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English Fruit Cake

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So, this is the first real recipe out of Hermena’s cookbook.  It was not part of the original cookbook but instead, she apparently cut it out and glued (pasted) it in.   She even used her pinking shears to cut the edges – and I remember those shears in her kitchen when I was a kid.  (I also now have a new pair in my sewing room that I use – predates serger sewing machines and clips a curved seam like magic!)

Because baby Eleanor and I are now gluten free, I’ve updated the recipe and made it gluten free (gf), too.  And it still tastes yummy.

And my husband loved it.  You should know that he HATES bananas.  He tried this voluntarily even though I thought he might be ill for doing so.  I never intentionally trick him into eating something I know he doesn’t like.  So was very surprised at his trying it AND liking it.  That should be sufficient testimony that this is a very yummy recipe!

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So, while this may be CALLED fruit cake, it really seems to me to be more of a banana bread with fruit in it.  In fact, because of the stigma attached to fruit cakes, I would not tell anyone what the real name is if you make it.  🙂

That said – what IS a fruit cake?  It is a cake made with chopped candied fruit (maraschino cherries) and/or dried fruit, nuts, spices and sometimes soaked in alcohol.  It is an old timey recipe and this combination is for a reason – to preserve fruit to eat later.

Long ago, before electricity (or even the internet!) storing food was a problem.  Drying fruit worked well but… so does making candied fruit – which is fresh fruit boiled in a sugar syrup – trading the water in the fruit for sugar.  High concentrations of sugar prevent bacteria and mold from growing – so the fruit is preserved.  With the developement of sugar plantations in the Caribbean in the 1500’s following the western discovery of the new world, sugar suddenly became plentiful and so much cheaper – allowing many more people to preserve their fruit in this manner.

Along these lines, rum is often frequently used in fruit cake.  Rum is made from sugar cane juice (sugar cane is a grass – the juice is squeezed out and the sugar is extracted from the juice – so yes, sugar is just grass juice) and because alcohol also stops bacteria and other creepy crawlies from doing their thing on food, it also was an excellent means of food preservation.

So, you combine a whole lot of candied and dried fruits with a flour dough and then soak them in alcohol and you then have an excellent way to preserve food all winter long.  Makes you appreciate your local grocery store a bit more now doesn’t it!

English Fruit Cake

On to the recipe…

If you aren’t gluten free, you don’t need to worry about this, but if you are, this is the flour mix that I used.

GF Flour Mix – makes 3 cups

2 c white rice flour

2/3 c potato starch flour

1/3 c tapioca flour

1 t xantham gum

English Fruit Cake – updated

1/2 c coconut oil
1 c sugar
2 eggs
3 bananas, mashed (about 1 1/2 c. mashed bananas)
2 c flour
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
1/2 c nuts, chopped
1/2 c chocolate chips – mini works better
16 oz jar stemless maraschino cherries – chop 2/3 of the jar (about 1/2 c) and slice the remaining in 1/2

Directions

Cream together coconut oil and sugar. Add eggs and mix well. Add bananas.

Sift flour, baking soda and salt together and add to batter.

Fold in the nuts, chocolate chips and chopped cherries.

Pour into greased angel food or bunt cake pan.  Top with cherry halves.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 55 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean.

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It really came out well, not terribly tall, but yummy still.  Mini chocolate chips will work better – the big ones sank down to the bottom of the cake.  Still good though!  (I made the first one without adding the cherries to the top – I like the extra ones showing better!)

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The second version of this cake baked a bit long… and got a bit dark.  Ah well, tasted yummy so no matter!

So, I hope you enjoy this first of many recipes from my Grandma’s cookbook.  Have a lovely day!

Hermena’s Cook Book

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beersm

Recently, my little family and I went to the beach and to Moody Gardens (in Galveston TX).  It was great fun!  Pictures of that to come.  But, while we were there, my oldest daughter caught a little cold bug with a fever for one day… no big deal.  Then, the baby caught it a few days later.  And 5 days later she still has a fever and is fussy and not sleeping at night … and neither am I.  I’m also not getting much of anything else done.  And we get to go to the doctor before the weekend hits…

front of book

front of book

But, on the way to the beach, we stopped at my lovely aunt Virginia’s house.  We were catching up and talking about my blog and clothespin bags and how I love old cookbooks and… and much to my surprise, she had my paternal grandmother’s cookbook!  First, I didn’t even know it existed and second, I had no idea that Virginia had it.  It’s in tough shape to be sure, many pages from front and back, including the covers, are missing.  But she said that this was the book that as a kid, they used every day.  It was a book that my grandmother used every day.  She passed last year at age 99 and was an amazing lady is so many ways.  Raising 5 kids in cloth diapers with no washing machine.  Raising any kids at all on a farm in the middle of the dust bowl.  Raising a huge garden, canning and freezing and… the memories that I have (we lived 1/2 mile from my grandparents) of picking every last cherry on the tree and ALL of the strawberries and picking potato beetles and putting them into a jar of kerosene for a penny each and….

back of book

back of book

So, now I have both grandmothers and one great grandmothers cookbooks.  And, I also have a collection of cut out recipes from one of my husbands grandmothers.  These to me are the things that are important.  They give insight into what they liked, what they ate, who they were.  Despite my grandma’s wanting to throw this book in the trash, it is a true treasure and I’m so glad that my aunt retrieved it.

And, much of what is inside is funny.  This is a beer ad in the book.  Notice the “now that this healthful brew has returned to the home” part?  That’s because prohibition ended in 1933 – 6 years previous!  In the 13 years since they had outlawed alcohol (it started in 1920 with the 18th ammendment and ended in 1933 with the 21st ammendment) many home cooks likely stoped using beer.  So, the industry needed to get people consuming it agian – either through drinking it or cooking with it.  Just a little line in an ad and all of the controvery of the early 1900’s is encapsulated.  They helpfully included a recipe for beer sauce – which I think I need to try making!  Then, below it you’ll notice this: “The sight of beer, the smell of beer, the taste of beer were as common to the senses as….(the) chaste smell of starch”.  Hillarious!  I’ve NEVER associated being chaste and starch together before.  Or knew that gingham cloth smelled frugal?  Not to mention I have no idea what sassafras tea smells like either.

I’ve looked through the rest of what I have and can’t find the other beer recipe that is mentioned in the ad.  I want to get a copy of a better condition book and take pictures of the rest of the pages….  The book is as far as I know only found in one university library in Kansas… published in 1939 from the town (Seneca KS) where my grandma was from.  And of course, the page with the most stains, so likely the greatest use – the cookie page.  🙂

Oh, and I linked up to a blog hop on all things domestic, farm, home made… you know – fun stuff!  It’s the Creative Home Acre Hop.  You can find the rest of the blogs in the hope at Mumtopia… Ciao!

I have a recipe ready to write up from this book.  As soon as my baby gives me a minute I’ll get that posted.  For now – I hope you enjoy!