Christmas cake. What would Christmas be without it? (Yes, I’m one of those who love it!)
The beginning of every December, Mom pulled out the old cigar box that held her mother’s Christmas cake recipe and began the ritual.
Step one: assemble all the fruit – sultanas, dark raisins, golden raisins, mixed peel, candied citron, and glace cherries. And don’t forget the almonds and walnuts. That entailed a day of rummaging through the lower back shelf of the old Kelvinator refrigerator to retrieve what was left over from last year’s production, plus a trip to Mr. Marcotte’s general store to purchase anything we hadn’t found. Mom dumped all the fruit into the large yellow Pyrex bowl and poured apple juice over it all. Dad was a staunch teetotaler so no rum or brandy in our house!
Step two: cream the butter (the homemade variety) and brown sugar with a wooden spoon until smooth and creamy. Mom and I took turns for the hour or so of smooshing and blending till we thought our arms would drop off.
Step three: dredge the fruit with flour, dump in the fruit and nuts and more flour, plus the cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, and stir till mixed.
“Stir?” Are you kidding? How do you stir something as solid a fruit cake batter? You might as well be stirring cement!
There’s a tradition in making Christmas cake that everyone has to give the batter a stir to ensure good luck in the coming year. At least, that’s what Mom told us, and she wouldn’t lie. So each of us would dutifully take our turn trying to stir the mass. And, inevitably, the wooden spoon would break. I don’t know if that, too, was supposed to ensure good luck in the coming year.
After several decades of annually broken wooden spoons, my brother (of all people) had the “Aha!” moment. “Why don’t we mix it in the Mill-N-Mix*?” he asked.
Now, why didn’t we think of that?
We dumped the butter and brown sugar into the giant stainless steel bowl and turned on the machine. It beat that mixture into submission in no time flat. We dumped in the fruit, the nuts, the flours and the spices and watched in amazement as the industrial-strength dough hook wound its way through all that “stuff” with absolutely no problem. In 10 minutes or less, we had Christmas cake batter ready to spoon into the already greased and lined antique cake tins (another legacy from Mother’s mother) and put them into the oven.
We no longer took turns stirring the batter to bring good luck but perhaps taking turns turning the machine on and off counted instead. I don’t recall that we had any less good luck in the absence of a broken spoon.
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*A Mill-N-Mix grinds grain which you then put into the attached bowl to make bread. It is now vintage equipment – find one if you can. Here’s a picture and description of it.