Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas is almost here…gulp!

Christmas is catching me on the run. I'm still writing cards, buying presents, wrapping presents, buying food, planning menus and decorating…..

Yesterday I finally bought the tree. I was forced into buying a taller one as there were so few left. It always bothers me that I have to pay so much more for a spike that sticks up a foot and that I will need to cut off (we live in a cottage that is around 400 years old = low ceilings). However having had my moan it does look lovely after DD and I decorated while wearing Santa hats and singing at the top of our lungs…

Despite having the tree up I am feeling fraught. I have edits calling to me on A Cornish Stranger yet this time of year passes in a blink of an eye…so this morning I began making...

Aggie's Spiced Fruitcake 

At Christmas time when are all in a flurry of cooking and baking and organising it is wonderful to do something that grounds us and brings us back to a time when things were a little less crazy. For me it is stopping in the rush to make my Great Aunt Agnes' spiced fruit cake. The smell of the fruit and spices boiling wraps itself around me and slows me down just a bit. It reminds me of Christmas' past and also reminds me to treasure the present one. For me Christmas isn't Christmas until I make this cake.

Like all handed down family recipes nothing is exact. This is a wonderful recipe which is quite flexible in its ingredients and is especially useful using slightly old fruit like apples or oranges or satsumas that are just about to go off. 

Pre heat your oven to 180 degrees and butter several loaf tins or oven proof dishes. I can't say how many because it depends on how much extra fruit you add...

In a large pan add:

2 cups of sugar
1 cup of raisins
1 cup of mixed fruit (this being a US recipes that would mean glacé)
1 teaspoon of ground cloves
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 stick of butter (I think this is about a 1/4 pound)
(additions - old fresh fruit - apples, oranges etc...can add ginger and allspice)
3 cups of water (although my aunt would sometimes used left over coffee or tea)

The liquid should cover the fruit, if it doesn't add a little more. Bring the fruit to the boil. The scent that will fill the kitchen is divine. Let it simmer for a while - at least ten minutes. I am usually doing many other things so I can't say precisely. Then turn the heat off and let the mixture sit and cool. Sometime I simply cover and leave it over night. When the mixture is cool you can add a little whiskey or brandy.

So when the fruit mixture is cool (it will be quite thick and syrupy) add straight into the same pot slowly, bit by bit and mix with a big spoon:
3 cups of flour
then slowly add 2 teaspoons of baking soda mixed in a tablespoon of hot water

Give the mixture a good mix with a big spoon before pouring into the greased loaf tins.

Bake for about 45 minutes (this depends on the size of your tins) if a knife inserted into them comes out most ly clean they are cooked. 
If the cakes seem dry for any reason - which it shouldn't be - pour a bit more alcohol on it once cool.

For me a piece of the cake is Christmas past and present. Enjoy.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year….


  1. That sounds like a lovely way to start your Christmas! For me, it's making saffron buns that starts it off, then making meatballs according to a recipe from my grandmother - such a nice way to remember someone!

    1. Thos meatballs sound lovely…food and memories such a powerful combination! Have a wonderful Christmas…

  2. I'm glad I'm not the only one feeling this season is just whooshing past me. Christmas is my favourite time of year, and every year I start planning all the wonderful things I'm going to do, and the old movies I'm going to pull out and watch, and the goodies I'm going to bake...and then every year I find myself nose to the grindstone and writing to deadline and everything just whizzes by.

    This year I had the kids make a list of the five things we HAD to do before Christmas, and we're working our way through that.

    But now I suspect, Christina, that my daughter will want to be adding your grandmother's meatballs to that list, so you'd best email me the recipe!

  3. Susanna the holiday feels almost over and it hasn't started…enjoy the kids and the holiday. My deadline is lurking but this time is so precious I'll cut the time from somewhere else (just haven't found it yet!!)…now where is the White Christmas DVD???

    Have a wonderful Christmas and New year!