December 11, 2014:
There were a few recurrent themes in last week's English Dried Fruit Cake: one was fear and loathing of fruitcake and the other was love of rum (or other spirits).
Glori's comment was typical of the Fearsome Fruitcake Syndrome: "Oh no, door stop or regift for the next 5 years." Nancy described fruitcake as that "sticky dense cake with all the candied cherries." Kim couldn't even identify the cherries: "I’m just not attracted to those fluorescent green or red or yellow bits of mystery fruit.". Judy remembered fruitcake as "those things you see at Walgreens in the tins ... that ... at holiday parties ... [after] all the shrimp was gone, cold cut platter cleaned off, even the jello was eaten, but alas, the fruitcake ... remained intact..." Harsh words. Or consider Nicola's recollection of her childhood experience with fruitcake: "The only way to make them edible to my young palate was to eat the fondant, throw away the almond paste and slather butter on the cake. Quite a complicated process really."
But, not surprisingly, Rose made believers of us. Or, in Hanaa's words, "Who knew fruit cake could taste so good!!!" According to Patricia, this cake is "packed full of flavor and was just enough to satisfy my taste for something sweet." Kristina distinguished a Rose fruitcake from an ordinary one: "I don't typically like fruitcake. I like dried fruit, though!" So did Lois: "This full of flavor cake bears no similarity to something you might see at the dollar store in December." Katya's neighbor told her, "This fruit cake is so good! I don't normally get excited about this kind of thing, but this is, well, exciting." Maggie liked hers too, although she did a lot of beautification, adding frosting (Rose's Dreamy Creamy White Chocolate) and fondant poinsettias. Personally, I have a fear of fondant that's even stronger than my fear of fruitcake, but that's another story. Alice brought hers to work, where it was a big success, but she made sure not to call it a fruitcake, so as not to frighten people away. A fruitcake by any other name apparently tastes better.
And Catherine, in this week's best (and only) use of obscure Australian slang, declared the cake "a doddle," even though in her first attempt she mistakenly used self-rising flour, along with baking soda and baking powder, with unfortunate results.
Some of us were downright giddy at the thought of saturating a dessert with rum. "Rum! I love a boozy cake," exclaimed Evil Cake Lady. As Jill said, "And don't forget the Rum!! Well, you can if you want to, but who eats fruit cake without Rum?? Isn't that part of the fun..." And Jenn, who thought the fruitcake in Rose's Heavenly Cakes didn't have enough rum to lift it from the fruitcake doldrums, this one, after being "doused with a whole lot of rum," did.
Monica thought the rum may have been the highlight of the cake: "...[T]he rum gave it a nice boozy touch, which is always a good thing in my book with cakes." Michele even upped the ante with a "buttery rum sauce [that ] proved to be a perfect complement to the cake." Although even here there was no unanimity. Mendy took a more sober view: "I could not bring myself to put rum on this perfectly decent cake."
And there was an enthusiastic minority who looked forward to any kind of fruitcake. Vicki announced to her family, "We have fruitcake!" And it was not a warning, because "Rose is solely responsible for converting [her] offspring to the wonders of fruitcake ... and they consider it a holiday requisite." And Faithy was rhapsodic: "I love fruitcakes! I adore Rose's fruit cake recipe in HCB and bake them every Christmas without fail..and I will bake enough that will last till Chinese New Year." Raymond is such a fruitcake lover that "every year my friends collect all the store-bought fruit cakes they get and give them to me and I enjoy them for weeks."
By and large, this fruitcake appealed to both the confirmed fruitcake lover and the fruitcake convert. But you may be happy to get to a recipe with no fruit. (Unless you count apricot lekvar or apricot preserves as a fruit, which seems a lot like trying to say that ketchup is a vegetable). Next up are Ischler cookies, aka The Ischler. I made these last week, and they are fantastic. However, you may want to read the notes to the recipe before you actually start baking, especially the suggestion about how to successfully roll out this quite sticky dough. I'm sure that all of you will remember to read through the entire recipe, including the Notes, before baking, unlike some people I know.