(This post was previously published on December 4, 2016.)
Why do so many people cringe at the sight of fruitcake?
Lovingly homemade, a Christmas fruitcake is a work of art.
Nonna’s (we called her Nonni) Christmas cake was a lemon loaf gem-studded with cherries, green and red, and glaceed fruits, and nuts. Never mind that it had 6 eggs and close to a pound of butter in it.
In my mind, it was (and still is) the iconic Christmas dessert.
When I was young, the fruitcake was made months in advance, wrapped in cheesecloth, and then brushed weekly with a few teaspoons of brandy. Now, I ask you, what’s not to like about that?
(Mixed media sketch of Christmas cake. Chocolate covered peanut butter balls (for you, Mom) melting on the plate.)
On Christmas Eve, Nonna’s fruitcake always shared a space with rum balls, fudge, coconut squares, and myriad other sweet confections guaranteed to melt in our mouths.
Even though no one in the family makes this cake anymore, I have fond memories of the colourful gems that sparkled in each slice of Christmas cake each year. The recipe was eventually passed to my mother who would make it sometimes more than a month in advance so that the flavours would have a chance to get to know each other and become friendly. The house smelled heavenly as the cake in several pans, slowly baked throughout the afternoon.
On Christmas Eve, all the baking would be taken out of storage and mom would prepare a platter of sweets. We were allowed to try some of them before going to bed. If there was a Réveillon, a traditional French Canadian feast late on Christmas Eve after mass, then the sweets would be presented after the main courses.
My French Canadian grandmother made a dark spiced Christmas cake while my Nonna’s cake was a light lemony concoction. Truly, the best of both worlds!
What is your favourite Christmas sweet? Do you have any memories associated with a Christmas cake or any other Christmas dessert?
(Nonni’s handwritten recipe which she gave to Mom long ago so that Mom could continue the tradition.)