Christmas Cake and a Silly Song

There are three kinds of people – those who love Christmas cake, those who hate it and those who just want a piece or two, preferably made by someone else. Count me in the later category. Christmas cake was a staple of the season for decades but is now one of those Dickensian desserts which have fallen out of favor, along with mince pie and plum pudding, with many younger people not being familiar with any of them.

My mother used to make Christmas cake every year – one big round pan and two or three smaller loaf tins, and it all got eaten, but by whom I don’t know.  Certainly, none of us kids ate it.  My dad was fond of it, as was my grandmother, who also made her own, a single round one.   Perhaps some of it was given away?  It was always passed around on the same gold glass platter after the big turkey dinner, with a few cookies on the side, as everyone was much too full for a regular dessert. It was something to nibble on with a cup of coffee or tea. I also have a memory of my dad enjoying a slice of it on Christmas Eve with a glass of port, while watching midnight mass or A Christmas Carol, and sometimes I would join him.  The port was an old family tradition, as he seldom drank and a bottle would last from year to year.  Port, which also heralded from Dickens day, is a type of fortified wine like brandy and strong stuff if you’re not used to it.    

Christmas cake is a dark fruit cake often made a couple of weeks before Christmas, and tightly wrapped, to give it a chance to age.  A friend adds brandy to hers once a week to keep it moist. My grandmother added cocoa to hers to make it darker.  It seems every family had a different recipe.  As it keeps well, it was traditionally a popular choice for  wedding cake.  At peek at my mother’s 1945 cooking bible, The Purity Cookbook, has two recipes for dark fruit cake, one for Wedding Cake calling for 12 eggs and 3 and a ½ cups of flour and 8 assorted sized pans, and one for six loaf pans requiring 10 eggs and 8 cups of flour.  My mother’s recipe called for 8 eggs, and made one round bundt cake and 2 or 3 loaf tins.

Does anyone remember these?

In mid-December out would come the big turkey roaster, as it was the only thing large enough to mix all the ingredients in.   She would usually make it in the evening after supper was done, when I could help if I was home, and my dad would be in charge of adding the rum – “Maybe a bit more” although it’s debatable whether one splash or two would make much difference with so much batter.

Here’s her recipe….sort of….as we last made it five years ago and I wrote the instructions down afterwards in an effort to have something on paper.  Like many experienced cooks, her measurements were not exact, but it always turned out good. I believe we froze some of it for the following year, as it freezes well (if you’ve ever found a piece of wedding cake stashed away sometimes the cake lasts longer than the marriage) and gave some away to a snow-shoveling neighbour and a couple of her art friends. It’s always best to ask first if you don’t know what category people are in (see intro) as you don’t want to subject someone to an annual gift of something they have to pretend to like.

So because I had a craving for it this year, (that store bought stuff is dreadful – see song) I decided to attempt a small loaf tin, using the recipe for my Date and Nut Loaf as a starter, (see link), as it is basically a foolproof recipe.  I made a rare visit to the Bulk Barn store for the mixed dried fruit as the packages available in the grocery store were almost expired and had papayas (?) in it instead of dried pineapple.  I hate those bulk food places – the germs – everyone handling the same utensils – but I sanitized before and after, and tried to avoid the green pieces in the mixed fruit bin as those were the ones I always used to pick out of the cake.  I also bought currants there, as what would I do with a whole bag of currents, although I put some raisins in too.  (NB: the pioneers never had access to raisins/dried grapes, hence the preponderance of currents in those old recipes.)   Total cost about $6, although it could have used a bit more fruit.

Here are the ingredients.

I mixed 2 tablespoons of butter, ¾ cup of sugar, one egg, one teaspoon of vanilla.  Added ¾ cup of water to the currant/mixed fruit mixture, (but you could substitute milk or OJ) and a splash of rum – (15ml/1/2 ounce) and added 1 ¾ cups of flour (the kind with baking soda and salt already in it).   Plus a smidgen of spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice. The only thing I forgot was the dates, as I didn’t have any, but in retrospect the stewed dates/water mixture would have made it a darker color, as it turned out much too pale, not fruit-cake color at all.  I added the walnuts after I had prepared a cute little mini-loaf for a friend who reminded me how much she loves fruit cake but is allergic to walnuts.   Baked at 350 for about an hour.

It came out more like a tea bread than a traditional Christmas Cake.

It tasted okay – a bit sweeter than I liked but next time I would definitely add the dates for color, plus more spices, more fruit, less flour and cut back on the sugar a bit. Overall, for a true Christmas cake it needs more work but I would make this again as is for a nice treat with Christmas morning coffee.  Maybe this will be the start of a new Christmas tradition!

In the meantime a neighbour gifted me a chunk of her more traditional cake, which satisfied my craving.

Irish pub – theatre set of musical – When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

And now for the silly song – Miss Fogarty’s Christmas Cake – by the Irish Rovers.  This was part of the song set of a play I saw last September and was very funny with the animated actions of the actors and Miss Fogarty of course. It’s by the Irish Rovers and the lyrics sum up what Christmas Cake haters think about Christmas cake! Hope you enjoy it!

Miss Fogarty’s Christmas Cake – lyrics

As I sat in my window last evening
A letter was brought round to me
A little gilt-edged invitation sayin’
“Gilhooley come over to tea”
Each Christmas the Fogarties sent it
So I went just for old friendships sake
And the first thing they gave me to tackle
Was a slice of Miss Fogarty’s cake

Chorus:
And there were plums and prunes and cherries
There were citrons and raisins and cinnamon too
There was nuts and cloves and berries
And a crust that was nailed on with glue
There were caraway seeds in abundance
Sure if I’d work up a fine stomach ache
That would kill a man twice after eating a slice
Of Miss Fogarty’s Christmas cake.

Miss Mulligan wanted to try it
But really it wasn’t no use
For we worked on it over an hour
But a piece of it wouldn’t come loose
Till Halley came in with the hatchet
And Murphy came in with the saw
But Miss Fogarty’s cake had the power
For to paralyze any man’s jaws

Chorus:

Miss Fogarty proud as a peacock
Kept smiling and talking away
Till she tripped over Flanagans brogans
And spilt the potcheen in her tea
Aye Gilhooley she says you’re not eatin
Try a little bit more of me cake
“Oh no Mrs Fogarty” said I
Any more and me stomach would break

Chorus:

Maloney was sick with the colic
O’Donnell a pain in his head
McNulty lay down on the sofa
And he swore that he wished he was dead
Miss Bailey went into hysterics
And there she did wriggle and shake
And all of us swore we were poisoned
From eating Miss Fogarty’s cake

Chorus:
And there were plums and prunes and cherries
There were citrons and raisins and cinnamon too
There was nuts and cloves and berries
And a crust that was nailed on with glue
There were caraway seeds in abundance
Sure if I’d work up a fine stomach ache
That would kill a man twice after eating a slice
Of Miss Fogarty’s Christmas cake

Yes it would kill a man twice after eating a slice
Of Miss Fogarty’s Christmas cake

Happy Holidays to all my Readers!

42 thoughts on “Christmas Cake and a Silly Song

  1. Anne says:

    How I enjoyed that son, which I haven’t heard for a long time! I enjoy fruit cake but am not organised enough to make it months in advance. I made a boiled fruit cake earlier this week, sprinkled it with brandy and wrapped it up in tin foil to ‘age’ for a week. I use mixed dried fruit which includes raisins, sultanas and currents. I add candied peel if I can get it and cherries. Bicarbonate of soda makes the cake look brown. I still need to bake mince pies – we still enjoy them at this time of the year 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Joni says:

      Thanks Anne. Glad you enjoyed the song. I had never heard of it before the play but thought it was cute and funny with the actions. Mom used to steam a plum pudding occasionally as my dad liked it with a caramel/rum sauce. I like a piece of mince pie too, but just one piece so wouldn’t go to the trouble of making a whole pie, so I buy some tarts.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Arlene Somerton Smith says:

    I am in the same fruit cake category as you. I enjoy a piece of two, but I’m not going to make it myself, ever. I had to laugh at the “Does anyone remember these?” question about the roast pan. I have one, and I’ll be making my Christmas turkey in it this year. It works great! Why change?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Kate Crimmins says:

    Only my mom and my sis-in-law ate fruitcake so any fruitcake gifts I received went directly to them. I love date nut bread but am not a fan of all the brightly colored “other” stuff in it. Enjoy your cake. It looks lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. www.rosesintherainmemoir.wordpress.com says:

    This old Southern gal grew up with Christmas fruitcakes, usually the dark ones my Mother’s sis made each year and sent over. In my younger years, I used to make the Williamsburg White Fruitcake, a much lighter version based on Colonial Virginia recipes and covered in thick white icing — after the cake had been doused in brandy, that is. Sis used port on her cake, and Daddy sipped port with his fruitcake.

    A good month before Christmas, “Stir-Up Sunday” was the day my family and I mixed our fruitcake, each taking a turn while reciting the Collect of the day: “Stir up, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people . . . .” from the old Book of Common Prayer. The results? A mighty good fruitcake!

    Alas, I can no longer stand long enough to assemble and mix all the ingredients for a fruitcake, and Sis is long gone to her heavenly reward. These days, I simply make cranberry bread for brunch, tea, whenever; that suffices nicely.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      Thanks for sharing your lovely memories Jo…..including the port! I shall look for the Williamsburg recipe. I find many store brands of fruit cake have the white icing but my mother never put anything on her’s.
      I buy my plum pudding at The British Shop as I figure I couldn’t make anything better than one imported from Britain and they had smaller sizes too. Hope you have a Merry and Blessed Christmas.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Eilene Lyon says:

    That was a cute song! I did not care for fruit cakes as a child – don’t care for the maraschino cherries they frequently contained. I was looking at making stollen bread from an ancient recipe, but decided it was too much bother. The old recipe had just raising a and lemon zest, but more recent one go all out with more fruits and rum , powdered sugar on top, etc. this is a yeast bread, though, so a bit different than Christmas cake.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. annieasksyou says:

    That steamed pudding with caramel sauce your mom made sounds good. I never liked fruit cake but did like panettone. However, now I watch my sugar intake. Haven’t been doing much baking, but I just dug out an old recipe from a friend who was a good baker to bring to a dinner party: an easy mix of egg whites beaten with sugar, with baking powder, chopped pecans, and crushed graham crackers to replace the old crackers in the recipe that are no longer extant. The recipe was deemed “foolproof,” and it was very very good! None left over. Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Dave says:

    The Rovers sing what most of us think but don’t have the courage to say! Your post brought back a memory I thought I left behind for good, Joni: my mother’s own fruitcake, which was probably very similar to yours. I never cared for it (esp. the candied fruit) but it always showed up at Christmas time and was somehow consumed. At least you Canadians have a nicer name in “Christmas cake”. To us it was always just “fruitcake”.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Linda Schaub says:

    This looks like a lot of hard work to make these fruitcakes – I have to hand it to you for doing this baking and all the prep Joni. We always had fruitcake at Christmas but my mom never made it and we just got the smallest one (usually that was a small bar) that we got at the store. I know you know the story of my mom’s last fruitcake. We used to go to the German restaurant and buy Christmas stollen for years. The owner, a husband and wife, ran the restaurant and he had been the pastry chef in a large hotel in downtown Detroit. He made two sizes of stollens and they went quickly so we’d order them in advance and pick them up and eat lunch there, a once-a-year treat. Unfortunately they decided to sell and retire and the new owners of the building decided to go in a different direction, so that was the end of Christmas stollen. We usually had it Christmas Eve and Christmas morning … by the time you sliced it (usually unevenly), it went quickly. It had a lot of powdered sugar on it.

    I do remember a few weddings with the small pieces to have later. My mom told me they kept the top part of the wedding cake for the birth of their first baby. I never saw photo of the cake or piece eaten when I was born three years later.

    Merry Christmas to you and your mom.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      Thanks for reading Linda….but you should be reading your books! Merry Christmas to you too. Looks like another day of no walking, but don’t worry the squirrels will all be tucked in their nests. I doubt they would come down for anything in this!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Linda Schaub says:

        Oh you’re welcome Joni – I was interested to know the process. My mom never made Christmas cake. I think I will wait to start my book next weekend and see two movies. I did tomorrow’s post and will write one for 12/31/22 for a recap of miles, then I think I’ll wait a week to do my recap of birds/critter post. I still haven’t sorted through any more photos because it is too cold to sit at that computer in my room as the table is right up against the wall. I could move the table to the kitchen, but I have everything moved away from all the cabinets to keep them open for the pipes, etc. It was cluttered enough without more clutter. I think they would stay up in their nest too. I feel like I could go tomorrow, but we had snow today and I doubt they plowed the street, let alone the Park path. (That path gets done one in every ten snowfalls.)

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Deb says:

    I love the nostalgia and glimpses of your childhood past~ funny how so many of our memories are formed around food and the kitchen/dining room table! May this Christmas be a time of good cheer for you and yours!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. J P says:

    I enjoyed reading this, though I was not familiar with the term “Christmas cake”. I would also enjoy eating it, I think. At least I assume so, because I like fruitcake. Nobody in my family ever made fruitcake, and I think there is only one person I know who ever has. Yet every year the local grocery stores offer plenty of those containers of candied fruit, so someone must be buying the stuff.

    As I write this it is New Year’s eve and I remember that I still have some fruitcake to finish off. Maybe I should get some now. It would be a shame to throw it away.

    Liked by 2 people

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