Saturday, October 31, 2020

British Christmas Cake Recipe


You may recall that I posted this recipe some years ago, but since I just posted the photo on Instagram and a couple people asked me for the [extremely complicated] recipe, I thought I'd post it here again.

Now that a lot of time has passed since I made the original, I've sort of forgotten the birthing pains enough to be ready to try it again. So if you're up to fussing with this recipe, you'll be rewarded with a delicious-tasting cake, and one that keeps for months in the refrigerator. Don't ask me how many months, because mine didn't last that long. I love this stuff.


Christmas Cake Recipe:

I used:

1 Kg. dried fruits
Figs, prunes, dates, dried apricots, cherries, dried blueberries, and
200g. mixed nuts, emphasis on Brazil nuts.
Zest and juice of 1 orange
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
150 ml.  brandy, sherry, whisky or rum (who likes rum!) I had Southern Comfort on hand and used that.
250 g. soft butter
200g light soft brown sugar
175 g. plain flour
100 g ground almonds
1/2 t. baking powder
2 t. mixed spice*
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. flaked almonds
4 large eggs
1 t. vanilla

*Mixed spice is a mixture of: 1 T. allspice, 1 T. cinnamon, 1 T. nutmeg, 2 t. mace, 1 t. ground cloves, 1 t. ground coriander, 1 t. ginger. This makes more than the recipe calls for, but then you can put what's left over into a container, label it, and keep it for another time.

Put dried fruit, zests and juice, alcohol, butter, and sugar in a large pan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Pour the fruit mixture into a large bowl and leave to cool for 30 min.

Heat the oven to 150C (300 degrees F.).

And the next step is where I part ways with the instructions. I had a ridiculous amount of trouble with parchment and the pan I had intended to use, so I scrapped that plan, sprayed the inside of my non-stick Bundt pan with non-stick spray, and tied a double layer of newspaper around the pan. (It's easy to get distracted reading the newspaper, however.)

Add the remaining ingredients to the fruit mixture and stir well, making sure there are no pockets of flour. Pour batter into the Bundt pan and bake in the center of the oven for 2 hours. Then remove the cake from the oven, poke holes in it with a skewer and spoon over 2 T. of the alcohol into the little holes. I think I got a bit generous with that bit, then left the cake to cool completely in the tin. IN FACT, because I was so certain that my cake would come out in pieces, I let it stay in the pan for about 6 hours before turning it out onto a plate. I was so surprised when it came down in one huge CLUNK onto the plate. YEA!!

Wrap the cake in plastic wrap and then FEED it a bit more alcohol every fortnight (Did you know that fortnight actually is a contraction of 'fourteen nights?' fēowertȳne niht, Old English. Why didn't anyone tell me that before?)


Anyway, I didn't have that much time because I didn't get my cake stirred up on 'Stir Up Sunday,'  the last Sunday before Advent, when the Christmas pudding would be stirred up, each member of the family taking a turn stirring it, traditionally.  

Here's what I found on Wikipedia about Stir Up Sunday. I found it interesting and thought I'd pass it along to you:

"The term comes from the opening words of the collect for the day in the Book of Common Prayer of 1549 and later (a translation of the Roman Missal's collect "Excita, quæsumus" used on the last Sunday before Advent):

 "Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

If the British are anything, they are great at forming and keeping traditions!

Also, the cake is sometimes stirred from east to west, in honor of the kings who came from the East to visit the Christ child. And traditionally, a silver sixpence was put into the pudding to bring good luck, assuming you're not the one who chokes on it. I suspect that with inflation the ranks of adherents to that particular tradition are thinning greatly.

And that reminds me of one of my favorite Hercule Poirot episodes, 'The Theft of the Royal Ruby.' The Christmas pudding plays into that story. You'll enjoy it. Yes, as usual, I digress.

Back to my Christmas Cake:

But I did feed it every few days and we'll see what happens.  Do not feed the cake for the final week to give the surface a chance to dry before icing.

Now on to the

Apricot Layer:

The recipe I had called for boiling the apricot jam, then straining it, adding a bit of water, and painting it onto the cake. Why?? I have no idea why they go to all that work, so instead, I put a few tablespoons of apricot jam into the blender and blended it, then spread it onto the cake, all over, with a kitchen brush.  I think I then let that sit for several hours.

Marzipan layer:

Not knowing whether or not this stuff was going to be a beast to roll out, I wanted to make sure to have enough, so I made plenty. BTW, have you priced blanched almonds lately?? The price of the blanched almonds was double that of the almond meal, so I bought almond meal. It will taste the same and not be the top layer anyway. Whatever is left over can be shaped into little decorations, or better yet, drizzled with dark chocolate. I mean, in case you can't think of anything to do with it.
So I used the following:


300 g. powdered sugar
300 g. almond meal
3 egg whites
1/2 t. salt
3/4 t. almond extract

Don't even try mixing this in your food processor. Mine nearly died trying to mix it in, so I moved it to my mixer instead and used the regular mixing attachment. It turns out like a huge blob of sawdust and glue. I am not exaggerating. I mean, REALLY stiff. And then I refrigerated it overnight, as I was supposed to do. When I took it out the next morning to roll it out, it was like a boulder. I set it in front of the fire to let it soften up a bit, then put some powdered sugar on the counter and rolled it out. It rolled out beautifully and did not break when I doubled it over and lifted it onto the cake. YEA!!! So far, so good.

After rolling out the marzipan layer and draping it, shaping it to the cake, I trimmed the excess and will use that for the decorations. I made an X across the middle, pushed the corners down into the center of the cake, then cut little V's of marzipan to fill in the spaces left. It all worked pretty slick. At this point, the cake was refrigerated over a night or two.

Royal Icing Layer:

3 egg whites
600 g. powdered sugar
1 T. lemon juice

All the above mixed on low, then when it had homogenized to the point that the dry sugar would no longer fly out of the bowl, I mixed this on high for a few minutes until the icing made soft peaks.

The icing was put on the cake, including that hole in the middle, and the leftover marzipan I cut into shapes to make the holly and berries after coloring it with Wilton's red and green food dye. After that, I stuck a ball of marzipan into the center hole of the cake to hold the candle securely. I could use a candle with a bit larger diameter, but didn't have one.

It was a fun project. I just hope I can find someone to eat it with me! If not, I'll eat my slice and wrap the rest of it up and put it away until next year. That'll teach 'em!

 In the meantime, my Christmas cake is resting
in a cool, dark place, covered with a tea towel (per British instructions)
This is my lovely tea towel's maiden voyage.

I plan to make marzipan again when our grandson is out for a visit. That stuff is like modeling clay, and with Wilton's dye, we can make many colors and have a blast.

The original cake recipe, which I tweaked (more than a bit) to my liking, was found on

 Christmas Cake 2015

Don't forget: November 22 is Stir Up Sunday.

Have fun!

Join me on Instagram: @cranberrymorning


Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Hodgepodging Orange and All Saints Day

When we took some scaffolding out to our son last weekend, we also took a drive north of New Ulm (where he and his family live) to the town of Sleepy Eye, MN. The photos above are of an old abandoned schoolhouse we found along the way. The tile spout drained water from the concrete floor. There was one on either side of the steps - back in the day.


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From this Side of the Pond

She writes the questions;
we write the answers.
Plug them into your own blog post
and link up!

Thank you Joyce!
1. Boo, boo-hoo, make a boo-boo, boo(ze)...pick one and tell us how it relates to life lately. 
It would have to be 'Boo!' because our grandkids have been hiding a really big, ugly, gray plastic rat for me to find when I'm least expecting it. This morning it was between the cushions of the sofa, just inches from where I sit to have my breakfast coffee. I'm not going to take a picture of it because, like I said, it is UGLY!
Another barn between New Ulm and Sleepy Eye.

2. Do you like the color orange? Would we find this color in your home? Your wardrobe? Peach-pumpkin-tangeringe...your favorite shade of the three listed? 
I do like the color orange - sometimes. It's so cheery. In my home, the color orange would be on an orange peel. I like to eat an orange in the evening to avoid eating a gazillion other things that could be worse. And of course, there are evenings that those other things get eaten anyway, kind of like a dessert after the main course.  Peach-pumpkin-tangerine. My favorite would be peach or tangerine. There is none of those colors in my wardrobe. I do have one longsleeved t-shirt that is rust colored. And why not more orange in our home? I think becaue I vividly remember the '70s.

In Sleepy Eye

3. October 28th is National Chocolate Day. What's the last chocolate something you tasted? On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being out of this world delicious, how would you rate it? 
The last chocolate I tasted was this morning, and it was Lindt Dark Chili Chocolate.. One square. It would a 10 for deliciousness. Even better than Ritter Sport Dark Chocolate with Hazelnut, which was my favorite for years. But since we don't eat nuts in our new living arrangement, hazelnuts are not on the menu.

The incredible dark soil of New Ulm.
I should have bagged up some of it to take home!

4. Life is like a box of chocolates or so says Forrest Gump's mama. Would you agree? Aside from the pandemic fallout tell us one way this saying has played out in your life. 
I think I'm too literal for this question. Well, maybe we're talking about a box of milk chocolates. In which case you can have every last one of them. But if we're just saying that life is full of unexpected things, some good and some bad, I'd say that this year has had more dark chocolate in it than milk chocolate. Some very good things have come of this year.

 The New Ulm Cat, Bingley

5. As October winds down tell us three things you loved about the month we're bidding adieu. 
Travel Food
(The peppers go fast)

Travel Reading

Travel sites - this one near Viroqua, WI

6.  Insert your own random thought here. 

Quotation from the church bulletin
Zion Lutheran Wausau
Photo mine.

For All The Saints
Who From their Labors Rest

Sunday, November 1
All Saints Day
Coon Prairie Lutheran Church
Westby, Wisconsin

Have a wonderful Wednesday, everyone!

Join me on Instagram: @cranberrymorning





Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Hodgepodging Fall-Turning-To-Winter-Way-Too-Soon

Near Ontario, Wisconsin
on our Driftless trip to SW Wisconsin

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 She writes the questions;
we write the answers.
Plug them into your own blog post
and join in!
Barn north of Wausau, WI
last week

Thanks, Joyce!!

1. Just your weekly mid-week reminder that it's fall y'all and it's my favorite. I love nearly all the flavors of fall but let's weigh in with an either or today...pumpkin or cranberry? hot apple cider or pumpkin spice latte? cinammon or maple? apple or pear? ginger or sage? carrot or butternut squash? Yes you have to choose. What's a favorite dish made with one of the flavors listed here? 
Well, I feel like a traitor to my own Cranberry Morning name!, but if it's muffins or pie we're talking about, then it would be pumpkin. Neither cider nor latte, please. Cinnamon over maple. Apple over pear. Ginger and sage, a tie, depending upon what it's used for. Butternut squash over carrot. A favorite dish would be sage stuffing for Thanksgiving or butternut squash soup, but I rarely make that because it doesn't have any natural boundaries - a category of dangerous food, in my experience.
York Minster

2. Do you miss traveling? In this season of almost no travel do you think you've grown anxious or fearful about traveling again? Or has all this staying home not going anywhere made you restless to get out and see the world? What book have you read or what movie have you watched that has inspired you to travel? 

 Yes, I do miss traveling. And I'm not at all fearful about traveling again. I'm eager. I read Rick Steves books which always make me itchy to travel, but mostly just looking at photos from previous trips - like the two above when we've visited York. We tend to go back to the same places we love. And watching the live Enthronement of the 98th Archbishop of York on YouTube on Sunday made me even more eager to return. There's nothing like Evensong in York Minster or Canterbury Cathedral or Gloucester Cathedral or Durham Cathedral or... (I know, there's a theme here.)

Some weeks are just like that.

3. A time you felt like you were 'flying by the seat of your pants'? Explain. 

I'm just not a 'fly by the seat of your pants' kind of person.


4. Do you struggle with road rage or are you more of a 'Sunday driver'? Do you like to be 'in the driver's seat (literally and/or figuratively speaking) ?

I'm not a road rage kind of person. I actually prefer not driving at all, but being in the passenger seat, reading a book. I'm better at reading aloud than driving aloud.

Snow. Early Thanksgiving, October 14, 2018

Grandkids and daughter-in-law

at the farm

5. Something you've recently 'put the brakes on'? 

Well, something I'm always thinking about putting the brakes on: my sugar intake. Sometimes I do great. Then again, other times not so great. The other day I purchased this microscopic Nut Goodie (made in St. Paul, MN) to send to my brother, who lives in Denver. It's one of his favorites. But what caught my eye at the store was the fact that the Nut Goodie has shrunk in size, from about 4" across to about 2.5" across, and in my candy-eating years has increased from 10 cents to 79 cents. I decided it wasn't worth mailing, so I ate it myself. :-(

6. Insert your own random thought here.

I thought this was pretty funny. It's a screenshot from my phone, when I was checking on the weather the other day.  Funny, because "Error. Something went wrong" is pretty much how I would describe winter in general. And by the way, we're getting snow today. That part isn't funny.


Have a wonderful Wednesday, everyone!

Join me on Instagram: @cranberrymorning


Quotation from our church bulletin,

October 18, 2020

Zion Lutheran Wausau

(my photo taken in our neighborhood)



Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Hodgepodging Driftless Wisconsin

Little barn on the hillside north of Ontario, Wisconsin



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She writes the questions;
we write the answers.
Plug them into your own blog
and join in!

1. Let's start things off right...Wednesday is National Dessert Day. What are we having? How often do you  make/serve dessert? Store bought or from scratch? 
I rarely make/serve/eat dessert. But when I do, it would be made from scratch and gluten free. If I need something sweet, I could always go for jelly bellies or a piece or two of the several dark chocolate Lindt bars I keep in the drawer under the KitchenAid mixer. Just for emergencies. And it seems that fall brings on emergencies more often than summer does. But if I were to bake something, it would be an apple or pumpkin pie. And that sure sounds good right now!

A pretty little street in Viroqua, Wisconsin

2. Slow as molasses, icing on the cake, that's the way the cookie crumbles, have your cake and eat it too, half-baked idea, that takes the cake...which phrase might be applied to something in your life in recent days? Explain. 

 That's easy. It would be 'icing on the cake.' From Thursday afternoon through Saturday afternoon, Mr. C. and I spent 48 hours traveling through the gorgeous Wisconsin countryside to Westby (home of the ancestors), spending time in Westby and the neighboring town of Viroqua (Mr. C.'s native town) and visiting favorite spots. It happens that the color of the trees was at peak, and everywhere we looked it was such a glorious testimony of God's beauty and generosity.

A warning sign read: 'Hill Blocks View.' Mr. C said, 'What?! The hill IS the view!"

Pretty Jersey heifers
(You'll also see them later in this post)

3. Something that's 'easy as pie' for you to do?

Something as 'easy as pie,' would actually be baking a pie. If I didn't have to monkey with piecing together a gluten-free crust but could use plain flour, it is not only easy, but such a therapeutic thing to do - especially rolling out and fluting that pie crust. And such a feeling of satisfaction when finished. 

A little country church on a grassy hillside
near Chaseburg, Wisconsin 
And when you turn around, 
you look directly across the road at the following scene:

Harvesting soybeans

4. Are you someone who likes to 'sugarcoat' news you think might not be well received, or are you more of a tell it like it is and let the chips fall where they may? Do you like to receive your news the same way you give it? 

I definitely am not one to 'sugarcoat' anything, but I hope I'm not just uncaring and 'letting the chips fall where they may.' I have been 'accused' of 'exact speech.' And it's the same way I want to receive news. Sometimes when people try to 'sugarcoat' news, they spend so much time doing it that the message comes across as ambiguous at best, and you're left trying to figure out what on earth the message was in all that! 

5. Something you did recently that made you feel like a 'smart cookie'? 

I'd like to think that there was at least one thing I could dredge up, but unless it's being right about directions on our little trip last weekend, I can't think of anything. And don't ask me to prove it. Mr. C. and I both grew up in a part of Wisconsin where all the streets and highways are laid out on a grid in an organized fashion. So we know our cardinal directions and generally have good internal compasses. Usually. Not always. But when we get to the Driftless area of Wisconsin where there are few straight roads, all bets are off unless it's a nice, sunny day. Then we still have a general idea of directions..

A Victorian B&B in Viroqua

6. Insert your own random thought here.

Would you want to rent a canoe from them??

It was when I had opened the car door to step out onto the bridge and get a video of these pretty heifers, that the wind blew the map from the dash of the car.* I tried to catch it as it scudded across the bridge and into the creek. There was no retrieving it. We made our way back to town.

 Have a great Wednesday, everyone!

Join me on Instagram: @cranberrymorning 


*In case you're wondering why we didn't simply use the GPS on our phones: There's no signal down in those coulees.


Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Hodgepodging Autumn Colors

Rib Mountain State Park
Wausau, WI

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From this Side of the Pond

She writes the questions
We write the answers.
Plug them into your own blog post
And join in!
Thank you Joyce!

1. When is the last time you experienced nostalgia? 

That was probably when I was putting up an instagram post about St. Michael and All Angels, for September 29. The church pictured is in Stanton, UK, and that made me 'homesick' for England. The excerpt is from this week's newsletter of Zion Lutheran Church in Wausau. Zion's morning and evening prayer/devotional are live every day on Facebook. Zionlutheranwausau.

 2. September 29th is National Coffee Day. Do we need this? Ha! So are you a coffee drinker? If so how many cups per day, and tell us how you like it. Is there a recipe you enjoy that calls for coffee as one of the ingredients? 

If we're talking about measuring cups of coffee, I'm not sure. But I fill my coffee mug at least twice each morning, and don't drink coffee any time after 7:30 AM.

About three weeks ago, I switched from regular coffee to decaf, to see if it would eliminate the coffee jitters. Yes indeed, it made all the difference. There really isn't a good decaf, in my opinion, but the benefits of switching outweigh the desire for that delicious, rich, strong cup of black coffee. Stay tuned.

 3. Do you find praise or criticism to be more motivating? Explain. 

To me, this is like asking are we motivated by love or by fear. Criticism makes me feel small and stuck, squashed down in a dark corner. In fact, I'm so drawn to God by love. Fear of an angry and distant God makes no one joyful. But knowing that we are loved with an overwhelming love by our ever-present and generous heavenly Father, who keeps on giving and giving to us is incredibly motivating.

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
From Isaiah 43.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name. He redeems my life from the grave, and crowns me with mercy and lovingkindness. - From Psalm 103.

It is Well With My Soul.

Chickens of New Ulm

 4.  What's a television series you keep coming back to and re-watching? 

Vera and George Gently would be two. There aren't any new ones I find appealing, except I did stumble across McDonald and Dobbs, a fun detective show. So far there are only 2 episodes, but I hope they make more.

Fred, the goat of New Ulm

 5. As the month of September draws to a close give us three words to describe your mood. 

Content, joyful, hopeful.

 6. Insert your own random thought here.

Morning in New Ulm

This week we are in New Ulm, MN at the home of our son's family, house-cow-goat-chickens-dog-cat sitting while they head up to the Black Hills for a few days. And next Sunday afternoon we will go back home to Wausau, the long 5-hour drive. At least it's a beautiful time of year and we're seeing a lot of fall color on our journeys.

Have a wonderful Wednesday, everyone.

Jon me in Instagram: @cranberrymorning
(Yes I got my old account up and running again!)


Composed and posted from my little Android. 


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