the cakes from the oven when a wood skewer comes out clean.
I’ll add a photo when I’ve taken the cakes from the oven and put them on racks to cool. It’s a wonderful site. One Christmas thing checked off my list.
Canadian Thanksgiving was yesterday. Today it’s time to start making Christmas fruit cakes!
Last week I tried buying candied fruit – my usual Bulk Barn had none! Today, I checked out the store online, found another outlet – they still had “regular” candied fruit and red cherries (no “Delux” fruit mix, or green cherries, or candied pineapple). That’s OK, I bought extra red cherries, candied lemon/lime peel, Thompson raisins, dried cranberries, and date bits.
Preparing the fruit:
at least 2 lbs of mixed candied fruit (regular or deluxe)
1 lb of red/green candied cherries
1 lb Thompson raisins
whatever other dried fruit you like: dried cranberries, chopped dates, chopped apricots, etc.
a 500ml jar of orange marmalade (you could use grape jelly or strawberry jam) – DON’T leave this out
Next stop the liquor store to pick up a quart of dark rum. After some consultation with one of the guys who works there I chose a locally made dark rum he assured me would be “flavourful”.
~400ml of dark rum (I used Fortress Dark Rum – smelled good!)
I came home, dug out my 27 litre tupperware covered bowl, added all the fruit plus a 500ml jar of good orange marmalade, then poured in half of that bottle of rum (about 400ml).
I mixed the whole thing using a strong wooden spoon (the mixture is VERY heavy), sealed the lid on, and now I wait. Tonight I will flip the bowl over onto the top, tomorrow morning I’ll flip it back to sit on it’s bottom, I’ll keep turning the whole thing twice a day for the better part of a week. By the end of the week there is no longer any liquid rum – it’s all be absorbed into the fruit!
That gives me more or less a week to pick up the other ingredients – butter, eggs, bittersweet baking chocolate, molasses (none left in the house); I have good vanilla, almond and orange extract, white and brown sugar and flour (although I’ll probably stop at Bulk Barn and pick a bit more of each of those just to be sure I have enough).
We could do a “bake-along”. You can find the full instructions here if you’re ready to tackle some early Christmas preparation.
The “recipe” produces a very flavourful moist fruitcake, if I say so myself. I say “recipe” in quotes because the amounts of fruit and ingredients for the batter are just guidelines – this is a VERY forgiving recipe – you want enough batter to coat all the fruit but not a whole lot more. The amount of fruit I’ve got soaking is going to give me 10 2lb cakes + 6-10 small loaf cakes. Plenty to give away.
BTW just halve the amounts of fruit above (and use the amounts in the actual recipe for dry and wet ingredients) and you’ll get a reasonable amount of cake. I use the amounts of fruit above, and double the wet and dry ingredients! For me a fruit cake (plus something I’ve sewn or knit) constitutes my Christmas giving, so I make a large number of cakes.
This morning I managed to complete 24 more blocks (14 left to get me to 63 which I’ll get done tomorrow).
49 Blocks – 7 x 7
I’m not going for a traditional drunkard’s path layout – I want a relatively random layout with probably 5 complete circles (at the moment I have three) and the rest partial circles which creates the illusion of layers of circles. The colour flow is working out but I won’t be satisfied until I have all 63 blocks on the floor and I can photograph them and move them around.
If I stay with a 7 x 9 array (63 blocks) I will end up with a 40 1/4″ x 51 3/4″ panel. Since I want the final project to be close to the size of the other two quilts – 48″ x 64″ I can either do a narrow 1″ sashing with the dark blue grunge I used on the wedges and a 3″ border strip from the Skyline fabric. That gives me the width (40 1/4 + 2 + 6 = 48 1/4″) but short on length (51 3/4 + 2 + 6 = 59 3/4″). If I were to add a 10 row to the bottom, I’d end up at 57 1/2 + 2 + 6 = 65 1/2″.
Or another way to solve the size problem is to add two more rows and a column to make an 8 x 11 array (46″ x 63 1/4″), a wee bit shy on width and length but close enough to the other two that I could live with that. In this case I’d need 25 more blocks. I have the fabric to do that – I bought the end of the bolt, another 1 1/2m of the fabric, so I have more than enough to create the needed blocks.
What I’m liking about this latter idea is that it mirrors the more modern finish I’ve used on the other two quilts. To finish the panel with sashing and a border will make it look more like a conventional quilt even with a hidden binding.
So after I’ve laid out the 63 blocks and stitched them together I’ll audition the sashing/binding idea but I’ll probably take time to construct another 25 blocks….
Christmas Fruit Cake
Christmas Fruit Cake 2020
Canadian Thanksgiving was last weekend. I always make fruitcake just after Thanksgiving so two weeks ago I bought the candied fruit, raisins, dried cranberries, put it in my 27c Tupperware bowl with lid then added a pint of dark Barbados rum and left the mixture to soak for a week.
Today was the day. I’ve ended up with 10 2lb loaves (plus a single small cake) which will get wrapped in waxed paper, stored in a ziplock bag, and kept on the bottom shelf of my refrigerator for the next two months.
Right now, the cake is kind of “cake-y” but in two months time it will be dense and moist from the rum working it’s way from the saturated fruit into the cake. Just in time to give it away for the holiday.
That’s my single big Christmas preparation – all done.
I’m all set to make and bake the Christmas cakes on the weekend. The fruit will have soaked in rum for a week (large white bowl with blue lid). I have the flour and sugar, baking soda and baking powder, molasses and semi-sweet chocolate, real vanilla and almond extract, ginger, nutmeg, clove, allspice and cinnamon (the seville orange marmalade has already been incorporated into the soaking fruit).
The foil baking pans and parchment paper are on hand, butter and eggs still in the refrigerator but I’ll bring them out Friday night so they can come to room temperature before I start to mix ingredients.
The Ingredients Ready To Go
I’ll start by prepping the foil load pans by adding a wee bit of vegetable oil to the bottom and sides of each (to stick the parchment in place), fitting in parchment paper (so I can lift out the cake more easily after they’ve cooled). Then I need to retrieve my lobster pot (an old 21 litre blue/white enamel canning pot I mostly use for mixing the Christmas cakes), wipe it out, find a sturdy mixing spoon because the fruit is heavy to mix.
21 litre Canning Pot
It’ll take me close to an hour to mix the batter, add and blend it with the fruit. Finally, I’ll partially fill the lined loaf pans (too full and they’ll overflow into the oven), then bake them in a slow oven until a skewer comes out clean.
If you’re interested here’s the recipe. Trust me, it’s a delicious dark fruit cake if you like dark fruit cake.
I haven’t mentioned the Christmas shortbread bars yet. It’s the only other Christmas baking I do. I make one cookie sheet, cut it into eighths and give 7 away! They’re too rich to keep around. They’ll get made closer to Christmas and this year I will try to remember to take a picture to share.
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.
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)
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
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).
Preheat oven — 275° F
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]
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!]
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.
Melt chocolate [I use my microwave oven for this] and add.
[Add jam or jelly or marmalade if you’re using it and haven’t added it to the candied fruit to soak]
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 butter and egg mixture to fruit and mix well.
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 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.