Tag Archives: Christmas cake

The Kitchen Sink

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Relationnel is arriving this afternoon with the kitchen sink. Well, almost. I wish he was. I am taller than the average Mrs Frog, unfortunately, which means that most sinks are way too low for me. It wouldn’t matter if I had a dish washer, but that is the one major item missing from Closerie Falaiseau and short of putting it in the bathroom (and that would not pass muster with my gîte guests now, would it?), it will continue to be missing until the kitchen is renovated in a couple of years time, at the same time as the addition of a very large bay window, complicated by the fact that the walls, you will remember, are about 70 cm thick. But I want light and a view of our wood.

The kitchen sink in Blois – I would like the bay window on the right of the small window

What Relationnel is bringing, though, is the electric knife sharpener (why do knives become blunt so quickly?), my sewing box (someone’s going to notice that coming-down hem soon), a couple of warm pullovers (so I can wash my only woollen cardigan) and the second cheap-O espresso maker (because pieces keep coming off the one here and my extragently expensive one now lives in Paris without me).

He’s also bringing the fireback for the renovated fireplace which he bought in Baie de Somme through leboncoin.com on Monday. I was so sad not to go with him but it seemed a little silly to take the train to Paris (1 ½ hours) then go another 2 ½ hours by car and back again. So I’m waiting eagerly to see the monster  which is a metre wide and weighs over a hundred and fifty kilos.

Leonardo’s company closing file is also coming down, sadly. I can’t believe it’s not finished yet but the Court wrote to say there were some things missing and a couple of errors. But Relationnel is also bringing the flowers Leonardo sent to me just as I was leaving Paris last time – the florist suggested delaying delivery until Relationnel could bring them down to Blois as it seemed a bit dicey to take them on the train with me.

Last year’s Christmas cake fresh out of the oven

More importantly, the Christmas cake tin and ingredients will arrive tonight as well, though only Relationnel and I will be around to stir and make a wish, an unavoidable break in tradition this year as the cake is already late. I should have made it last time I went back to Paris. Of course. But I was too busy trying to close Leonardo’s company.

Taking the temperature of our home made foie gras

Apart from that, Relationnel is bringing all the materials needed to finish the BIG FIREPLACE OPERATION so we can wish in the New Year in front of a blazing fire, sipping vintage champagne and eating homemade fois gras (if we ever find the time to make it!). It could take a while to unpack from the trailer when he arrives. Then we’ll go out and celebrate our anniversary!

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My Christmas Cake

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Yesterday, I was just cutting up the dried fruit for my Christmas cake, which always takes me back home to Townsville of course. I’m using my mother’s recipe, that she got from her mother, written in Mum’s lovely copperplate writing (she used to handwrite wills in a solicitor’s office when she was young) and still on the onion paper she used to send me airmail letters when I first came to France, so I’m feeling very traditional.

Our Christmas cake was a whole ritual. Mum very rarely made cakes so it always seemed very special. First, she would get out the big scales with their special weights to make sure all the ingredients were the exact weight. Then we’d cut up everything up into small pieces; the rum was added and it was left overnight. Next day, we would get to sift the flour and mixed spice together with the special sifter, and get it all over everything. For years after I began making the cake in France, I used to mix the spices myself, guessing what proportions I should use, but when Black Cat came home from UQ, she brought me two boxes. Mum would do the creaming of the butter and sugar. After that, I’d vie with my sister to see who would crack the eggs. Since there were five eggs and she was the oldest, I’d only get to break two. I usually got to put the dollop of marmelade in though. Then the flour was added alternately with the mixed fruit until it got harder and harder to stir.

Then would come the big moment when everyone had to come and stir the cake and have a wish. We did that today. We’re two children short this year – Leonardo’s in Australia and Forge Ahead’s in Madagascar – but we have Brainy Pianist to give us a helping hand. I don’t know if this is a custom in other Australian families, but I suspect it was really devised by some clever ancestor to give the poor cook some relief from stirring the thick mixture by herself!

After that, you have to cut the paper for the cake tin: two layers of brown paper and one layer of butcher’s paper. Since I don’t have either, I just use extra large sheets of thick white paper. You have to cut circles for the bottom and top and long strips for the sides. You butter the sides of the tin then line them with the paper. After you’ve spooned the mixture in, you add a decoration of blanched almonds and candied cherries. Then it’s time to lick the bowl! Do I dare admit that I still like doing that today?

You then cook it for 3 hours and try not to go to bed and forget the cake’s still in the oven. When it’s ready, you wrap the cake and the tin in a thick tea towel and leave it until Christmas. It will then keep for several months if it doesn’t get finished off immediately.




250 g of butter                                              250 g of raisins
125 g brown sugar                                      250 g of currants
5 eggs                                                             250 g of sultanas
1 tablespoon of marmelade jam              125 g of mixed peel
250 g of plain flour                                       60 g of dried figs
60 g of rice flour (or arrowroot)                 60 g of dried apricots
2 teaspoons of mixed spice                        60 g of dates
1 teaspoon of cinnamon                             60 g of chopped almonds
½ teaspoon of nutmeg                               3 tablespoons of rum or brandy
enough blanched almonds and candied cherries to decorate
  1. Chop fruit. Place in basin. Add spirits and stand at least overnight.
  2. Line cake tin (8 inch diameter) with 2 layers of brown paper and one of white. Also sides of tin (have paper come up to 3 inches (7 cm) above tin). Also 2 brown and one white paper circles for top of cake.
  3.  Cream shortening & sugar. Add whole eggs one at a time, beating well. Add marmelade, then siften dry ingredients alternately with prepared fruit. Stir evenly.
  4. Bake in an electric oven at 900°F (150°C) for about 3 hours. Bake slowly. Remove.
  5. Wrap tin (with cake in it) in old cloth. Let cool in tin.
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