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Suvir Saran

The Fruitcake Topic

402 posts in this topic

Melonpan tried the cocoa fruitcake and posted photos in the topic that was linked above.

I also posted a recipe for a mincemeat made with pork, another family recipe that can be incorporated into a cake. It is in a different thread, I will have to look for the reference. I thought I had put the recipe in recipegullet but it is not there.


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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Xmas cake recipe

In my youth it was improved by the additon of "special spice" (good quality hash).

Slice thinly if you do this.

Now THAT would make my Christmas! :biggrin:


Shelley: Would you like some pie?

Gordon: MASSIVE, MASSIVE QUANTITIES AND A GLASS OF WATER, SWEETHEART. MY SOCKS ARE ON FIRE.

Twin Peaks

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Melonpan tried the cocoa fruitcake and posted photos in the topic that was linked above.

Thanks for reposting the recipe. I really like the idea of a cocoa fruitcake. Something a little different from the usual fruitcake. Not that I have anything against fruitcake. :laugh:

The cocoa fruitcake is definitely being added to my "to do" list.


Baker of "impaired" cakes...

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I have been using the same recipe for years. It is a boiled dark fruit cake. Basically you soak the fruit and nut mixture for 10 days. It has no glace cherries, but glace pineapple and apricot are included, as well as prunes, dates, sultanas, almonds, walnuts... Grand Marnier is the booze of choice. If this appeals, let me know and I will post it for you.

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Also, can anyone tell me where I can order some good quality fruits, rather than buying the scarey red and green "fruit" at the grocery store?

If there's any interest, I'll post the recipe for the fruit cake. We have it every christmas and had it as a wedding cake as well :-)

/Mette

Yes! Expressing interest here.... it would be lovely if you could post the recipe.

pat w

The recipe is now in recipeGullet click

I'm sure a bit of jackal10's 'special spice' would add a certain je-ne-se-quois (and the rich flavour of the cake would mask the nasty flavour), but as this is a family oriented site.......

Anyway, all this talk about fruit cake has led my Husband to start talking about getting the christmas pudding under way - looking forward to it already


Edited by Mette (log)

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Glace fruits: others may have had better experiences, but the one time I used glace fruits, the finished cake was just too sweet to eat, even though I cut the sugar quantity in half to compensate for the sweetness of the glace fruit.

If I were going to use them again, I think I might douse them in boiling water to get rid of some of the sugar, then soak them in alcohol or dry them out.

Candied orange and lemon peels - it's not hard to do it yourself, but I've taken to adding shredded fresh citrus peel. Tangerine/tangelo is especially nice.

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Glace fruits: others may have had better experiences, but the one time I used glace fruits, the finished cake was just too sweet to eat, even though I cut the sugar quantity in half to compensate for the sweetness of the glace fruit.

If I were going to use them again, I think I might douse them in boiling water to get rid of some of the sugar, then soak them in alcohol or dry them out.

Candied orange and lemon peels - it's not hard to do it yourself, but I've taken to adding shredded fresh citrus peel. Tangerine/tangelo is especially nice.

I find the ones you can buy in the supermarket in packets are far more sticky sugary. I buy mine from the healthfood store, and I haven't noticed them being overly sugary at all.

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I am hoping to make a couple of kinds of fruit cake this yearfor the Christmas season, but I remember reading that you needed to make them about 6 months in advance in order to "cure" them by basting them with some sort of liquor every so often.

Amccomb,

Every Thanksgiving my father would make Fruitcake (which no one particularly liked except him) and my mother would make Bourbon Cake (which everyone loved).

The Bourbon Cake matures at about six weeks and though it will keep longer (if you keep dousing it) it doesn't get significantly better.

Here's the Bourbon Cake recipe: http://seriouslygood.kdweeks.com/2003/12/bourbon-cake.html


Kevin

Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside. -- Mark Twain

Visit my blog at Seriously Good.

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My husband is a English confectioner and baker, has made several thousand fruitcakes in his lifetime...he has been leaning over my shoulder having a hairy coniption for the last five minutes until I promised to pass on this...

Never, ever ever pour booze over the cake. Soak the fruit in the booze of choice, preferably for a few days. Don't pour the booze over the cake, don't baste it. Just soak the fruit.

Why?

Because pouring booze on the cake makes it soggy and too hard to stick the marzipan to. It also tastes like raw liquor, and can be harsh and unpleasant. And THAT, he says, is why people don't like fruitcake :smile:

Me, I chop it in bits, soak it in booze and cover it with pouring custard. Tastes pretty good to me.

And Pat W....PM me and remind me for pfefferneuse recipes...I have about 40 of them...tell me what yours was like (big, small, hard, soft) and I will see if I have a match for you.


Edited by Badiane (log)

Don't try to win over the haters. You're not the jackass whisperer."

Scott Stratten

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My husband is a English confectioner and baker, has made several thousand fruitcakes in his lifetime...he has been leaning over my shoulder having a hairy coniption for the last five minutes until I promised to pass on this...

Never, ever ever pour booze over the cake.  Soak the fruit in the booze of choice, preferably for a few days.  Don't pour the booze over the cake, don't baste it.  Just soak the fruit. 

OK, I have to press the point just a little... Does this also include wrapping the cake in brandy moistened (or maybe soaked) cheese cloth? ...which technically would be neither pouring nor basting?

Just looking for a loophole here.

pat w.

P.S. Just sent my first PM, hope I did it right.


Edited by Pat W (log)

I would live all my life in nonchalance and insouciance

Were it not for making a living, which is rather a nouciance.

-- Ogden Nash

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With all respect I pour booze on my cake, and I like it.

Never had problems with sogginess or getting the marzipan to stick. - its not that much booze, and it soaks in well.

I do brush the cake with apricot glaze before putting on the marzipan.

Of course, it has to be good booze. If you wouldn't drink it don't put it on the cake/

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Because pouring booze on the cake makes it soggy and too hard to stick the marzipan to.  It also tastes like raw liquor, and can be harsh and unpleasant.  And THAT, he says, is why people don't like fruitcake  :smile:

I've never had marzipan on a fruitcake and I can say with certainty that it was the fruit in the fruitcake that no one liked.

As far as booze, if you add so much it gets soggy then you're going to have a soggy cake. Seems pretty irrefutable. If you add less booze it doesn't get soggy because the booze evaporates as time goes by leaving behind the flavor behind.


Kevin

Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside. -- Mark Twain

Visit my blog at Seriously Good.

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I've never had marzipan on a fruitcake and I can say with certainty that it was the fruit in the fruitcake that no one liked.

Oh, you're missing out. In Trinidad, fruitcakes are used both as wedding cakes and Christmas cakes. The cakes aren't very sweet, almost bitter, but the bitterness balances the sweetness of the coating (of marzipan) and decoration (royal icing). If you find fruitcakes too sweet and one dimensional, try this technique.

As for the liquor, I use Meyer's rum. I think part of the reason people don't like cakes with alcohol is because the alcohol has a high proof. For cakes such as these, I prefer to use lower proof liquours (like Meyer's rum as opposed to Bacardi 151 rum) or liqueurs.

But most importantly (as jackal said), if I won't drink it, I don't put on the cake. If you want to cheapen the cost of the cake, use less fruit. Don't use cheap liquour.

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Regarding the cocoa fruit cake recipe I posted earlier. It also freezes well and keeps for at least 10 months.

This past weekend I found one in the freezer that I made last November - it got pushed to the back of one of the baskets and was masquerading as something else.

For some reason I didn't rotate the stuff in that basket on my regular schedule and missed the cake.

I let it thaw in the refrigerator and this evening took over to my neighbors who had invited me for dinner.

It was still good.


"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 made - for the first time - a fruitcake for an upcoming wedding. I used the client's recipe, which called for splashing the fruit (currents, dried cherries and mixed raisins in this particular recipe) with brandy, let it stand overnight and adding it to the cake batter. I did a little checking into recipes and noticed that some call for marinating the fruit for a long time before baking (3-5 days), and those recipes need to ripen for about a week before eating; others with less marinating time need weeks or months to ripen.

So now I'm curious....What is happening during the ripening process? What if you don't wait as long as you should before you cut into the cake - is the cake too dry? too "hot" with alcohol? Too wet and hard to cut? What is it about the longer soak in alcohol that makes some of these recipes ready after a week and others not?

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So now I'm curious....What is happening during the ripening process?  What if you don't wait as long as you should before you cut into the cake - is the cake too dry? too "hot" with alcohol?  Too wet and hard to cut? What is it about the longer soak in alcohol that makes some of these recipes ready after a week and others not?

I thought you marinated the whole cake which makes more sense to me as the alcohol would preserve the cake but once the alcohol is cooked out would it have any effect at all?

I have an xmas pudding thats is matured for several months raw thats then cooked! As for the reasoning behind this I can only guess its to almagamate the flavours or to reduce the alcohol content and soften the fruit.

Going on softening the fruit I can only guess that this is the reasoning for marinading the fruit. As for effect is there any difference between fruit thats been steeped for 2 days and fruit thats been steeped for 4 days! Sounds like an experiment a whole cake marinaded, fruit for several days and finally fruit for longer still.

But I honestly thought you matured the whole cake in alcohol, the longer time marinading may reduce the alcohol content but not significatly enough that you'd notice in the finished article I wouldn't of thought.

To go back to your statement too wet, this would be my guess as the length of time matured would effect the finally moisture content. I reckon the recipes aren't like for like and have varying amounts of liquid, failing that it could be simply that one cook prefers a wetter cake.


Perfection cant be reached, but it can be strived for!

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Maceration – the term applies specifically to fruits; whereas “marinade” pertains to usage with seafood & meats.

Fruitcakes have become the object of every form of bad culinary joke – predominantly because most North Americans, exposed increasingly to little more than insipid store-bought or mail-order products, do not know (or have forgotten) what great fruitcake tastes like. In the US South, aficianados of this confection are, by tradition, fiercely proud of their fruitcakes, and disputes can become heated when it comes to which ingredients are indipensable, exactly how a cake should be mixed, and the length time it must be aged. Because of their high alcohol & sugar content, “heirloom fruitcakes” that are moistened from time to time with additional spirits and kept in sealed containers can be preserved for many years.

Purists believe that the ideal fruitcake should be baked at least one year in advance of serving. It should be wrapped well, stored in an airtight container to mellow in the refrigerator – where it’s pampered with occasional dousings of bourbon, rum or sweet (such as blackberry!) wine. Nevertheless, to venture an answer as to "why" some are ready to be eaten quite soon, even a well-made fruitcake in its infancy has the abilitiy to produce instant gratification.

Using two standard loaf pans, one of my favorite fruitcakes to bake contains orange-juice-softened dried apples & apricots, sultanas, dates, and pecans. The cakes are doused with the spirits (brandy & orange liqueur) only afterwards. Success with these cakes have been essentially invariable.

My largest fruitcake (baked in a 10-inch tube pan & two loaf pans) contains a whopping six pounds of dried fruit which is not macerated before it’s added to the batter along with ¾ cup bourbon. After the cakes have been removed from their pans, glazed & decorated, I wrap them securely in muslin cloth, over-wrap with foil, then store for at least a month before cutting. Beyond that time, I sprinkle the cloth with bourbon about every 6 weeks.

However, (as you’ve indicated), the dried fruit can, indeed, be macerated prior to being spooned into the batter. A good example recipe is supplied in Malouf’s The Hudson River Valley Cookbook (Harvard Common Press, 1998), in which dried cherries, cranberries, and golden raisins are simmered in brandy for 5 minutes, then allowed to steep. (see pp.274f.) Likewise, a baker in my area macerates his fruitcake’s almonds, raisins, currants, and dates in brandy or cognac overnight at room temp. (The pineapple is cooked on the stovetop; then brandy, cherry juice, and preserves are added.)

The optimal benefit from macerating the fruits is that the steeping provides an infusion or melding of flavours which are then imparted to the baked cake. As your post is vague regarding actual measurements & proportions used in your fruitcake, please supplement with further details. Then you’ll see the suggestions flow in this topic thread!

In the meantime, interested readers search the Arizona Daily Star Web site for an article by Rebecca J. Boten, “Serious Fruitcake.” (Originally published on Dec. 22, 2004.) I downloaded a copy several months ago: I assure you that it’s well-worth accessing.


"Dinner is theater. Ah, but dessert is the fireworks!" ~ Paul Bocuse

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A gift of great homemade fruitcake will be remembered forever by those who receive it. Since I live in California where great dried fruit is available at modest prices (www.oldriverfruits.com) I like to mix up the varieties---peaches, pluots, cherries, etc---and note them on the gift card. Mascerating overnight is usually enough to impart good flavor but if you want to go longer, I recommend adding 1/4 cup of alcohol every other day to keep the fruit at maximum moistness. Also when you bake remember that you can use various loaf pan sizes or even make fruitcake cookies to distribute among friends and neighbors.

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their recipe calls for 8 oz dried cherries, 14 oz currants, and 22 oz mixed raisins splashed with brandy (not enough to float the fruit, just enough to wet them) and held overnight. Then 12 oz butter, 12 oz brown sugar; creamed. Then add 6 beaten-to-mix eggs to the creamed butter/sugar, then add the dry ingredients which are: 12 oz a/p flour, 1 tsp baking powder, pinch salt, 1.5 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg. Add 3 oz ground almonds and the zest and juice of a lemon and put it in the oven at 325 for 3.5 hours. I adjusted the recipe to make a 12" round cake and two 10" cakes for their wedding (the 12" is going to be the bottom tier, the top tiers are styro, the other two are kitchen cakes).

So I've been brushing a little brandy on them every few days; but I started to go through books (english cookbooks mostly) and found there's two basic categories of fruitcake (steamed pudds are another topic) - the ones with fruit soaked for days and the ones with the fruit soaked overnight. Since I am one of those who has not had fruitcake (good or bad... well wait - there was this awful thing my sister had got from a Harry and David gift basket but that cannot be the same thing as what I've made!!). I don't know what this is supposed to taste like or what the texture is supposed to be like. The wedding is next weekend, should I stop brushing with brandy soon or douse it right before I put on the marzipan and fondant?

Thanks for the help!

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Since I am one of those who has not had fruitcake (good or bad... well wait - there was this awful thing my sister had got from a Harry and David gift basket but that cannot be the same thing as what I've made!!). I don't know what this is supposed to taste like or what the texture is supposed to be like.  The wedding is next weekend, should I stop brushing with brandy soon or douse it right before I put on the marzipan and fondant?

Thanks for the help!

Being a big fan of Fruitcake its a difficult one to say but from your point about Alcohol "Burn" in the original posting I'd stop earlier for that reason unless you want the taste, thats going to be personal. As for good and bad and regarding texture its seems there's a multitude of ways, with the amount of eggs you've got I'd expect it to have less of a crumb and more of a bite.

If you just don't like fruitcake its a hard one I love all things like this, mince pies, xmas pudding etc I personally wouldn't like a recipe with that many eggs in.

6 eggs seems a lot for less than a 1Ib of dried goods, the fruit doesn't benefit from the eggs, not sure why the baking powder(There's barely any batter covering the fruit), from that recipe it looks like an old fashioned dense cake and will give a bounce more like xmas pudding. Less eggs will give a crumblier cake, maturing will also effect the crumb.

Hopefully RedSugar will way in before you need to know.

Over the years I've had fruitcake with a bounce when you bite into it, some that crumble as you try to eat them, some in between which is my preference! Rarely could you taste the alcohol burn, as for taste as long as it hasn't got a liquorice back note that was my only pet peeve. I'm just a marzipan freak I'd chase any of the wedding cake icing, marzipan or cake what ever part you didn't like.

Hope this helps

Stef

Edited to add

And the 3rd kind I'd probably argue the original not macerated at all, with a bit of stout in the batter! Then soaked for a month etc..


Edited by PassionateChefsDie (log)

Perfection cant be reached, but it can be strived for!

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their recipe calls for 8 oz dried cherries, 14 oz currants, and 22 oz mixed raisins splashed with brandy (not enough to float the fruit, just enough to wet them) and held overnight.  Then 12 oz butter, 12 oz brown sugar; creamed.  Then add 6 beaten-to-mix eggs to the creamed butter/sugar, then add the dry ingredients which are: 12 oz a/p flour, 1 tsp baking powder, pinch salt, 1.5 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg.  Add 3 oz ground almonds and the zest and juice of a lemon and put it in the oven at 325 for 3.5 hours.  I adjusted the recipe to make a 12" round cake and two 10" cakes for their wedding (the 12" is going to be the bottom tier, the top tiers are styro,  the other two are kitchen cakes).

So I've been brushing a little brandy on them every few days; but I started to go through books (english cookbooks mostly) and found there's two basic categories of fruitcake (steamed pudds are another topic) - the ones with fruit soaked for days and the ones with the fruit soaked overnight.  Since I am one of those who has not had fruitcake (good or bad... well wait - there was this awful thing my sister had got from a Harry and David gift basket but that cannot be the same thing as what I've made!!). I don't know what this is supposed to taste like or what the texture is supposed to be like.  The wedding is next weekend, should I stop brushing with brandy soon or douse it right before I put on the marzipan and fondant?

Thanks for the help!

JeanneCake, where is the bride/groom from? Is this a West Indian style fruitcake? Usually when I make mine, I pour the liquor on it as soon as it comes out of the oven. I let it cool in the pan uncovered. Once completely cool, I cover the pan with foil and leave it for 3 days before I turn it out and cover it in fondant. I know the traditional English way calls for a layer of marzipan, but I don't use that. If I were you, I wouldn't wet the day of covering it with the marzipan and fondant... maybe the day before. This allows the liquor to be well absorbed and sorta mellow out. I guess it's all in the preference, but I like my blackcakes to have a smooth taste.


Edited by JamericanDiva (log)

Diva

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The couple is from the Boston area, but have spent a lot of time in London and they said they had adapted the recipe from a National Trust cookbook - from what I've read, it doesn't seem like a West Indies style fruitcake, but more like a Dundee cake with the proportions of flour/eggs/fruit. The other tihing the directions called for was to wet the top to prevent a hard crust just before you put it in the oven.

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The couple is from the Boston area, but have spent a lot of time in London and they said they had adapted the recipe from a National Trust cookbook - from what I've read, it doesn't seem like a West Indies style fruitcake, but more like a Dundee cake with the proportions of flour/eggs/fruit. The other tihing the directions called for was to wet the top to prevent a hard crust just before you put it in the oven.

Dundee Cake normally has whole almonds and is more like a dark heavy sponge, it also has a lot of batter to fruit you could eat a cherry out of a slice and barely have any fruit with it(Normally a high ratio of sultanas as well). In the sense of fruitcake I'd not even desribe it as one its more of a afternoon tea cake not one heavily loaded with fruit for keeping. I would of defintely expected to see the normal ratio of baking powder i.e 3tsp to 8oz of flour as in a normal sponge its a lot lighter than any of the other fruitcakes. I'm pretty sure the true texture of Dundee Cake wouldn't even take a soaking of alcohol it would fall apart. This is also quite domed when it's been baked about 2 inches higher in the middle than the sides.

As you said its been adapted I reckon should you need to make another one with the wealth of knowledge you've been picking up the next one will be easier to adapt a recipe you've seen. As for the source they've used, anyone that uses cook books a lot knows some work some don't.

With out seeing the original recipe I wouldn't like to guess, from browsing this forum I already know there's major differences with our all purpose flour and yours I believe that to come up with something similar you need to mix your AP with Pastry.

I certainly wouldn't of adapted Dundee Cake for a fruitcake maybe a sponge cake for a Dundee Cake. As mentioned I'm not really a specialist I've done 18months pastry but do love fruitcake and that includes Dundee Cake if where calling it a fruitcake.

Edited for Diva

What no MARZIPAN :sad: !


Edited by PassionateChefsDie (log)

Perfection cant be reached, but it can be strived for!

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I'm afraid I haven't got any answers as yet, but I have just embarked on some test baking in preparation for a friend's wedding cake next year. My recipe, like yours, calls for the fruit to be macerated overnight in alcohol (+ orange or apple juice). I left the fruit for a few days as I tried to find a suitable cake tin.

After baking, I cut the cake in half. One half is being matured and sprinkled with rum every week or so, for around 3 or 4 weeks I guess. The other half I tasted straight away. It was very nice and moist, so I can say that if you don't wait for the cake to be matured, does not mean it is too dry. Cutting it on the same day as baking was a little difficult - a tad soft and some of the fruit falls out. My guess is that letting it mature means it dries up a bit, and the cake holds together better on slicing.

I'm a bit curious whether the cake goes mouldy during maturation, as I'm not sprinkling that much alcohol as the raw boozy taste isn't universally palatable.

I noticed you said you are making the cake with one real tier, 2 styro tiers and 2 kitchen cakes. As I am inexperienced in wedding cakes, could you please tell me what the kitchen cakes are for? Are they sliced in advance, so that they can be served quicker? It's a great idea!


"I'll just die if I don't get this recipe."

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Part of the reason for the kitchen cakes is that they wanted to replicate one of Margaret Braun's designs - with a sculpted edge to the cakes - and they were pretty insistent on fruitcake, which would be nearly impossible to carve in the way that she does. Plus, most of the fruitcakes I've seen aren't quite as tall as the typical layered cake, which would mean not much room for the side design. So, I got the styro cut with the wavy edges (Lenny at The Dummy Place is amazing!!), and the bottom tier is fruitcake but not with the sculpted edges.

I like to suggest kitchen cake to brides that are on a budget and have a guest list of 150+. It gives them the option to have a display cake for 100 (or 130) and then plain "kitchen cake" for the remaining guests. A kitchen cake is only seen by the staff in the kitchen so it doesn't need decoration - no fondant - just buttercream swirled on so I'm not spending time smoothing and fussing with the final coat of buttercream the way I do on the display cake. I charge less for the kitchen cake servings - for example, the display cake is $5/person and kitchen cake is $2/person. And when I arrive with kitchen cake for these large weddings, the staff loves it because it means they can have 50, 70 or even 100 servings plated before they begin cutting the wedding cake and that part of service goes a little bit faster for them.

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      We moved to Salem, Oregon from The Dalles, in the Summer of 1964, when my Father, Edgar Ross, accepted a position at the Oregon Department of Agriculture in the Commodity Commissions Bureau. My parents settled on a ranch-style, three-bedroom home on the corner of Ward Drive and 46th Avenue in the new community of “Jan Ree” Gardens. Our lot was bordered by new homes on two sides and to the East was a field of Blue Lake bush beans that would soon be consumed by the encroaching development. Mother and Father shared a few details about our new home. It had a second bathroom, a wood-paneled living room and an unfinished family room that my father promised would have a metal wood stove. But they kept one little secret from my sister and me until we were a block from our final destination on the day we drove to Salem -- our new house was next door to the grade school. I didn’t know whether to feel good or sick at the thought of living next door to the school where I would spend the next five years.

      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.    
      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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