The Richmond Register

Viewpoints

December 28, 2012

Making fruit cake is Christmas Eve tradition

Points East

PAINT LICK — Early on this Christmas Eve, just after the drizzling, foggy, rebel-gray, sort-of, “daybreak” announced itself, I hobbled out of bed and wobbled to the kitchen to put on a pot of coffee and to check out the big Bundt cake pan I had put to use just after midnight, Monday morning.

Said pan contained the now-cooled fruitcake that I had struggled over for over three hours the night before and then popped into the oven in the wee-est hour of this day.

I simply can’t stand it when Loretta looks over my shoulder and offers not-so-helpful hints when I am baking and sort of making it up as I go along. (You’re not really going to put wine in that? Baking powder in self-rising flour? That many eggs? Does anybody really like nutmeg? Cream of tartar? You’re kidding, right? Etc. etc?)

So the way I avoid unneeded and, most-certainly, unsolicited advice, when I want to be creative in the kitchen, is to wait until my wife is sound asleep and down for the night.

Last night, after 24 non-stop hours of making and reeking of black-walnut fudge and country ham and spicy cookies, she finally started snoring to the tune of “White Christmas,” with visions of sugar plums dancing on her brow, and finally – with the cat curled up and purring and gently kneading on her toes – Loretta shut down just before the nightly TV news came on.

When Loretta sleeps through this guy – she has a not-so-secret crush on the guy named Bill who does the weather forecast – I know she’s out of it and not apt to wake up for several hours. So that’s when I went to work on my fruitcake.

It takes me about half an hour just to find and arrange all the ingredients on the kitchen table. I mean, unless you live in someplace way bigger than, name a town in central or eastern Kentucky, you don’t just run out at the last minute and conveniently buy, off the shelf, nectar of apricot or other such itesms. Neither do you find candied lime, candied pineapple, soaked dates, whole-kernel black walnuts, real apricot brandy, etc., just waiting there for you to scoop up all at once.

I spend some time, well before the holidays, laying in my fruitcake ingredients, which I stash about the kitchen at random for weeks before the actual preparation of the cake. Thirty minutes is actually a short time to locate and assemble them on the table.

Of course, the first thing I try to find is that pint of apricot brandy. I know I’ll need less than half of it in the cake batter, and I figure a swig to start with will help me remember where I put away all the other stuff. Can’t find candied lime or the cream of tartar or the lemon zest, take another sip – and memory is restored.

Now, the first two things I do is turn my oven on to 350 and then oil and flour my Bundt pan. Then I spend the next hour stirring and beating stuff together with a big spoon in a huge mixing bowl. As far as I am concerned, electric mixers are for sissies. Friends admire the biceps on my right arm for weeks after the first of the year and ask, “How’d you do that?” I tell ’em, “I made a fruitcake over Christmas.”

Finally, I dump the mixture in the Bundt pan, pop it in the oven and pray while I finish off the last few sips of apricot brandy.

Just before 3 a.m., my fruitcake came out of the oven and I went to bed.

Loretta is ready to get up after over 9 hours of deep sleep, but I’m going back to bed. I’ll tell you how the cake turned out sometime after the first of the year. If it tastes as good as it smells and looks, I’ll be bragging.

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