Sunday, November 25, 2012

Stir it Up!: Christmas Cake, day 1

This is the second year that I am making a Christmas Cake.  Known to some as fruit cake, this is not at all one of those bizarrely dry cakes with bits of bright red and green candied something in them. This is a very moist, rich, boozy cake with lots of real fruit.  Just a tiny slice of cake is so good with a cup of tea around 4 pm, when it is starting to get dark, and you just aren't ready to have it be nighttime already. I love real fruitcake for not being too sweet, and being actually fruity, not in a bright, summery way, but in a serious, winter way. It's a very companionable cake, for the quiet, contemplative time of year.

It's also a party cake, though, because it really is full of booze!  If you're going to make it, use something that you like to drink. The alcohol helps preserve the cake and gives it flavor. 

I spent one fall in London (the first year of this blog), and the woman I was living with started making mincemeat for pies in November. I was very impressed, and couldn't imagine planning to cook that far ahead. Last year, I really wanted to make a christmas cake, but, poor planner that I am, I started the week before and I fed it a little whiskey every day leading up to its unveiling on Christmas Day. It was delicious.

This year, I am starting on "Stir Up Sunday".  Not at all sure that this is a real thing in Britain, but I like the idea of it a whole lot better than Black Friday which is a very real thing here in the US.  Stir Up Sunday apparently has its roots in the Church of England, which marks the last Sunday before Advent as a day to: 

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I guess Stir Up Sunday hasn't been an entirely religious event for awhile, because in 1849, an observer marked little boys changing these words to:

Stir up, we beseech thee, 
The pudding in the pot: 
And when we get home, 
We'll eat it all hot. 

Phiz (Hablot K. Brown), "Paul Goes Home for the Holidays"
from Charles Dickens' Dombey and Son (1848–9)
image from Victorian Web.
In addition to its religious meanings, Stir Up Sunday now seems to be a day to make mincemeat for Christmas pies, to start Christmas puddings, and to start a Christmas Cake. We may not have a Christmas tree, but we have a little Christmas Cake starting in our house!  My stirring up will be to write some blog posts between now and the end of the year!  I'll be blogging the progress of the Christmas Cake, and maybe you want to start one too. First steps: the fruit and the bourbon.

Christmas Cake--Step 1: Boozy fruit
adapted from Felicity Cloake's recipe

1 cup dried currants
1 cup sultanas (golden raisins, preferably the big ones)
1/2 cup (about 6) dried smyrna figs, chopped
1/2 cup dried plump cherries (not the super shriveled ones)
1/2 cup candied orange peel or mixed peel, chopped
1 Tablespoon candied ginger, chopped fine
1/2 cup whiskey or bourbon 
a splash, Grand Marnier, if you have it around

Stir it up! Let sit for one day, until you are ready to bake the cake.


  1. Rads, I haven't checked out your blog in a while. I like the new title font!

    1. I haven't been writing, Mags! Thanks for reading!

  2. Too bad I'm off the sauce... this seems like a cake I could get into! Glad to see a return of HinH!