It started to snow tonight so I’m finally starting to get in the mood for Christmas despite discovering that my roof is leaking again. It looks like they can patch me through to the spring when I’ll have to replace the entire thing. I’m not letting it keep me from getting “Christmassy”. It is time to make a fruit cake — the Christmas dessert that people seem to love to hate. Let’s see if any of the fruitcake recipes in the 1906 Berlin Cook Book match the jokes. I’m starting with a recipe contributed by B. Cowan for Light Fruit Cake.
I followed the directions as described in the recipe since they are quite clear. I creamed butter and sugar and separated the eggs. I measured and weighed the raisins, walnuts and citron. Two ounces of citron equalled 1/4 cup. The recipe talks about cutting the citron fine, something we don’t have to do these days. Originally candied citron would come in chunks and have to be prepared for use. The recipe talks about stoning the raisins. I didn’t have to do anything but roughly chop the raisins either as they don’t have seeds anymore. I beat the egg whites and then added them too. I sifted the flour and baking powder into a second bowl and measured the milk. Finally I alternated adding the flour and milk to the main mixture. I spooned the fruit cake batter into a greased cake pan and baked for 45 minutes at 350 ° F. The suggested time is perfect for this cake. It was just beginning to brown. I left it to cool but didn’t make the nut frosting before tasting the cake.
I’ve only tried one other recipe submitted by B. Cowan and that was back in January! I think this contributor could be Miss Bessie Cowan of Galt (part of Cambridge Ontario today). She’s listed in the 1911 census as a 30-year-old niece living with her aunt Margaret who’s the head of house. Margaret’s two brother’s are also living at 72 State Street in Galt . I’m assuming Bessie was the daughter of one of the men. One man works as a Traveller for a Foundry and the other’s occupation is unreadable on the census. Bessie doesn’t have paid employment and I don’t know how she became connected to the Berlin Cook Book.
B. Cowan’s Light Fruit Cake is very nice. The colour is light compared to a traditional fruit cake and the flavour is mild too. I liked this fruit cake. There are enough raisins, citron and walnuts for flavour and texture but they don’t overwhelm the cake. The cake doesn’t have any other flavouring and that might be the only drawback if you want this to be your special fruit cake this season. A modern cook might add a little something alcoholic or even a touch of vanilla or a bit of spice to make it seem more like a special occasion cake. I imagine the nut frosting would make a big difference to the cake. I think I’ll try making that tomorrow because after a busy day of cleaning, visiting, doing some shopping, dealing with my roof, and cooking, I’m ready to relax now.
I wonder how Miss Cowan used this cake. Was it served to her father, uncle and aunt or was it for a tea with other women from her Presbyterian church?
LIGHT FRUIT CAKE
1/ 2 cup butter, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup milk, 4 egg whites, 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 cup raisins, stoned and chopped fine, 2 ounces citron cut fine, 1/3 cup walnuts cut in pieces. Cream the butter, add gradually the sugar, then the fruit and nuts, beat the egg whites to a stiff froth and add. Sift the flour and baking powder together and add to the first mixture, alternately with the milk. Bake in moderate oven 45 minutes. Cover with nut frosting.