Feeding the Christmas Cake



Directions

  1. Now we have taken the cake out of it’s tin and it’s time to feed it. Don’t worry. It is supposed to be this dark.
  2. We are going to flip the cake upside down and inject it with whiskey. I have a turkey baster and and injector to do this but you can just poke 5-6 holes it it with a skewer and drop a half a teaspoon of whiskey or so in each hole.

3. Now wrap the cake tightly with parchment paper or plastic wrap and place it in an airtight container. I have a proper tin but I used a different pan this year and it was just “this much” too big for my tin.

4. Unwrap the cake and feed it like this once a week , until it’s time to decorate.

More Making the Christmas Cake

Today you won’t need too many more ingredients, but you will want to have some parchment paper and some brown paper around. I just use a paper grocery bag. Because someone will ask, I haven’t left anything out of the ingredients of this cake. It’s a very old recipe. The only thing it uses for leavening is the eggs. So be gentle with it while it’s baking.

Christmas Cake Stage Two: Baking the Cake

Time:
4-6 hrs

Ingredients

  • 280g (10 oz) butter
  • 225g soft brown sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 255 g (9 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 85 g (3 oz) almond flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Prep the baking pan. (see how below)
  2. Now you may take out the top rack of your oven and preheat your oven to 300 degrees.
  3. Mix the softened butter together with the sugar until it turns that nice pale color.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time. To be sure your batter doesn’t curdle, add a tablespoon of the flour with each egg.
  5. Mix the rest of the flour and almond flour together with the salt.
  6. Fold the flour mixture into your creamed mixture.
  7. When the flour is fully incorporated you can fold in the soaked fruit. That’s a lot of folding. You will probably find yourself singing “around the outside through the middle” before you are done.
  8. When the fruit is fully incorporated, you can pour the mixture in your paper lined pan and smooth it out like in the picture below.
  9. Put this in the oven, close the oven door and do not open it for 3.5 hours.
  10. When your timer goes off you can test the cake and if the tester comes out dry, the cake is done. Take it out of the oven, but let it cool overnight before removing it from the pan.
I promise it’s so much better than boughten fruit cake.

To prep the pan: I use a 9 inch springform pan which is a lovely modern invention, but even though they are a little deeper, you still have to do the papering:

First you are going to butter the bottom of your pan and use that to tack down a circle of parchment paper.

Then you are going to cut a rectangle of brown paper and tie it around the outside of the pan, so that it sticks above the pan at least ten inches.

Now, you are going to cut a rectangle of parchment paper and line the sides of the pan. Some recipes will tell you to just let the inner parchment paper to go a little beyond the edge of the cake tin. I prefer to just make them the same height, so that I don’t acidentally dump cake between the two paper layers.

Basically what you are doing here is using the pan as the framework to make a larger paper pan. The pan should be completely covered by paper.

Making the Christmas Cake

So in the next couple of posts, I am going to take you through the process of making an Irish Christmas cake one day at a time. I don’t always make this. I am kind of going all out to make this year special and it is so much better homemade than any fruit cake you will buy from the store. I like to start mine on stir up day when I put together my mincemeat for the mince pies.

Christmas Cake: Soaking the Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 450 g (1 lb) sultanas or golden raisins
  • 225 g (1/2 lb) raisins
  • 225 g (1/2 lb) currants
  • 100 g (4 oz) glacé cherries, halved or whole, not chopped
  • 50g (2 oz) mixed peel, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice 
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 apple peeled and shredded
  • 100 g (3 oz) sliced or slivered almonds
  • 1 tablespoon cherry syrup from making the cherries or 1 tbsp Golden Syrup
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 orange
  • 4 tablespoons Irish Whiskey (give or take)

Directions

  1. Put the fruit, spices, and almonds in a bowl that has a tight fitting lid.
  2. Zest and juice the lemon and the orange. Chop the zest finely adding the zest and the juice to the mixture in the bowl.
  3. Add the syrup and the whiskey and stir until it is mixed together well.
  4. Put the lid on the pan and let it sit overnight.

Hermitage Exercise

 

Dia daoibh a chairde.  September  is over.  That means there is only one more month of the season Fómhar before we get to settle in for winter.   In the very sensible Irish calendar based on the agricultural cycle, we have moved into Deireadh Fómhair or the “end of Fómhar.”  

Harvest is always a busy season around here, but we also added a big construction/reorg project on top of all the other things I am not used to doing.   Add a corrupt webhosting database  and the last couple months  have been a little bit of a blur.  (But doesn’t my new website look nice?)

Not so much though, that I haven’t noticed that people are struggling.  Due to the current public health crisis, we are all kind of cooped up in our own secluded hermitages.  It seems to be getting to people.

This is an exercise I usually ask students to do, but you might also find it diverting if  you are feeling especially cooped up.  I was thinking that now would be a good time for me to start a new exploration, just because things are so different with the ash trees gone.

It’s really simple. Just find a spot you can sit every day and start to observe this spot as it changes through the seasons.  You might journal about it, photograph it, or even sketch it.   Try to notice as many details as you can.

This poem has always seemed to me to be the work of someone who was keenly aware of their ecosystem and I like to read it to as a reminder to appreciate the very simple things in my surroundings that make me happy.  It’s an Irish poem (shocking I know) written sometime in the 10th century and this is Kuno Meyer’s translation:

Marban:
I have a hut in the wood,
None knows it save my God:
An ash tree on the hither side, a hazel bush beyond,
A huge old tree encompasses it.

Two heath-clad doorposts for support,
And a lintel of honeysuckle:
The forest around its narrowness sheds
Its mast upon fat swine.

The size of my pasture is tiny, not too tiny,
Many are its familiar paths:
From its gable a sweet strain sings
My lady in her cloak of the thrush’s hue.

The stags of Oakridge leap
Into the river of clear banks:
Thence red Roigne can be seen,
Glorious Mucraime and Maenmag.

Hidden, lowly little abode,
Which has possession of … ,
To behold it will not be granted me,
Yet I shall be able to find its …

A hiding mane of a green-barked yew-tree
Which supports the sky:
Beautiful spot! the large green of an oak
Fronting the storm.

A tree of apples – great its bounty!
Like a hostel, vast:
A pretty bush, thick as a fist, of tiny hazelnuts,
Branching, green.

A choice pure spring and princely water
To drink:
There spring watercress, yew-berries,
Ivy-bushes of a man’s thickness.

Around it tame swine lie down,
Goats, pigs,
Wild swine, grazing deer,
A badger’s brood.

A peaceful troop, a heavy host of denizens of the soil,
Atrysting at my house:
To meet them foxes come,
How delightful!

Fairest princes come to my house,
A ready gathering!
Pure water, perennial bushes,
Salmon, trout.

A bush of rowan, black sloes,
Dusky blackthorns,
Plenty of food, acorns, pure berries,
Bare flags.

A clutch of eggs, honey, delicious mast,
God has sent it:
Sweet apples, red whortleberries,
Berries of the heath.

Ale with herbs, a dish of strawberries,
Of good taste and color,
Haws, berries of the yew,
Sloes, nuts.

A cup with mead of hazelnut, bluebells,
Quick-growing rushes,
Dun oaklets, manes of briar,
Goodly sweet tangle.

When pleasant summertime spreads its colored mantle,
Sweet-tasting fragrance!
pignuts, wild marjoram, green leeks,
Verdant pureness!

The music of the bright redbreasted men,
A lovely movement!
The strain of the thrush, familiar cuckoos
Above my house.

Swarms of bees and chafers, the little musicians of the world,
A gentle chorus:
Wild geese and ducks, shortly before summer’s end,
The music of the dark torrent.

An active songster, a lively wren
From the hazel bough,
Beautiful hooded birds, woodpeckers,
A vast multitude!

Fair white birds come, herons, seagulls,
The cuckoo sings in between, —
No mournful music! — dun heath poults
Out of the russet heath.

The lowing of heifers in summer,
Brightest of seasons!
Not bitter, toilsome over the fertile plain,
Beautiful, smooth!

The voice of the wind against the branchy wood
Upon the deep-blue sky:
Cascades of the river, the note of the swan,
Delightful music!

The bravest band makes music to me,
Who have not been hired:
In the eyes of Christ the ever-young I am no worse off
Than thou art.

Though thou rejoicest in thy own pleasures,
Greater than any wealth,
I am grateful for what is given me
From my good Christ.

Without an hour of fighting, without the din of strife
In my house,
Grateful to the Prince who giveth every good
To me in my bower.

Guaire:
I would give my glorious kingship
With my share of Colman’s heritage,
To the hour of my death let me forfeit it
So that I may be in thy company, O Marban!

Hermit and King: A Colloquy between King Guaire of Aidne and His Brother Marban; Being an Irish Poem of the Tenth Century, edited and translated by Kuno Meyer. London: David Nutt, 1901.

Pandemics and Preparedness

This is not my sciencey viral intervention post.  That one is going to take me a few days to fact check and I am honestly dreadfully dreary of reading scientific journals and sitting through WHO modules. We have the first three confirmed cases of this blasted virus in our town and not surprisingly all contracted it on a cruise ship.  I am reminded of a story I heard once about the cnotan na gall – the “strangers’ cold” that came in on a vessel from a far away land. Continue reading “Pandemics and Preparedness”