I’ve been asked, on occasion, what do I as a Wiccan do during that holiday season that usually starts in late November and lasts through the end of December. Do I "do anything" for the holidays, or celebrate in any way? Do I put up the usual decorations, a tree, etc.?
Well, at my house we do indeed get festive, but we call the season by an older name: Yuletide. One of Wicca’s major holidays occurs during this time, on the Winter Solstice (generally December 21 or 22), and it is known as Yule. On that evening, we’ll do ritual to mark the rebirth of the Oak King and the return of the Sun.
Now, in most Wiccan rituals at a certain point we share cakes and wine. This is done partly, of course, as a communal sharing of food and drink. It has another, ritually important purpose – to ground the participants and close their psychic centers. We tend to use a non-alcoholic drink such as apple juice or fizzy grape juice, since my partner doesn’t drink. At this time of year, however, there’s usually only one choice for the ‘cakes’ – fruitcake!
(creepy organ music) Yes, Fruitcake!
We use fruitcake for three important reasons:
— It’s made of fruits and nuts, which are the bounty of the Earth;
— It’s one of my all-time favorites (I’ve been known to make it in the dead of summer
— and I’m usually leading
, so we use what I
say we use!
Of course I know all the jokes about holiday fruitcake. I’ve heard them all, and the mucky stuff you can buy in grocery stores (misleadingly labeled “fruitcake”) deserves every epithet ever thrown at it. However, the recipe given below is the real thing.
This recipe will produce a marvelous, tasty, homemade cake that’s unlike any of those commercially-produced insults. Follow the directions, and you’ll have a delicious cake that’ll likely change the mind of anyone that samples it. And, all kidding aside, making and enjoying this fruitcake has become a long-standing tradition at my house.
Ready then? Here we go.
WP’s YULETIDE FRUITCAKE
You’ll need a very large bowl for mixing the fruit, and a slightly smaller one for mixing the flour and spices. Preheat the oven to 300° Fahrenheit (150° celsius, or gas mark 2). You’ll also need one bottle of dark rum for flavoring, and for ‘soaking’ the cakes.
What you bake the cakes in is a matter of choice; you can use a bundt pan, for example, but I usually use the small aluminum loaf pans available at most larger grocery stores. This recipe will make two to three of the larger loaf pans; or four to six of the smaller ones. Whichever you use, be sure to spray them with non-stick cooking spray.
Mix the following ingredients in the large bowl:
- 1 cup (250 ml) melted butter (not margarine!)
- 1 cup (250 g) sugar (if you don't want to use sugar, you can use Splenda, but don't use any other sugar substitute, it won't work!)
- 5 large eggs
Then, add the following ingredients:
- 2 pounds (1000 g) candied fruit mix (sold as "fruitcake mix")
- 1 pound (500 g) red candied cherries
- 1 pound (500 g) green candied cherries
- ½ pound (250 g) candied citron (optional, but I like it!)
- 1 pound (500 g) red candied pineapple
- 1 pound (500 g) green candied pineapple
- 1 pound (500 g) regular color candied pineapple
- ½ cup (250 g) chopped English walnuts (you can use black walnuts, but they will change the flavor slightly)
- ½ cup (250 g) chopped pecans
- ½ cup (250 g) raisins (sultanas)
- ½ cup (250 g) golden raisins
- 1 cup (500 g) chopped dates
- ½ cup (125 ml) milk
- ½ cup (125 ml) dark molasses or sorghum
- 1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla
- ½ cup (125 ml) orange juice
Still with me? Good. Once you get that all mixed, add:
(Now, you might want to just sample the rum
to make sure it’s good-quality stuff. Never hurts.)
Set this mixture aside for the moment, and in the smaller bowl mix:
- 2½ cups (750 g) all-purpose flour (do not use self-rising flour!)
- 1 tsp. (5 ml) baking powder
- ½ tsp. (2.5 ml) salt
- ¼ tsp (1.5 ml) nutmeg
- ½ tsp (2.5 ml) mace
- ½ tsp (2.5 ml) allspice
- ½ tsp (2.5 ml) cinnamon
For best results, this mixture should be sifted, but it’s not absolutely necessary. Stir the flour mixture into the fruit mixture, taking care to mix thoroughly. If you wish, have another sample of the rum to make sure it’s not gone bad while you’ve had the bottle open. Remember, you’ll need that rum for basting the cakes!
Spoon the fruitcake batter into the baking pans, up to about a half-inch from the tops of the pans. The cakes will not rise very much, so you can fill the pans a bit more than as for regular cakes. If you wish, you can garnish the tops with more cherries and pineapple, or perhaps chopped almonds, but at this point I usually think that would be overkill.
Bake the cakes for at least two hours. At the end of that time, test for doneness by inserting a knife blade or cake tester into one of the cakes. They’re done when the tester comes out clean. Depending on your oven, the cakes may require an additional half-hour to hour of baking time.
When the cakes are finished baking, set them out to cool, preferably on wire racks. Later, when they are absolutely cold, you can begin the “soaking in rum” process, which is nothing more than basting them with rum on a regular basis. I use a pastry brush for this purpose.
Then, leaving the cakes in their pans, cover each with aluminum foil and set them in a cool place to age. I usually put rum on mine at least once a week for about a month although, if you can’t wait, you can dig into one immediately. They will improve with aging, though. And, of course, just before you put away the rum, do pour yourself just a bit more, you’ve worked hard and deserve a bit of relaxation!
Written for The Ninjagirls Christmas Special.