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Suvir Saran

The Fruitcake Topic

402 posts in this topic

With regard to the addition of macerated fruit , I have been playing a bit lately and found the following to be worth the expense of the alcohol.

Lexia raisins soaked in Australian liquer muscat

Stem ginger and sultanas soaked in Stones Ginger wine with a splash of whisky

The latter goes well in a lighter style fruit cake but with an emphasis on the ginger rather than the fruitiness

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As a Pastry Chef, I can assure you that I don't make wedding cakes with mixes. It is a British tradition to make them with fruitcake (not American, and not French- they make a croquenbouche). I have never been asked to make a fruitcake wedding cake (lots of vanilla bean, chocolate, carrotcake, genoise, fruit filled, lemon or other curd filled). I have made very many croquenbouche though. In New Zealand, Australia, and Canada- plus England- you will find fruitcake wedding cakes.

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I've been doing wedding cakes in Canada for 10 years now (after several years of doing cakes in the US and Puerto Rico.) Altough, I personally enjoy fruitcake, especially the recipe passed down from my mother, who used to make her own candied fruit for the fruitcakes, during my 10 years of doing wedding cakes here in Ontario, I have had 2 brides request fruitcake. The one bride had family coming from Scotland, and the other was originally from PEI and she was having it because of her family from PEI. I don't even offer fruitcake as an option because the majority of the brides do not like it, and even say they are glad it is no longer what is served as a wedding cake. The most popular choices are sponge cakes- the most popular flavors are chocolate, lemon, champagne, and white.

Sharon's Creative Cakes

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Now here is my suggestion for making cakes like these that include a lot of ingredients.

Do not try to do it all at once, it seems like a really big job.  Instead start out with measuring out the fruit, set it to soak.

On another day measure out the dry ingredients,  place in ziploc bags and place in a large bowl or one of the jumbo ziploc bags along with a copy of the recipe. 

Chop the nuts and store them in a ziploc bag.

Then when you are ready to assemble the recipe all you have to do is get out the perishable ingredients and mix then bake.

I do this with the many cookie recipes I do each year.  I have a bunch of bus trays and totes.

Each one is for a particular recipe.  I line them up and measure out all the dry ingredients, and store in ziploc bags, along with any special utensils needed for a particular recipe, put the tray or tote in a large plastic bag and stack them in the pantry. 

This way I do not get into the middle of a recipe and find I am missing an ingredient and it just generally makes things go so much faster.

yow! THANK YOU for some awesome tips!

"Bibimbap shappdy wappdy wap." - Jinmyo

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so what do you all do for the candied adn crystallised stuff?

do a lot of you candy your own fruit? do you pop on down to the local supermarket? do you mail order? go to a specialty dried fruit seller?


"Bibimbap shappdy wappdy wap." - Jinmyo

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I candy ginger, citrus peel and dried fruits (glacé) only because I want a fresher flavor and most of the commercial products mostly taste the same and are hard, not tender as they should be.

If you are going to use dried fruits I do suggest that you plump them in a steamer instead of soaking in water. You will have a much nicer effect, and will not lose any of the flavor to the soaking liquid.

If you don't have an electric steamer, you can get the inexpensive bamboo sets, usually come in a set of three, which you can set on a rack in the bottom of a stockpot to keep the bottom one out of the water.

If you place a plate slightly smaller than the steamer inside each one and put the fruit on the plate, it will steam nicely without getting the steame sticky and without transferring flavor from one to another.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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---------------------------------------------------------

Many of my ancestors were enthusiastic about foods, collected "receipts" and grew odd things.  This one came from one of my paternal ancestors, Patience, wife of Antony Nesbitt, Capt., which is how she named herself in her journals.  Apparently she sometimes sailed with him on his ship during trading trips.

andiesenji, that's absolutely incredible that you possess these journals and old records. I hope I'm not being silly but it gives me goosebumps to think that you have such a direct connection with your ancestors--and in the wonderful form of recipes! The oldest relative I am aware of is my great-grandmother. I don't even know where my ancestors came from!

There have been so many appealing recipes on this post, I can't make up my mind which one to try. But the idea of following a recipe that was written so long ago... very exciting!

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Suvir, thanks so much for this excellent post! I'm a big fan of time-consuming recipes, and if you include candying and steeping your own fruit, this one's going to take forever! Before even starting the cake! :biggrin: I love it. Thanks to you, I'm going out shopping right now to start early preparations!

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hi, i was interested in making the white fruitcake you posted, but am intimidated by the glace pineapples and citron peel required. i dont know how to glace fruit and im sure it takes a lot of time (at least two weeks?) and much effort. for that matter any of these recipes with candied lemon peels, dried figs, etc. i actually really like fruitcake, but have never made any because of the trouble of obtaining high quality candied fruit.

anyhow, i think im going to try the cocoa fruit cake, but wanted to find out about the following:

This is my cocoa fruit cake.

...

1-1/2 DRIED CHERRIES

how much are you talking about? cup or pounds? i guess cups, but i would like to double check.

thanks!


"Bibimbap shappdy wappdy wap." - Jinmyo

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I am sorry that there is an error in my cocoa fruitcake recipe as posted.

It should say 1 1/2 cups CHERRIES

There should also be an additional sentence which states other dried fruits may be substituted as long as the proportions remain the same.

I have made the cake with dried cranberries and blueberries or a combinaton of all types of berries and with home dried Red Flame grapes which are very plump and sweet. I have even made it with REAL dried black currants a friend sent me from England.

If you have a Trader Joe's nearby, you can get an assortment of very good dried fruits.

Making glacé pineapple is easy, just buy some dried pineapple, steam it until it plumps and softens then immerse it in simple syrup and gently simmer until it has become translucent.

If you have a small crockpot you can do this without watching it.

King Arthur flour catalog sells very good candied fruit.

Any commercial candied fruit will benefit from the addition of some type of liquor. Brandy is usually the most common, but the sweet fortified white wines by Kedem, often labeled "Sacrametal Wine" is fine too. Put the fruit in a glass jar, add the liquor to cover and close tightly. Shake the jar every day or so, let it soak for a week, drain and save the liquor for using in recipes as it will now be much sweeter or use it to soak more fruit.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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I've been lurking on this thread for a few days and have been inspired to actually make my fruitcake for the year. I have several recipes but this year it is Emily Dickenson's Black Cake that is very similar to the Jamaican Black cakes up thread.

This thread was helpful because someone asked me to donate to a silent auction and I do not want to do a dinner ( too much unspecified obligation - much experience with this) and it is much better to have a displayed item for the auction.

I hit upon a "Basket of Traditional British Christmas Baking" - thus the basket got one of the aforementioned fruitcakes, Grandma McCracken's Carrot Pudding (my contribution to recipe gullet) and the classic shortbread - petticoat tails style. A couple of candles, some small Christmas crackers - not the edible kind, the snapping kind and a recipe for Brandy sauce.

The printed material that goes with it - sort of tap dances around the fruit cake issue I called it Black Cake and suggested it be served with a wedge of cheddar or Stilton and port - suggestion of an early poster - and a fine suggestion it was.

The packaging materials cost more than the edible ingredients but it looks very stylish and appealing .

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hello. i guess this might be a pm, but just in case anyone else has other thoughts, etc, i will be posting this.

i am a closet fruitcake eater and i am excited that i will be making them for the first time!

i decided to make two sets, following andiesenjis two recipes...

i am following the recipes but with changes (i think/hope that they are minor enough). would anyone care to comment on the changes?

for the white fruitcake: the sweet white wine called for will be cream sherry. will this matter? ive never made anything boozy and i dont know anything about wines, etc. but i am guessing this is alright. i tried to find this thing called "Carmel Cream White" called for at the local stores (two places) but had no luck and got dizzy trying to figure out what is a sweet white wine. (whats a chardonnay? riesling? yes, i am so clueless. but i also dont drink...)

for the cocoa fruitcake: i will not be baking this in the pans called for. instead i will be using tiny mini loaf pans. depending on the amount, i will split this up between 4-6 loaves. ive never attempted this sort of change before. but i think i can pull it off. the question is shall i lower the temperature? i will definitely be keeping an eye on it and probably checking half an hour in and every 5 minutes after that, but anybody have any comments about this?

other than these two changes, i will be following the recipes to a T. macerating for two weeks, steaming, soaking for months, etc. whatever the recipes say, except for the two changes cited above... im not going to screw these babies up! (im in the midst of obtaining some citron, even!)

thanks in advance to those with more experience baking who are able to help out with any comments.


"Bibimbap shappdy wappdy wap." - Jinmyo

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hello. i guess this might be a pm, but just in case anyone else has other thoughts, etc, i will be posting this.

i am a closet fruitcake eater and i am excited that i will be making them for the first time!

i decided to make two sets, following andiesenjis two recipes...

i am following the recipes but with changes (i think/hope that they are minor enough). would anyone care to comment on the changes?

for the white fruitcake: the sweet white wine called for will be cream sherry. will this matter? ive never made anything boozy and i dont know anything about wines, etc. but i am guessing this is alright. i tried to find this thing called "Carmel Cream White" called for at the local stores (two places) but had no luck and got dizzy trying to figure out what is a sweet white wine. (whats a chardonnay? riesling? yes, i am so clueless. but i also dont drink...)

-----------------

Any sweet wine is okay. The white concord by Manichevitz or a combination of sweet muscat and sherry or whatever.

I shop at a lot of stores that cater to Jewish residents and they carry a full line of the sweet wines, both red and white that are traditional and usually on sale near the holidays.

Heck, you could pour in a bottle of Thunderbird and a little brandy and that would work too.


Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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the cocoa fruitcake has been glazed and is cooling on racks as i write.

<center><img src="http://www.rawbw.com/~coconut/eg/04/041018fruitcake.jpg"></center>

i tasted a bit and its delicious!

thank you.

comments:

it is a lot of batter! it was enough batter for 9 mini loaves.

the baking took pretty much about an hour. at 30 minutes, i turned the temp down to 325, but at the 45 minute mark turned it back up to 350 since it was still pretty wet at that point. at the hour mark they were just about done and i pulled them out then. next time ill just keep a close eye and bake at 350 all the way.

i had started the glaze just after i popped them into the oven. by the time the hour was up, the glaze was cool enough to touch.

the only change to the recipe i would make is to simplify the glaze... you dont need the water. youre making an orange jam and the water (which you are boiling away during the reduction) is just making the process take more time since orange juice has a lot of water in it to begin with.

i cant wait to begin the white fruitcake!

:wub:

thanks again andiesenji! what a nice family recipe. i am glad you shared it with us. it is amazing how many generations that recipe has lasted! from 1690!!! wow!


"Bibimbap shappdy wappdy wap." - Jinmyo

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I could not understand the fruit cake jokes when I first moved to the states. My own family took great pride in the making of rich fruit cakes for weddings and christmas, of course well in advance so they could be well fed. But there was also a whole range of "daily cakes" (cakes are still consumed daily on my familys farm) such as date and walnut, tea cakes etc that were not as a rich but still moist.

I to had a tradtional fruit cake for my wedding, although my future american husband was a little worried about it.

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the cocoa fruitcake has been glazed and is cooling on racks as i write.

<center><img src="http://www.rawbw.com/~coconut/eg/04/041018fruitcake.jpg"></center>

i tasted a bit and its delicious!

thank you.

comments:

it is a lot of batter!  it was enough batter for 9 mini loaves.

the only change to the recipe i would make is to simplify the glaze...  you dont need the water.  youre making an orange jam and the water (which you are boiling away during the reduction) is just making the process take more time since orange juice has a lot of water in it to begin with.

i cant wait to begin the white fruitcake!

:wub:

thanks again andiesenji!  what a nice family recipe.  i am glad you shared it with us.  it is amazing how many generations that recipe has lasted!  from 1690!!!  wow!

Wow! Melonpan, your photo is great and the cakes look scrumptious.

It does make a lot of batter - the bundt pans I use are the large ones, 10 to 12 cup max and the molds for the trees, large and small use a lot of batter.

It is also enough for a full-sized sheet pan to make a thin cake for cutting into shapes. When I do those I completely cover them with chocolate, rather like a petit four.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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melonpan, you don't have to be a closet fruitcake eater! Who wouldn't want to eat your beautiful-looking cakes. What a perfect deep golden color. I was also pretty inspired by this post to make my own fruitcake. Right now I'm letting my dried fruit soak in rum for a couple of weeks. Can't wait to get started.

I was curious though--and this question could be directed at andiesenji as well, or anyone else--about the combination of cocoa and fruitcake. I've never had it before. Is the chocolate flavor quite noticeable? Or does it sort of meld with all the other flavors?

melonpan, any chance we might get a picture of the inside of one of your cakes? :smile: Or are you saving them to give away?

And please send more pictures when you finish the white fruitcake! :biggrin:

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I'll throw down the gauntlet here with an odd question... has anyone ever had fruit cake with lard or pork in it? Specifically a white fruit cake?

I am trying to re-create a fruit cake for a family member who grew up in Texas, and her aunt used to make a fruit cake that (as she says) "had pork in it". I ask "was it lard" and she says "I don't know... do you think you can do it?" The only other thing I can get out of her is that it wasn't actual chunks of pork.

Ideas?? I was looking at andiesenji's recipe for white fruit cake as my starter... maybe I should use freshly rendered lard in place of butter? Maybe that "second" rendering of lard (as per the e-Gullet lard recipe) that's more pork-like?


...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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Oh, this is so affirming. For the past several years, I have been making the fruitcake that my mother has made for years, based on a recipe from Aunty Pat. The recipe I use looks very similiar to the Black Cake - not surprising since Aunty Pat is Jamaican. We have always called it Plum Pudding or Christmas Pudding, though.

The recipe I use makes vast amounts, and so far, I have found exactly one person outside of my small family who enjoys it. But I am convinced to continue making it, regardless. And this thread not only affirms my decision, but also reminds me that I need to start mincing some fruit!

So, we ususally serve the Plum Pudding with Hard Sauce - a totally sinful mix of confectioners sugar, butter, brandy and sherry. The hard sauce is usually just served in a scoop or a schmear alongside the cake. Is this something that other people do? It seems like many of the fruitcakes recipes here involve icing instead.

By the way, while he doesn't really like plum pudding, my husband has developed a habit of putting a dollop of hard sauce in his coffee. :smile:

edit for grammar


Edited by crouching tyler (log)

Robin Tyler McWaters

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Just the other day, someone gave me the bare outlines of their "West Indian fruitcake" preparations, which they were starting now -- soak yellow and red raisins, currants, pitted dates and pitted prunes in a mixture of 2/3 white rum and 1/3 port or Madeira.  For the rum, I was told to use "overproof" but have forgotten what that meant -- is it just very high proof?

Does anyone have a good recipe for stollen?

The 1981 December issue of Gourmet Magazine had a great Stollen recipe that I used for years, but I'm not sure where I put it--I had lost it once during a move, then got a copy from the library--It's somewhere is one of these recipe files...I'll find it and post it.

I also have a recipe for Chocolate Rum Balls made with Fruitcake! It's a good one to use up the not-so good cakes that come in the mail and sit around all winter. I'll find it and post it, too--they are probably oth on my computer at home--one of these days, I'd like to have all my eggs in one basket--so to speak, or at least all my recipes on all my machines.

Here is the Rum Ball Recipe:

Chocolate Walnut Rum Balls

1 lb. fruitcake, sliced and cut into 2-inch pieces

(I used one of those they sell in gift shops, that have red ruffled parchment paper under them, and wrapped in plastic. Someone had given it to me.)

2 cups (8 ounces) walnut pieces

3 cups confectioners' sugar, divided

3 oz Dark Chocolate bars, chopped

1 /4 cup rum

Place fruitcake and nuts in bowl of food processor fitted with metal chopping blade. Cover and pulse until mixture is very finely chopped. Transfer to mixing bowl.

Add 2 cups confectioners' sugar and chocolate. Mix well with fork. Add rum and mix until ingredients are uniformly moistened. Add a little more rum, if needed, to hold ingredients together.

Line baking sheet with foil, parchment or waxed paper. Shape fruitcake mixture into 1-inch balls by rolling between palms of hands. Repeat to make about 50 balls. Place remaining confectioners’ sugar in shallow bowl. Roll balls in sugar until thoroughly coated. Transfer to waxed paper-lined baking sheet and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Store rum balls in covered container for up to 3 days. Makes 50 rum balls

(though I didn't get 50 balls--more like 30 I guess I made them bigger than 1")


Edited by chefcyn (log)

It's not the destination, but the journey!

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Here's another "fruitcake" treasure from my Mom's recipe box that we make every year at Christmas--she got this when we lived in Cuba in the 50s, doing recipe exchanges with other Navy wives:

Whiskey Lizzies

Place 1 1/2 c seedless raisins in a bowl, add 1/4 c bourbon

Mix and let sit for 1 hour.

Mix and sift:

1 1/2 c flour

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cloves

Mix:

1/2 c butter

1/2 c light brown sugar

Add 2 eggs, beat.

Beat in the flour mixture.

Stir in the Raisins and...

1/2 lb pecans

1/4 c candied citron

1/2 lb candied cherries

Place spoonfuls on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 325 for about 15 min. Makes about 6 1/2 doz.

We've made them with other candied fruit than the cherries, too like pineapple and they were good--like bites of fruitcake.


It's not the destination, but the journey!

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melonpan, you don't have to be a closet fruitcake eater! Who wouldn't want to eat your beautiful-looking cakes. What a perfect deep golden color. I was also pretty inspired by this post to make my own fruitcake. Right now I'm letting my dried fruit soak in rum for a couple of weeks. Can't wait to get started.

I was curious though--and this question could be directed at andiesenji as well, or anyone else--about the combination of cocoa and fruitcake. I've never had it before. Is the chocolate flavor quite noticeable? Or does it sort of meld with all the other flavors?

melonpan, any chance we might get a picture of the inside of one of your cakes? :smile: Or are you saving them to give away?

And please send more pictures when you finish the white fruitcake! :biggrin:

The cocoa is definitely present. Think of a dense devil's food cake, very moist, with fruit in it.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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I'll throw down the gauntlet here with an odd question... has anyone ever had fruit cake with lard or pork in it?  Specifically a white fruit cake?

I am trying to re-create a fruit cake for a family member who grew up in Texas, and her aunt used to make a fruit cake that (as she says) "had pork in it".  I ask "was it lard" and she says "I don't know... do you think you can do it?"  The only other thing I can get out of her is that it wasn't actual chunks of pork. 

Ideas??  I was looking at andiesenji's recipe for white fruit cake as my starter... maybe I should use freshly rendered lard in place of butter?  Maybe that "second" rendering of lard (as per the e-Gullet lard recipe) that's more pork-like?

There are a lot of traditional English cakes that use beef suet. Lard has been used in a number of cakes and fruit cakes. I have to look them up, as I don't seem to have any in my computer.

As soon as I find one I will post it.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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ordered some citron from king arthurs site on the 19th. ugh. the mail is taking forever. anyone have a favourite source for my future batches? :D


"Bibimbap shappdy wappdy wap." - Jinmyo

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      Hayesville Elementary School was typical of the architecture of grade schools built in the early 1960’s-an L-shaped, non-descript building painted in drab green and grey. The assembly room, cafeteria and administrative offices anchored the building with the classrooms jutting out from the principal’s office. I started the school year in Mrs. Rhonda Sample’s second grade class. She was young, blond and attractive, totally unlike the spinster vision I had of the teacher that awaited me at my new school. The highlight of the school year was the annual “Open House at Hayesville.” Students showcased their talents, dazzling parents with displays of frogs and snakes in aquariums, samples of cursive writing on paper chains hung over the blackboard and paper mache busts of historic American figures like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Mothers and fathers could take a tour of the gleaming, stainless steel kitchen where Mrs. Fox prepared our hot lunches each day-warm, billowing cinnamon rolls dripping with powdered sugar frosting and her buttery, oven-fried chicken. But the most anticipated event of Open House at Hayesville was the annual Cakewalk Raffle -- a silly fun dance around the classroom. The winner won a cake and the proceeds went to fund other activities at school.

      We cut footprints out of colored construction paper and pasted them in a large circle on the spotless, pink vinyl-tiled floor. Each “foot” was given a number from one to twenty. Red, white and blue streamers were tacked on the outer walls and then brought to the center of the ceiling to define the center point of the cakewalk circle. When the room was ready, Mrs. Sample turned on the lights and opened the door, welcoming a parade of Mother’s who pranced into the room carrying Tupperware cake caddies, Pyrex baking dishes, glass cake domes and disposable aluminum trays coddling their precious cake creations.

      Three long tables were placed against the wall and covered with proper linen tablecloths. The tables served as the stage upon which the cakes would strut their stuff. The chorus line of cakes went on and on through the annals of cakedom-Chiffon, Angel Food, Devils Food, Sponge Cake, Pound Cake, Marble Cakes, Chocolate Torts and Jelly Rolls. There were cakes garnished with coconut, dusted with nonpareils, frosted with peanut butter, sprinkled with peppermints, and dotted with spiced gum drops. I entered the Cakewalk over and over until I won, seemingly always at the end of the evening when very few of the best cakes were left on the table. While Mother’s “Burnt Sugar Cake with 7-Minute Frosting” was good, it would be a total embarrassment in front of ones classmates for a kid to choose the cake made by his mother. No, should I win the Cakewalk and should it still be available, I would choose the Spiced Praline Crunch Cake made by Bernie Bennett’s Mother.

      The historical importance of the Cakewalk wasn’t a part of Mrs. Sample’s second-grade curriculum at Hayesville in 1964. Living in the Pacific Northwest, we were insulated from the racial struggles of the South at that time. I was a young white boy in a middle-class American family. I led the colorful life of a kid, yet I lived in a country that saw only shades of black and white.

      Only three years before my second grade, in the Spring of 1961 the Freedom Riders set out on a campaign to test the Supreme Court Ruling that upheld the segregation of blacks and whites at bus depots, waiting rooms, lunch counters and restrooms throughout the South. The Freedom Riders were met with ignorance and violence. African-Americans couldn’t drink from the same water fountain I drank from. I never knew.
      + + + The Cakewalk played an important role in the history of America -- a long-forgotten chapter that tells the story of the struggles forced upon the enslaved, who in spite of their burdens rose above the oppression of race and found a new form of the expression of freedom.

      The seeds of the Cakewalk were sown in the segregated deep South sometime around 1850, as a parody of the way plantation owners escorted their ladies into a formal ball. The women wore long, ruffled dresses of silk and glass beads with long, white gloves that reached above the elbow. The gentlemen were outfitted with top hats and tail coats. Couples pranced and paraded into lavishly decorated ballrooms, arm-in-arm in high-stepping fashion, marching into the center of the party, often to the music played by a banjo-strumming fiddler who worked in the fields.

      The winner of the dance contest sometimes won a cake presented by the master of the house, leading many to think this is where the name the “Cakewalk” comes from.

      African-American slaves who watched the proceedings took the dance on as their own in the yards outside their shacks, mocking what they saw as the frivolous customs of the plantation owners. According to the oral histories of slaves and their descendants, the Cakewalk was a marriage of traditional African tribal dances and rhythms combined with the dance steps of the upper classes. When the land barons and ladies saw the slaves dance, they missed the satirical element entirely, but the popularity of the Cakewalk had been established among the elite and it now transcended the boundaries of class.

      Wealthy farmers went on to sponsor competitions between plantations and the dance moved to large cities in the South and then to the East where it became a staple of traveling minstrel shows and ultimately to Vaudeville, the lights of Broadway and throughout Europe.

      On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation with these humble words, “all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” Inspired by the renewed freedom gifted to them through Emancipation, a freedom that allowed them to express themselves openly through dance and music, African-Americans led a creative revival that would usher in new forms of dance and music that had never before been seen or heard. The artistic contributions of former slaves and their descendants would forever change the creative landscape in America.


      From this humble beginning in the sweltering, humid heat and back-breaking work of picking cotton, African-American artists penned the notes of a new from of music called ragtime that would eventually evolve into jazz. It was the Cakewalk, unintentionally and ironically, that crossed the bounds of race and class status as it burst into the popular consciousness of America By the 1890’s, African-American actors, dancers and musicians had started forming their own production companies and staged versions of the Cakewalk became all the rage.

      Scott Joplin, (1867-1917), was an early musical pioneer of the Cakewalk style of music. Known as the “King of Ragtime,” Joplin wrote and performed in the style of rag—a combination of dance and marching music entwined with the “ragged” rhythms and soul of African music. One of Joplin’s most famous pieces was “The Ragtime Dance,” (published in 1902), that included a Cakewalk:

      “Turn left and do the “Cakewalk Prance, Turn the other way and do the “Slow drag, Now take your lady to the World’s Fair and do the ragtime dance. Cakewalk soft and sweetly, be sure your steps done neatly.”

      The vaudeville team of Mr. Egbert Williams and Mr. George Walker were two of the first African-Americans to take their musical show on the road in a grand scale. Crowds packed into The New York theatre in 1903 for 53 stunning performances of song and Cakewalk dances in William’s and Walker’s new production “In Dahomey” -- the first all-black musical to be performed on a grand scale in a major Broadway venue. After its raging success in America, “In Dahomey” crossed the Atlantic, performing for seven months of standing-room-only audiences at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London before returning to New York.

      By the turn of the century, Americans were moving off farms and into towns and cities in record numbers. Ragtime music transformed into a new genre called “Jazz,” with emerging talents like Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington playing at the Cotton Club in New York.

      By 1930, the public fascination with dance theatre began to fade as America was lured by the intrigue of other forms of entertainment like talking motion pictures. But the early concepts and the heritage established by the Cakewalk endured throughout the twentieth century and into the 21st, namely, as a contest to raise money at church socials and school functions. The Cakewalk also delivered new words into the American vocabulary-“take the cake,” and “it’s a real cakewalk,” are terms used to refer to something that is “the best,” or a job easily done. Cakewalk software is a cutting-edge firm today that produces award-winning digital audio and recording software to the music industry.

      + + +
      I’m nearing my 54th birthday in November, some 46 years removed from my second-grade class. I had been lost until that Cakewalk at Yoke’s, yet now I’m found. I’ve learned a lesson in respect through the Cakewalk -- a lesson that taught me how emancipation allowed the enslaved to express themselves through music and dance. A lesson that freedom is an unalienable right bestowed upon all Americans. I’ve gained a deep appreciation for the place that this little ditty we call the Cakewalk plays in the history of America, opening our eyes to a world that was color blind.

      I found my personal truth in the Cakewalk -- a truth far richer and deeper than the dreams of a boy winning a cake.

      * * *
      David Ross lives in Spokane, but works a one-hour plane ride away. When he's not tending to his day job -- or commuting -- he writes about food and reviews restaurants. He is on the eGullet Society hosting team.
    • By JohnT
      I have been asked to make Chinese Bow Tie desserts for a function. However, I have never made them, but using Mr Google, there are a number of different recipes out there. Does anybody have a decent recipe which is tried and tested? - these are for deep-fried pastry which are then soaked in sugar syrup.
    • By shain
      Makes 40 cookies, 2 loaves. 
       
      50-60 g very aromatic olive oil
      80 g honey 
      120 to 150 g sugar (I use 120 because I like it only gently sweet) 
      2 eggs
      2 teaspoons of fine lemon zest, from apx 1 lemon 
      230 g flour 
      1 teaspoon salt 
      1 teaspoon baking powder 
      75 g lightly toasted peeled pistachios
      50 g lightly toasted almonds (you can replace some with pine nuts) 
      Optional: a little rosemary or anise seed
      Optional: more olive oil for brushing
       
      Heat oven to 170 deg C.
      In mixer (or by hand), mix oil, honey, sugar, lemon, egg and if desired, the optional spices - until uniform. 
      Separately mix together the flour, salt and baking powder. 
      Add flour mixture to mixer bowel with liquids and fold until uniform. Dough will be sticky and quite stiff. Don't knead or over mix. 
      Add nuts and fold until well dispersed. 
      On a parchment lined baking tray, create two even loaves of dough. 
      With moist hands, shape each to be rectangular and somewhat flat - apx 2cm heigh, 6cm wide and 25cm long. 
      Bake 25 to 30 minutes until golden and baked throughout, yet somewhat soft and sliceable. Rotate pan if needed for even baking. 
      Remove from tray and let chill slightly or completely. 
      Using a sharp serrated knife, gently slice to thin 1/2 cm thick cookies. Each loaf should yield 20 slices. 
      Lay slices on tray and bake for 10 minutes. Flip and bake for another 10-15 minutes until complelty dry and lightly golden. 
      Brush with extra olive oil, if desired. This will and more olive flavor. 
      Let chill completely before removing from tray. 
      Cookies keep well in a closed container and are best served with desert wines or herbal tea. 
       
        
    • By Tennessee Cowboy
      I'd like help from anyone on making the best Pistachio Ice cream.  This forum is a continuation of a conversation I started in my "introduction" post, which you can see at 
      I recently made Pistachio ice cream using the Jeni's Ice Cream Cookbook.  I love Pistachio ice cream, so I've launched an experiment to find the best recipe.  I am going to try two basic approaches:  The Modernist Cookbook gelato, which uses no cream at all, and ice cream; I'm also experimenting with two brands of pistachio paste and starting with pistachios and no paste.  Lisa Shock and other People who commented on the earlier thread said that the key is to start with the best Pistachio Paste. &nbsp;  
      Any advice is appreciated.  Here is where I am now:  I purchased a brand of pistachio paste through nuts.com named "Love 'n Bake."  When it arrived, it was 1/2 pistachios and 1/2 sugar and olive oil.   I purchased a second batch through Amazon from FiddleyFarms; it is 100% pistachios.  I bought raw pistachios through nuts.com.  The only raw ones were from California.  If anyone has advice on using the MC recipe or on best approaches to ice cream with this ingredient I'd appreciate them.  I will report progress on my experiment in this forum.
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