Making Christmas Cake

I know!  It isn’t even the end of October yet!  They have had Christmas things in the shops since the beginning of the month!  I was told that October was the best month to sell Christmas items.  I told the salesperson that if everybody waited until November, then that would be the best month to sell Christmas items.  I swear it gets earlier and earlier each year.

However, when it comes to making a Christmas cake, you need to make it at least six weeks ahead of time.  I will tell you why later.  The English seem to like a very dark fruitcake with lots of raisins, sultanas, glacé cherries and candied peel.  They also like to cover it with marzipan and royal icing.  Being of Hungarian descent, I don’t mind marzipan, but I really dislike royal icing or any other form of icing.  I find it too sweet.  I prefer the more fattening and delicious buttercream frosting.  In any event, the marzipan and icing help to keep the cake moist, which is why it can be made many weeks in advance.

An English Christmas Cake


Many Americans, such as myself, seem to like a lighter cake with nuts and fruit like figs, apricots and dates.  I remember that one of our relatives would sometimes order a Texas fruitcake for Christmas.  I always loved this cake because of the nuts and cherries.  You can now order these cakes in the UK from Collin Street Bakery. 🙂

Having been a vegetarian on and off for many years, I have acquired some excellent vegetarian cookbooks over the years.  Even though I am not a vegetarian, I still use these books as I don’t eat much meat and I have a few recipes I am really partial to.  One of them is the Christmas Fruit Cake by Anna Thomas in her book The Vegetarian Epicure. (I also have book two!)  I have had to adapt the recipe slightly as wheat flour no longer seems to agree with me and so I used spelt flour instead.  You can find whole meal spelt flour in the supermarket.  It is more difficult to find the white version even though it is made by the same company, but I found it in my local health food store.  I also used Marsala wine instead of Sauterne.  I also varied the fruit around this year.  I bought a tropical fruit mix and used dried cranberries and crystallized ginger pieces for one batch.  I also made a batch of the more traditional version as in the book.  I have made this cake a few times now and have varied it every time for one reason or another.  It comes out great regardless!  My daughter and I spent the afternoon making and decorating 7 cakes today!

Chopped fruit:  Tropical mix on the left and more traditional version on the right.  We chopped these up the night before!  There was a lot of fruit to chop up.

The batch with traditional fruits made four 6 inch diameter (medium) cakes.  The recipe says it will make 6 medium to small rectangular cakes.  We decorated the cakes with pecans, almonds, glacé cherries and crystallized ginger.

The tropical mix made 2 medium cakes and one 9 inch long loaf.  Decorated as above.

Now, the reason you need to make the cakes about six weeks in advance is because you need to ‘feed’ the cakes regularly with alcohol.  One batch is being fed with brandy and one batch with rum.  Can you guess which batch is being fed with rum?

By the time Christmas arrives, you will have one well-fed cake.  Be careful though, you mustn’t drive after eating this cake! 😉

Random Photos of My World This Week

Last Tuesday was the start of a rather busy week.  I drove up to London on Tuesday in order to go to my daughter’s graduation from University on Wednesday, in Manchester.  We took the train up to Manchester and came back the same evening.  It only takes a couple of hours by train.  It would have taken over four hours each way if I drove.  Anyway, this was an extra special event as my daughter got a First!  She is so clever, and worked her little behind off!  And she has a job!  We are all so proud of her!  Here is where they had the graduation:

Pretty impressive building, huh!

Afterwards there was a little party with graduation cakes and champagne, Pimms, etc.

Graduation Cakes!


 On Thursday I headed North, to The Midlands.  On Friday I took a walk through another village with thatched cottages.

On Saturday there was a party/concert and some fireworks!

On Monday there was a walk along a canal.



Today I came home.  So that’s all folks!

Tiger The Cat (1993-09.05.2011)

Tiger - Chalk pastels on paper

Tiger The Cat was adopted with his brother Rusty at the end of July 1993.  They came with fleas!  As they were too young for flea products, their mom used lavender oil on a bit of J-cloth attached to a flea comb and combed it through their fur.  The fleas jumped straight off and the kittens smelled as delicious as a field of lavender – and that was the start of 18 wonderful years for Tiger The Cat.

His adoptive family came with three children, two of which were 4-year-old twins.  As a cute little furball, Tiger was picked up quite regularly and was eventually used as a doll substitute when his adoptive sister used to dress him up in her doll’s clothes and put him in the pram.  He never made a fuss or scratched or bit anyone.

Tiger and his brother developed into keen hunters and started with worms at the age of six months.  His mom used to find them at the bottom of the stairs on a regular basis (worms, that is).  From there they went from frogs and toads, to mice and birds.  One year, on his mom’s birthday, they left three little birds in a row outside of the kitchen door.  How sweet!  As challenging as it is to catch birds and mice, it wasn’t enough.  Eventually, they graduated to rats and squirrels.

The killing spree went on for many years.  Occasionally mom would manage to save a bird, frog or mice or two.  Fortunately the rats were dead by the time she saw them and the squirrels were always left outside with their heads missing.  Once in a while Tiger would call her to let her know what he was up to.  There were times he just had to eat his food outside.

As cats are free range, Tiger used to wander around the neighbourhood regularly.  Unfortunately, one day he ventured into enemy territory.  The German kids on the street behind us were fond of shooting their BB guns at their back fence.  Sometimes the pellets would make their way through into the neighbour’s back garden while they were relaxing outdoors.  One bright spark obviously thought it would be funny to shoot Tiger in the butt as target practice.  The pellet when through his backside and shattered his femur.  The pellet was still lodged in a piece of bone as shown by the x-ray.  Fortunately the vet was very skilled and was able to piece together the bone and ultimately Tiger was as good as new.  You would never have guessed what had happened to him.  That was a very expensive vet bill!

Tiger and his brother also used to terrorise the neighbourhood.  They were very fond of fighting and considered the street their own.  The shrieking that would go on in the middle of the night could be deafening and would be a source of embarrassment to their mom.  Eventually Tiger got beaten in a fight by Ed, the cat next door.  Admittedly Tiger was considerably older by then, but it was embarrassing for him.  That was another expensive vet bill!

Although Tiger and his brother were known for killing and fighting, at home they were loving and chatty.  They loved being petted, tolerated being picked up for short bursts of time, and liked to hang out with the family.  They used to love sleeping on their mom’s bed, especially when she was in it and would make a kitty sandwich of her – one on either side.  It kept her warm.

Tiger outlived all his furry siblings and being the only one left was quite spoiled.  However, he would prove to be good company for his mom.  He was there when the kids went to boarding school and University.  It saved her from having empty nest syndrome.  He was always there when she came home from dancing and kept the bed warm for her.  Because they were both Gemini’s, he and his mom would chat regularly about this and that.  He didn’t like it though when she went on holiday and would yell at her when she came back.  All would be forgiven with a few treats.

Eventually Tiger moved from London to Eastbourne.  He hated the journey and cried most of the way down in the car.  However, he loved being in a nice warm flat and could be found sleeping under the radiators.  At this point, Tiger’s free-range days were on hiatus until his mom found a home with outdoor space.  Six months later there was another car journey, but only a short one down the road.  Tiger had a house of his own, with a back garden!

As Tiger was nearly 17 at this point, he tended not to venture too far and could usually be found sleeping in the flower bed.  There were times he would explore the neighbourhood at night and sometimes there would be a bit of screeching, but the old fighting Tiger had pretty much retired.  He preferred to give warning sounds if someone tried to venture into his little patch and that usually did the trick.

Tiger The Cat also had his own page on Facebook.  Tiger would issue instructions to his mum, usually before going to sleep or contemplating if he would manage to catch a seagull that day.  She would dutifully post his thoughts on Facebook for him.  Surprisingly, he had quite a few people who liked him.

Eventually, Tiger’s health deteriorated to a point where it was decided that his time had come and to give him some relief.  He purred until the very end.

Tiger lived to be nearly 18 years old.  That is nice long life for a cat.  He was well-loved and will be sorely missed.

Here are some photos of Tiger through the ages:

Baby Photos
Embarassing Pics!
What a pretty boy
More Sleeping!
So Handsome!