Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmases Long, Long Ago

Do you remember the Christmas Cake. One of the many guest of honours at Christmas tables long ago. Preparations for this cake usually took place mid-November.

And what a cake it was … molasses, currants, citrons, fruit peels, nuts, cherries, nutmeg, cinnamon, mace, allspice, cloves! I can smell it now!

Seemed such a waste of good cherries and nuts to me, because I didn’t care too much for all the other ingredients. Hard earned savings were extracted from secret places and a special shopping trip announced Christmas Cake time. Nothing but the best and freshest of ingredients for the cake.

The preparation of ‘the cake’ was not a lonely task, it took both father and mother to prepare the fruit and the mixing. Every measurement doubly checked, each ingredient ticked twice and finally after mixing and mixing; the pans prepared.

The square metal pans were assembled…..sides and bottoms fitted together resulting in three pans; a small, medium and large. Each pan was carefully greased, floured and covered with waxed paper.

And into the oven!

Not quite so simple a task when I was a child. Today you can set your oven and forget it. But not so when I was a child where all cooking was done on a cast iron, wood fired stove. Baking took almost seven hours so it was quite a task to keep the oven at an even temperature; making certain not to overstock the range with wood and causing the oven to overheat.

Ah, the scents. They linger today; I can still close my eyes and transport over time to the heavenly, spicey smells that permeated our home for days after the Christmas cake was baked.

When properly cooled the cake was wrapped in layers and layers of cheesecloth and waxed paper; that is - after being properly doused with brandy. The only liquor ever purchased in our home was the brandy for the Christmas cake.  On a regular basis the cake would be unwrapped and more brandy applied.
About a week before Christmas; when a good whiff of the cake might send you into alcoholic euphoria, the cake was iced. First layer was marzipan and then an icing sugar icing applied on top - ours resembled the picture here minus the fancy decorations.

This cake was served to all special guests, and every couple in town proclaimed theirs to be the best!

Not a lover of Christmas Cake, but a lover of the icing I didn’t enjoy quite as much as others; but you could not have a piece of cake and eat only the icing. I remember well eating the cake first and saving the icing for last!

My sister now assists my 92 year old mother in baking the Christmas Cake. This is something I have never done, but the memory remains one of simpler times and simpler pleasures!

1 comment:

  1. Ruby, it seems that these Christmas traditions are being replaced by shopping. I think Walmart sells Christmas cakes now, probably made in China! I hate Christmas cake and all fruitcakes but my wife (very English) makes them every year,
    just like your recipe!