Christmas Cake

This is the first of two Christmas recipes in Dorothy’s book. Christmas morning is always pretty loosey-goosey around here when it comes to actual food – it’s the one day of the year when you can have candy or cookies for breakfast and I don’t say a word. The idea of having some festive muffins around appeals to me, so I was really hoping that this recipe would be both easy and tasty. Dorothy did not disappoint! (for me at least; more on that later).

The main ‘special’ ingredients in this recipe harken back to a different time. I don’t know too many modern bakers who use candied fruit unless they are making a fruitcake, and then they get laughed at because somewhere along the line fruitcake became a shared cultural joke. For the record, good, scratch-made fruitcake is delicious, if you ever get the opportunity to have some; I think pre-made store-bought fruitcakes are horrible, and probably are responsible for the traditional Christmas treat’s total fall from favour.

Wow. I had a fruitcake rant in me. Guess maybe next Christmas I need to learn to make fruitcake.

Anyway, I found the candied fruit at my local Sobey’s grocery store, in a special display set up for the holidays. I don’t know about Loblaw’s since I only buy dog food and diapers there (oddly specific, I know). Bulk Barn would have the candied fruit for sure. Given the cost – I spent $8 on candied fruit and I have much,  much more than I needed – Bulk Barn would be the more economical choice.

The recipe

Combine in large bowl and soak until liquid is absorbed

1 cup All-Bran cereal (I used plain wheat bran from the baking aisle and it worked well)

1 cup milk

Beat in to bran mixture

1 egg

1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)

Stir in

1/3 cup mixed peel

1/3 cup chopped candied cherries (I used a mix of red & green for extra festiveness)

1/3 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts, but Dorothy doesn’t specify)

1 tsp. vanilla

Sift into the wet ingredients and stir to blend

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup white sugar

3 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

pinch of ginger, cloves, mace (I didn’t have ground cloves on hand, nor mace. I used just ginger – about 1/8 tsp.)

400F, 20 minutes. Makes 12 large muffins.

The process

I had my boys helping me with this recipe, and it went smoothly – this is not a hard recipe. Trickiest part was chopping the cherries; try spraying the blade of your knife with a little cooking spray to keep the bits from sticking. The batter is quite pretty, with bits of red, green, and yellow throughout.

My assistants eagerly sampled the batter and after a quick taste I could see why – it is delicious, sweet and spicy. They don’t often hang around to lick the bowl… and the spatula… and the measuring cup… but they did this time.

I filled the muffin cups a generous two-thirds full, thinking that they wouldn’t rise much given the heaviness of the batter and relatively small amount of leavening. They rose more than I expected. You could easily get more than a dozen by only filling the cups half-full, and the finished product would be a more manageable size.

There is a special note from Dorothy; you can use any dry or candied fruit and/or nuts in this recipe, as long as the amount equals one cup.

The result

My assistants and I eagerly sampled these muffins while they were still warm from the oven. I loved them right away; they are sweet yet spicy, with bitter notes from the candied peel to help balance the flavour. Michael also pronounced them delicious as well. The kids were another story. They tried. They both liked them right up until the hit a piece of candied peel and then it was no way, nothing doing. The texture and strong taste turned them off, and neither could finish their muffin, much to their disappointment (and my secret glee, because more for me, ha!) My almost-one-year-old, on the other hand, pilfered half of mine and screamed for more. All I can suggest is that if you’re hoping to share these with kids you may want to replace the candied peel with cherries or even a completely different dried fruit, like cranberries.

Next week

I’ll be making Christmas Morning Cranberry. In case anyone else wants to have these ready for the big day, you will need to have on hand:

1 cup fresh cranberries

1/4 tsp. allspice

1/4 tsp. grated orange peel

3/4 cup orange juice

1/4 cup chopped nuts




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