A Tale of Two Fruitcakes

 

 

Merry Christmas everyone.  A few weeks back the Heavenly Bakers recipe of the week was Fruitcake Wreath.  I made two fruitcakes from Rose’s recipe and wrapped them in whiskey soaked cheesecloth to store for the holidays.  I also made my Aunt Marie’s White Fruitcake which is my family’s traditional holiday fruitcake. I said at the time that when I sliced them both on Christmas Eve my family would be the ones to decide which they like best.  Well, the votes are in and my aunt’s fruitcake was the hands down winner.  My parents flat out hated Rose’s recipe.  They said it was dry and crumbly and the fruit tasted artificial.  I didn’t think it was that bad although I did think it was a bit on the dry side and I found it a bit underwhelming considering that I had been soaking it for several weeks.  Would I make it again, absolutely, I think I just might change the fruit selection a bit and I would definitely buy the wreath pan that Rose recommends as everyone who used that pan seemed to have better luck with it.  With a house full of family and friends all this week I didn’t get around to making that pinecone cake but I will get to it.  Can’t wait to read how everyone else did with it.  Happy Holidays.

English Gingerbread

I don’t have any holiday memories of gingerbread.  Coming from and Italian heritiage our christmas sweets were mostly made with honey and hazlenuts or almonds and lots of orange and lemon peel, even garbanzo beans but no gingerbread.  We didn’t even make gingerbread men.  As a matter of fact, I was well into my 20′s before I even had some authentic gingerbread but from that first piece I have always loved it.

This recipe I am astounded to say is totally straight forward.   No silly, annoying steps or strange measurements or heating and cooling instructions.  Just mix, stir, bake and eat.  I love it.  I am totally dumbstruck.   What am I going to complain about?  My readers have come to expect me to complain about something in Rose’s recipes each week and here I am with nothing.  It seems so strange to not be complaining by now.  Oh well,  consider it a Christmas gift, I am sure I ‘ll be back to complaining about something soon.

This recipe could not be simpler to put together.  The dry ingredients are mixed together.  The wet ingredients are combined and heated until the sugar melts.  The milk and eggs are whisked in and then the two mixtures are combined.  Then, into the pan, into the oven and 50 minutes later out comes yummy, moist, gooey tasty gingerbread.  The lemon glaze is a mystery to me.  Since this is my first attempt at gingerbread I have no clue whether this is authentic, traditional, a gimmick, optional or what but I do know that it is good.  This is just an honest to goodness simple cut off a piece and enjoy snack cake.  My advice to you is make this as soon as you can or get someone to make it for you but do enjoy it because it is great. 

The wet ingredients

The dry ingredients

The completed batter

I have been baking all week in preparation for my family to come from back east for the holidays.  I have stashed away all the traditional Italian holiday treats and some of my own personal favorites and this gingerbread was the last of the baking for this week.  It has been a week filled with wonderful smells and found memories but to be totally honest, now that I have finished the last of it I’m exhausted. 

Next weeks recipe is Holiday Pinecone and I would really like to do that one but with my family here and the holidays and friends dropping in I am not sure I will have the time to get to it but I will try my best to fit it in.  If I don’t I will certainly do it in the future and write about it here.

On monday the family arrives and all the eating and story telling can begin so with that I will close.  Merry Christmas everyone.

Next Up:  Holiday Pinecone

Classic Carrot Cake

I remember the first time I had carrot cake.  January 15, 1972, my sixteenth birthday.  The family had gathered for the ritual birthday dinner, which in my case was Creamed Chicken on Biscuits.  My mom made killer creamed chicken and I asked for it every year on my birthday.  My sister arrived with the cake and the newest Three Dog Night record that I had been pleading for for weeks.  I knew when I didn’t get it for Christmas that today would be the day it would arrive in my hot little hands, ready for endless listenings.  My birthday being so close to Christmas, that was always the case.  Whatever I begged and pleaded for that didn’t come at Christmas ended up as my birthday present.  From about the time I turned 10 this was usually the latest record by whatever band I was fascinated by at the time.  This year it was Three Dog Night.  At any rate, my sister arrives with this cake and begins telling us that it is a new recipe she had found and it is healthy (of course we all know now that carrot cake is hardly healthy).  I am thinking, is she nuts?  It’s my birthday. I am turning 16, I will be getting my drivers license in a few months and she shows up with some healthy cake with vegetables in it. I want chocolate cake with tons of icky gooey frosting.  We have our dinner and afterwards I endure the singing of the birthday song, waiting for the minute when I can run to my room and put my new record on the turntable.  I make the first furtive slice into this healthy alternative for birthday cake.  My sister is going on and on about how it is the newest thing.  I am thinking that between her husband and her kids she has finally lost it but decide to give her a break since she did spring for the record.  I close my eyes and dig into the healthy cake.  OH MY GOD, can this be?  This cake is incredible. Moist and spicy, loaded with flavor.  And the cream cheese frosting, I am in heaven.  This is almost as good as I know the record is going to be.  All of a sudden I would rather have another piece of this cake then run to my room for record listening.  A revelation.

That was my first carrot cake experience and it hasn’t really changed much.  Carrot cake isn’t anything new these days but everytime I taste one I am instantly sent right back to my mothers kitchen on that birthday so many years ago.  I never get tired of it.  This version doesn’t really seem very different from any other version I have made and to be honest, that is a good thing.  It is nice to know that somethings never change and that no matter when you have them they will always be just as good as you remember them.

The cake is simplicity itself.  The most complicated thing you have to do is grate the carrots and thanks to the food processor that only takes a minute.  I combined the dry ingredients in a bowl, whisked them together and sifted them.  I then put the two sugars, eggs, oil and vanilla in the mixer bowl and beat them together until well combined.  I added the dry ingredient mixture and beat to combine.  I then added the carrots and beat them in and then half of the raisins were beaten in. 

Cake ready for the oven

All the while I was being lead into a false sense of security.  Certainly I was just about finished with the recipe and this weeks silly redundant unnecessary step wasn’t there.  And then, just as I was about to make this as the one straightforward recipe in this book, there it was.  Once the batter goes into the pan and is ready for the oven I was being asked to sprinkle the rest of the raisins on the top and then use an offset spatula to push them into the batter.  WHY? WHY? WHY?  Why does Rose do this?  Does she do it just so the recipe will seem different?  Does she do it just so that I will have extra utensils to clean up?  What is the point of these silly seemingly useless steps?  Well, I figured this step was to ensure that the raisins didn’t sink to the bottom of the cake but she already had us toss them in flour which is supposed to ensure that doesn’t happen so I found this last step annoyingly useless.  But, since this recipe has brought back such found memories for me I have decided to believe that Rose does this just so that I will have something to complain about in this blog every week and let it go at that.

I baked the cakes in a 325 degree oven (I adjusted the temperature for my convection oven) for 40 minutes and it tested done.  I then cooled the cakes on a rack for 10 minutes and then unmolded the cakes on a rack until completely cooled.

Baked cakes

 The frosting is very simple.  I melted the white chocolate and allowed it to cool.  While it was cooling I blended the cream cheese , sour cream and butter in the food processor until smooth.  I then added the cooled white chocolate and blended the mixture until smooth and creamy.  That was it.  It couldn’t have been easier.  I took a bit of artistic license here and used white chocolate with coconut in it.  It was Lindt Excellence White Coconut.  When I saw it on the shelf I just thought it would taste great with the carrots so I went for it.  It was very mild and it did enhance the flavor of the cake.  As with most of Rose’s frostings, this one is very soft.  The recipe warns that it firms in the refrigerator.  I could hardly get my crumb coat on without it sliding down the sides of the cake so into the fridge it went.  I wish that Rose would make at least one frosting that was firm enough to use right out of the mixer.  Oh well, this was so good it is hardly worth carping over a few minutes in the refrigerator.

 Carrot cake is one of those all time classics which never fails to please and satisy and this wonderful, definitely heavenly version is no exception.  Now, if you will all excuse me,  I think I will have a great big slice and go listen to my Three Dog Night records.

Next Up: English Gingerbread

Fruitcake Wreath

I am somewhat of the Christmas oddity.  I love fruitcake.  I encourage people to send me fruitcakes for the holidays.  I seek out friends who are looking to get rid of all the fruitcakes they received.  At work I am always sneaking into the kitchen to nibble on all the fruitcakes that everyone has brought in to unload on unsuspecting co-workers.  My favorite aunt (yes, the same one of the dreaded Mazola Oil Cake) made a fantastic fruitcake.  It contained no glaceed fruits, just cherries, raisins and nuts.  It had a light  batter and we always called it white fruitcake. My sister continued the tradition of the white fruitcake and when I moved to California she gave me the recipe and now I make it all the time.  I usually make several during the holidays.  I was quite anxious to try this one as it is a bit different from my own. The batter is much darker than mine and it is jammed with fruits and nuts.

When reading through the recipe it doesn’t seem all that different in technique from my fruitcake but there is one odd step that I found.  I think it is more a matter of the editors could have done a bit better job of writing this.  The step about preparing the butter.  I know that I always seem to be complaining about Rose’s  unnecessary steps and over complicated procedures.  I do appologize.  As I have stated before I am definitely opinionaled and I can come off a bit caustic in the delivery of my comments but I assure you all that I mean for my comments to be constructive criticism and not just idle griping.  The recipe says to put the butter in a microwave safe container but then gives no instructions for how long to put it in the microwave if your using it.  The instuctions for doing it on the stovetop seem odd to me too.  We are supposed to stir it until it becomes creamy.  It has always been my experience that butter on the stovetop will melt faster than I will get it creamy.  I would think that by the time this much butter gets creamy, most of it will be melted.  Then you get to the step where you are combining it with the sugar,  the book refers to it as melted butter.  Which is it?  Creamy or melted.  I know this seems like a minor point but we have already established that there are several beginning bakers in this group.  I consider myself to be a above average baker and when I am questioning simple steps like this I have to think that the beginners are at home pulling out their hair trying to figure out what the recipe means. Again, just myopinion, as I said I thought this was a matter of the editors just not doing their job properly.  I considered just letting the butter come to room temperature, but decided to try the microwave.  I put it in for 10 second intervals and it took 30 seconds to get to what I considered creamy.  When all was said and done I could have just let it soften at room temperature and it would have been fine so I thought this step unnecessary.

I creamed the butter and sugar together until combined and then added the eggs one at a time and beat to incorporate.  I combined the dry ingredients and then added them to the egg/sugar/butter mixture and beat to combine.  I then added the fruits and then the nuts and beat to combine.  I spooned the batter into two 10 cup fluted pans (as I was not using the wreath mold pan) and put them in the oven to bake.

Creamed butter and sugar

Completed batterCakes ready for baking

I appologize for these pictures.  I am without my camera again this week so these are cell phone pictures.  I tried to doctor them up so they would be a bit clearer but I think you all get the idea. 

Cakes fresh from the ovenUnmolded cakes

 

When all is said and done with the exception of that one confusing step this cake is simplicity itself.  Sort of a dump and stir cake.  The hardest part is remembering to macerate the fruit a week in advance of baking it.   Alas I have to wait a few more weeks to see how the cake tastes as I am storing it until Christmas.  It got its rum basting and was wrapped in cheesecloth and has been stored away to mellow and become even more delicious each day until I finally cut into it on Christmas Eve and fight off all the jealous relatives for the first piece.  Not to worry, I made two and I will also have the infamous White Fruitcake as well.

Next Up:  Classic Carrot Cake with Dreamy Creamy White Chocolate Frosting