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[P]
A Cylindrical Yuletide Heart Attack

By yicky yacky in Culture
Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 07:43:03 AM EST
Tags: Food (all tags)
Food

Workaholic parents and a hectic December schedule combined to dictate that a fourteen-year-old boy was once asked to prepare and cook the family Christmas Cake.

Drowning in a sea of uncertainty, the boy did the wisest thing possible, and telephoned his Gran. Armed with a 'secret' recipe, the freedom of access to the drinks cabinet dawned on him, and a creeping rictus grin spread slowly across his face as the light of inspiration burned in his eyes. Somewhere, Strauss' 'Also Sprach Zarathustra' (real audio) played in the background. Whatever had his parents had been thinking? They were asking for trouble.

The facts become more than a little vague here...

The real story, however, is the reception the resulting cake received. Not only were the boy's parents ecstatic with the result, but were beseiged for days with requests for the recipe from friends and guests alike. Even people with tenuous connection to the family mentioned having heard of the gastronomic monstrosity in question.

Unwittingly, the lad had hewn a millstone for his own neck. Despite being no better than 'mediocre' at cooking most dishes, he has since been the 'designated baker' of Christmas cakes, both for the family and others, sometimes for pay (the cheap whore...), for well over twelve years. Experience and natural selection have honed the 'product' into something that, in a soft light, vaguely resembles the slightly uglier and calorifically-unchallenged second cousin of Perfection.

I was that boy and, yes, this is that cake...


A UK-Style Christmas Cake for Dummies...
and Kurons...
and Surfers...
and Hackers... and Students... and People...
and Slackers...
and stuff...

PREAMBLE

Before embarking upon this epic adventure, a few comments are in order.

Firstly, this is not the 'definitive' Christmas cake. There is no such thing. Many fine cakes derived from superb, varying recipes have been produced over the years, often diversifying according to region. I do not promise to deliver the finest cake in existence. However, if you follow these instructions in a rough, approximate manner (more on this below), I can promise a cake that qualifies as being, at the very least, very bloody good, even approaching exceptional should fate and skill deem it so.

Secondly, depending on your confidence: Improvise at will!
These are guidelines, nothing more. When I said 'roughly' above, I meant it. Depart from the beaten path whenever you feel it is right. Many elements go in to producing the killer cake: It is the result of a balance determined by the ingredients (and proportions thereof), the environment (the oven in question, the baking tin used, the heat settings etc.) and other factors determined by nothing more than personal preference. 'Better' cakes can be achieved by accident as often as by design. If you are inexperienced with making cakes, or have difficulty gauging the consistency, don't worry; following these instructions exactly will reward you with some top-notch scran.

Thirdly, the recipe allows for different options (with regard to both ingredients and preparation) at certain points, but rigid obedience at others, depending upon the point from which you decide to start. These will be mentioned in the text, at the risk of taking the reader on elliptical tangents in the case of the options.

Fourthly, this is not a cute little recipe in a book with soft-focus images and terse, simplistic, beguiling text. If you need a tasty picture of Nigella Lawson to take your mind off the pain; here it is in advance. This a treatise on "how it's actually done". As a result, it's much longer than the average recipe; the hope being to pre-answer a lot of the "How the...?" and "Why...?" questions that the books often throw up, but mysteriously fail to answer. The secrets behind making a great Christmas cake are basic logistics (doing the right things in the right order) and effort.

Fifthly, the question of why to bother learning how to cook your own Christmas cake often arises (possibly even more so here, a site whose readership is mostly male). To begin with, sex doesn't come into it (actually, it does - see later - but that's a different area), so here are some reasons:

  • i.) Cakes cooked at home are almost always better than those bought from a shop. They just are. Fact.
  • ii.) Learning new skills is always beneficial.

If neither of those points have sold you, this one just might:

  • iii.) Women love it. They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. I can testify that the converse is also true. Granted, when you're dealing with a cake packing enough calories and joules to provide the annual power supply of a small country, the women that tend to be impressed exhibit a certain bias toward the ... erm ... Rubenesque (shrivelled celery-gnawers don't dare touch this stuff). However; a.) not all exhibit this bias, and b.) if you've got issues with that, you'll have to seek professional help on your own: I'm a Christmas-cake ninja, not a doctor...

Lastly, you don't have to be Christian (I'm not), or have any particular love for Christmas to enjoy this fare. At a pragmatic level, it is outstanding power-food. If you've got a hard day of physical labour ahead of you, a slice of this stuff will keep the motor turning for hours.

Preparation Time: 1 to 2 hours
Cooking Time: 3 to 7 hours (depending upon technique)
Difficulty: Medium. Plenty of elbow grease required, and some patience, but the rewards and sense of satisfaction are worth it.

REQUIREMENTS

Hardware

  • An Oven.
  • Measuring Scales.
  • A Cake Tin - It should be somewhere in the 9-11 inch (22.8-27.9 centimetre) region, diameter-wise, to match the ingredient measurements below; if not, adjust accordingly. If at all possible, the tin must be a loose-based one, where the tin tapers slightly outwards as it increases in height, and the base can be completely removed by pushing upwards from underneath. If you don't have one of these, it is still possible to make the cake, but vastly more care should be taken when the cake is baking (to ensure it is not burning) and when removing it from the tin (see the note 'WTF am I doing this for?' at the end of the 'Paper Preparation' section below). In practice, it may well be easier to beg, steal, borrow or buy a loose-based tin, rather than deal with the resultant frustrations of trying to use something else.
  • Mixing Bowls - Ideally one very large bowl, one large bowl and one medium-sized bowl. It is possible to make the cake with fewer, but you'll save yourself a lot of hassle if you can muster up these three containers from somewhere. All bowls except the 'very-large' one can be replaced with other containers (tupperware / large saucepans etc.) if necessary.
  • A Small Measuring Jug - This can be replaced by one small bowl (cereal-bowl-sized is sufficient) or even a pint glass or beaker if necessary. A jug is better as it aids pouring, but is not compulsory.
  • A Cheese-grater (with an area for 'fine' grating).
  • Utensils - sharp knives, wooden spoons, a fork or whisk, a chopping board, scissors, string and a pencil.
  • A Food Processor - Completely optional, and is not required at all if you buy your almonds (see ingredients) already having been ground.
  • Brown Paper - A 'decent' amount: 1 metre x 1 metre probably won't suffice. 1 metre x 2 metres is better. You won't need any single piece wider than just over twice the height of the sides of the tin, so don't worry about exact measurements.
  • Grease-proof Paper - Same amount as of brown paper.
  • A long, thin Needle or Pin - The longer and thinner, the better.
  • Some spare Butter or Margarine - This is not listed under 'Ingredients' as it is to be used for cake tin greasing, and not cooking.

Ingredients

As with any large project, it is useful to think of this enterprise as smaller stages which then come together to form the final whole. To avoid confusion, the ingredients are listed here in terms of their 'stages'. This should make them easier to keep track of when it comes to the 'making' itself.

IMPORTANT NOTE: In the interests of avoiding any mistakes of the Mars-Climate-Orbiter variety, the following measurements are predominantly in imperial, but the metric equivalents are also supplied. An idiosyncratic caveat is that the U.K. tablespoon measure is larger than the U.S. equivalent, but the opposite is true for the teaspoon measurement. Also: millilitre (ml) is exactly the same as cubic centimetre (cc). All measurements are represented in U.K. values, and the relative metric conversions have been derived from onlineconversion.com.

The 'Powder' Stage:

  • 12 oz (340 g) Plain Flour.
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) Cinnamon - Use a 'heaped' teaspoon here if you'd like a slightly spicier cake - I tend to.
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) Ground Mixed Spice - If you cannot get this, it is essentially an equal blend of Cinnamon, Coriander, Clove, Nutmeg, Pimento and Ginger, all ground into a fine powder. Again; use a 'heaped' teaspoon to boost the spice factor.
  • 0.5 teaspoon (2.5 ml) Salt - The finer the better. If you have a penchant for rock or sea salt, grind it up first.

The 'Fruit' Stage:

  • 2 lbs (907 g) Dried Fruit - This is one of the places where you can go wild if you're feeling adventurous. Here, I would recommend: 1 lb (453 g) Currants; 8 oz (227 g) Raisins and 8 oz (227 g) Sultanas. This will give you an awesome cake, but dried apricots (chopped), pineapple (chopped), as well as anything you feel like using, are all viable alternatives. The only condition is that any alternatives you use must be pared down into units no larger than a medium-sized grape, and preferably much smaller (raisin-sized). If any of the cut-down individual masses is too sticky, roll them in a light dusting of flour to take the edge off, or rinse them under a cold tap for several minutes and leave them to dry in a warm (hygienic!) location. An additional (and very optional) embellishment is to weigh, prepare and mix together this dried fruit the night before cooking, and leave it to soak overnight in a large bowl (reasonably full) of your favourite cake-friendly alcoholic beverage. Recommendations for this include brandy and sherry.
  • 4 oz (114 g) of Glac Cherries.
  • 4 oz (114 g) of Italian Mixed Peel, also known as Candied Peel.
  • 4 oz (114 g) of Blanched Almonds. This is another area where experimentation is possible. If you're a creature of the 'easy life', get hold of a packet of Ground Almonds, as these are all you need, and will serve you admirably. The more adventurous can try preparing their own almonds in numerous ways. One recommendation is to bake or grill the almonds (optionally coating in a thin sugar glaze first) before grinding in a food processor: This will give them a toasty-roasty taste and texture. Whatever you do, aim to end up with ground almond pieces anywhere between a bread crumb and a small peanut in size (according to taste).
  • 1 Lemon.

The 'Juice' Stage:

  • 4 medium-sized Eggs.
  • 5 tablespoons (93 ml) of 'Juice' - In this context, 'Juice' denotes 'your favourite hooch'. Classical 'Juice' is usually one of Sherry, Brandy, Port or Scotch, depending on your palette. Sherry and Port will result in a sweeter cake mix, whereas Brandy and Scotch will have a more refined, bitter edge. I'd steer away from using pure Scotch (much as I love the stuff) as this tends to result in a cake that edges just a shade too far towards the 'sour' end of the spectrum. The 'Juice' does not have to consist of just one type of drink. Good cake-oriented 'Juice' blends include 4-parts-brandy-to-one-part-scotch and four-parts-sherry-to-one-part-port, but it's your cake: go nuts! For serving Presidents, and others of restraint, Milk will serve just almost as well.

The 'Gak' Stage:

  • 8 oz (227 g) of Butter or Margarine.
  • 8 oz (227 g) of Sugar - Granulated and Caster sugar will work wonderfully but, if you can, get your hands on some Demerara, as this gives the finest end result.
  • 1 tablespoon (~20 ml) Dark Treacle AKA Molasses

PREPARATION

There are a handful of (pretty damn tedious and aggravating) tasks which are easier to get out of the way before diving headlong into cookery.

Paper Preparation

This preparation relates to the loose-based cake tin mentioned earlier. Notes for other tin types and why these shenanigans are necessary are at the end of this section. This part can get pretty damn frustrating, so attempt to maintain a Zen-like calm or, better still, grab an extra pair of helping hands from somewhere. This is the trickiest aspect of the whole deal: If you nail this one, it's all downhill afterwards.

1.) Remove the base from the cake tin and place it face-down on the brown paper. Using the base as a template, draw around it with the pencil to make a perfect circle. Repeat this so that you have two non-overlapping circles. You can score these circles with scissors or an appropriate implement if the pencil-graphite worries you. Cut them out so that you have two circular shapes of brown paper the same size as the cake tin base.

2.) Roughly measure the height of the cake tin, add at least two inches (five makes life easier), and double it; so that if your tin is seven inches high, your final figure should be at least 18 inches, and ideally 24 inches. Now; cut an oblong of grease-proof paper with a height of the figure you just calculated, and long enough to stretch around the circumference of the tin with a bit of overlap. Fold this piece of cut paper in half lengthwise.

3.) Cut a rough square of grease-proof paper far larger than the base of the cake tin (which should not have been put back into the cake tin itself - if it has, take it out again). Place the two circles of brown paper that you cut previously on to the base of the tin, in place, and lay this new sheet of grease-proof paper over the top. Fold back the overlapping edges of this grease-proof sheet under the bottom of the circular base and force a folded ridge around the edges so that you have two layers of brown paper and a layer of grease-proof paper between the base's 'cooking face' and the outside world with the grease-proof paper wrapped around and folded back underneath.

4.) Using butter or margarine (not the stuff from the 'Ingredients' section) lightly grease the insides of the cake tin, but not the separated base. This grease is not there to help directly with cooking, but to help keep some grease-proof paper in place for the next tricky section. Now; take the folded oblong of grease-proof paper you just cut, and line the inside of the tin with it until it overlaps (this sounds far easier than it actually is). Hopefully, the grease should help it stick. Because the tin is slightly conical / tapered, this paper won't fit flushly and keep a perfect 'hoop'; the best you can manage is an off-centre fold-over whereby the extra width you calculated earlier still allows the whole of the tin's walls' inner sides to be double-lined. Now for the really tricky part...

5.) As soon as you have the above structure temporarily in place, take the prepared cake tin base (keeping its wrapper snare-skin tight) and place it back in the tin, disturbing your pre-arranged grease-proof wallpaper as little as possible. Once you get it even half-right, decide if "It'll do". If the jerry-built construction can be cut or resculpted in any way to make it fit, then contemplate doing so: We're after function here, not fashion.
IMPORTANT: The aim of this whole stupid endeavour is to end up with a fully reconstructed cake tin whereby the walls are completely doubled-lined with grease-proof paper and the base is completely triple-lined (two layers of brown paper and a top layer of grease-proof paper) thus heat-shielding every single part of the cake mixture from any contact with the metal of the cake-tin itself. This is the easiest way of doing it that I have found. If you have better luck with any other method; go for it. The catch-phrase of this section is "By any means necessary..."

6.) The difficulty of step 5 over, all that remains is more 'gift-wrapping'. Cut a rectangle of brown paper the same size and shape as the rectangle of grease-proof paper that you cut in step 2. Fold it in half along its length. Wrap this 'belt' around the outside of the cake tin and tie it in place using a length of the string. You're after genuine natural string and not nylon-based synthetics: Nylon melts...
If you are having problems tying the string tight enough, a good trick is to use the cake tin's taper to your advantage. Tie the string as tight as you can manage towards the bottom edge of the cake tin; you can then manipulate the string loop up towards half-way, and it will naturally tighten as the diameter of the tin increases. If there is any gratuitous excess paper above or below the line of cake tin, feel free to use the scissors to cut it away, but try to keep two extra inches of paper above the tin for shielding puposes. Just trim enough in order to get the tin to stand up properly. When all that is achieved, lightly (but thoroughly) grease the grease-proof-paper-covered walls and base of the inside of the tin with butter or margarine.

Alternative Method: Instead of trying to hoop-line the insides of the tin as described in Step 4, there is an easier way if grease-proof paper is present in abundance. Cut a very long strip of paper (sometimes more than 12 feet) and wrap it around the 'hoop' of the tin (like a tennis player replacing a 'grip'), both inside and out, all the way round until the whole thing is covered. The difference with this method is that you: have to cut this wrapping away after baking; have to make sure that every point is at least double-lined, and ensure that it is not wrapped so thickly as to make it impossible to get the base back in.

"WTF am I doing this for?"

Good question. The answer lies in the fact that sugar, butter, fruit and alcohol all burn incredibly easily, and this cake has much higher quantities and proportions of all of them than most others. The aim of this process is to shield the cake tin from the direct heat of the oven, whilst at the same time shielding the cake itself from the direct heat of the tin so that it bakes in a uniform manner. There are also benefits in terms of damage-to-the-tin, easy cake extraction, grease absorption, basic insulation and protection-for-humans. For these reasons, it is much harder to make this cake using other styles of tin. It is possible, but you have to engage in 'creative lining'. Recent tins have been designed with this in mind. Having not used one, I couldn't comment as to their efficacy. What is certain is that, if you use the lining outlined above, the baking process should go smoothly every time.

Other Preparation

The remaining preparation simply involves getting the Glac cherries and lemon into a usable state.

Preparing the cherries is a monotonous task. All that needs to be done is for each cherry to be chopped up. You can use the cherries whole if you like, but this will leave them sparsely scattered throughout the cake, and eating a complete cherry in one bite is a bit much for any 'eater'. They need to chopped into between 4 and 8 pieces each. 6 is a good compromise between size and distribution. I'd caution against using a food processor for this task: The size of the resultant pieces is hard to predict (If you think you can, go for your life).

The only part of the lemon we're interested in is the zest, or rind. Using the cheese grater on a fine setting (a carpenters 'rasp' can be creatively employed here instead), grate the rind of the lemon into a bowl. Stop when the surface is mostly white (i.e. you're taking the pith).

IN THE MIX

The time has come to switch into 'full cookery mode'. After the chicanery of preparing the cake tin, most of this is very simple. To make things easier, I will refer to the three mixing bowls mentioned in the 'Hardware' section above as follows: The 'very-large' bowl will be called the 'V bowl'; the large bowl will be the 'L bowl', and the medium bowl the 'M bowl' (let nobody claim this website is lacking in creative thought!).

The basic process involves mixing all the 'stages' into separate containers, and then blending these together.

1.) Powder: Sieve together the Powder Stage ingredients into the M bowl. If you think they've not mixed enough, mix them up some more in situ using a fork, whisk or wooden spoon. Don't worry too much about preserving the purity of their sieved state; we can sieve them more later if need be.

2.) Fruit: Wash your hands. Put the lemon zest, the chopped Glac cherries and all the other members of the Fruit Stage into the L bowl. Using your spotless hands, mix them thoroughly until all the varying types of fruit and nuts are evenly distributed amongst each other. If your bowl is large enough, once you have them 'slightly' mixed-up, you can continue by using a wooden spoon.

3.) 'Juice': Break the four eggs into the small measuring jug. Whisk them together using your favourite utensil. Some may prefer a whisk, but a fork is often easier and quicker, especially if you are blessed with the svelte wrist-action of a connoisseur (i.e. the denizens of the Diary-Ghetto). You are not aiming for 'frothy', just 'blended'. Once the eggs are mixed, pour in your 'Juice'. A little excess is not to be worried about. Whisk the mixture until even.

4.) Gak: This section can require a significant amount of energy expenditure. From this point forth, all the extra physical effort you care to exert will reap dividends. If you think you can get something more even despite the fact you've been mixing non-stop for fifteen minutes, do so.
Place all the Gak Stage ingredients in the V bowl. Eventually, everything ends up in here, but don't do that yet.
Adding the treacle / molasses requires some patience as its tarry nature makes it pretty hard to measure accurately so there are two options.
One: When making the cake, either pour off one chunky tablespoonful and wait for Halley's Comet to return (it'll take that long for the stuff to completely drain into the bowl) or...
Two: Tip in the immediately-droppable part of one spoonful and then, without waiting, tip in another (you can rinse the spoon under a hot tap, or leave it to drain back into its tin / jar afterwards): This will result in approximately the same amount actually getting into the mix.
You should have a gloopy-looking mess consisting of the majority of a block of butter, a fistful of sugar, and some brown tar-like gunk. Using a combination of a fork and a wooden spoon begin to pound, mash and blend this mess until it slowly becomes an even, consistent, granular brown cream. This can take some time. Whatever you do, do not 'pop it in the microwave' to make the butter easier to blend: This can ruin both the taste and the consistency. Keep going until it's as well-blended and creamy as possible. This stage is much easier if you are using margarine, but doesn't end up tasting quite as nice.

5.) 'The Switch': Add fractions of both the Powder and Juice mixtures into the V bowl (containing the Gak mix) and thoroughly blend it together before adding each subsequent fraction. This can seem frustrating, but it is the best way to get a smooth, productive cake mix. I'd recommend doing it in four or five stages so that, in effect, you're adding a quarter of each mixture each time before blending. Patience pays off here. Keep going until all of the three mixtures are blended together in a smooth-ish, brown, rich cream. Stick a (clean) finger in and taste it. Sweeeeeet, huh? Good; we're in business...

6.) The only thing left is to mix in the fruit. Do it slowly, a bit at a time. The end product should have a consistency somewhat similar to partially-dried cement. If, using a normal wooden spoon, you can pick up a chunk about the size of a small grapefruit (the sticky texture holding it together) you're where you want to be. Using a wooden spoon, transfer the mixture into the pre-built cake-tin construction. When it's completely transferred, spread and smooth it down so that it properly fills the tin and has a fairly flat surface. Don't compact or flatten it too much., though.

COOKING

There are a number of ways to bake this baby, depending upon your taste, time and oven. I'll outline three methods here: Fast, medium and slow. These methods should work well enough, but experiment to get it right. It's your oven; adjust accordingly. If you are using a fan oven, decrease the following temperatures appropriately; this recipe originates from a time before such devices existed.

Baking this cake is very much a 'play it by ear' scenario. There are no hard and fast rules. Check it periodically, to tell if it's done. If you've gone overboard with the 'liquid contents', it will need to be cooked for longer, and probably on a lower heat to stop it burning.

The definition of 'done' here is contingent upon your taste. At the very least, the cake should be firm, well-baked, a dark golden-brown, and spring back with healthy resistance when the top is gently depressed. Stick a thin knife into the centre: If any cake-mix residue is visible on the blade after pulling it back out, it needs a bit longer (currant / raisin juice / residue is ok - there will always be some of this, unless you bake it to charcoal). The cake works well whether gently or heavily cooked. Some people like a rich, burned ochre-ish taste, in which case you leave it for a bit longer.

WARNING: If you have a gas (naked-flame) oven, be sure to keep the tin a fair distance from the blue flame itself; both brown paper and string are rather partial to combustion under the right conditions.

Fast Method (3 to 4 hours)

  • Preheat the oven to 150C (300F).
  • Bake at this temperature for one and a half hours.
  • Turn the oven down to 135C (275F) and bake for a further one and a half to two and a half hours, checking occasionally.

Medium Method (3.5 to 5 hours)

  • Preheat the oven to 150C (300F).
  • Bake at this temperature for one and a half hours.
  • Turn the oven down to 120C (250F) and bake for a further two to three and a half hours, checking occasionally.

Slow Method (4.5 to 7 hours)

  • Preheat the oven to 175C (350F).
  • Bake at this temperature for 45 minutes.
  • Turn the oven right down to 90-100C (195-212F) and bake for as long as it takes. This will usually be in the 5 to 6.5 hour region, sometimes longer.

When the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and leave to stand for two or three hours. When moderately cool, gently bash the base of the tin from underneath until the cake starts to emerge. Unwrap any paper that may have come with it; carefully peel off the base and leave on a wire-mesh cake-rack (if you have one - a plate will do otherwise) to air and cool completely.

POST-BAKING TWEAKAGE

So you have your cake; what now?

In the traditional scenario, this cake is baked three weeks prior to when it is to be eaten (Seriously: Don't worry about this - it tastes awesome the next day). In this (or a similar) circumstance, wrap the cake in tin foil and, optionally, store it in a cake tin. If your tastes tend towards the ... erm ... boozy, pierce the top of the cake (not the foil) 10 to 20 times with the long pin and pour a dram of your favourite libation evenly over the top, allowing it to sink in. Repack in foil and store. Add a dram in this manner every three or four days until the cake is to be eaten.

Many people like icing and marzipan on their cakes. Information on how to do this can be found at various places online.

Optionally, you can forget about all that stuff and just eat it.

Enjoy.

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Poll
Cake?
o I'm making it! 10%
o I'm faking it! 8%
o That's what I pay bakers for... 17%
o I don't believe in Christmas 17%
o I don't believe in cake 13%
o I believe I can fly... 32%

Votes: 46
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Display: Sort:
A Cylindrical Yuletide Heart Attack | 106 comments (77 topical, 29 editorial, 3 hidden)
Can you use something other than almonds? (2.60 / 5) (#10)
by psidragon on Thu Dec 18, 2003 at 08:46:50 PM EST

I just so happen to be allergic to those, so I'm wondering if theres a viable alternative that you've tried.
-
Curiosity is a great motivator. Fear is greater still.
Sure! (3.00 / 4) (#11)
by yicky yacky on Thu Dec 18, 2003 at 09:02:00 PM EST

Pecan nuts, peanuts and walnuts will all work too.

If you're allergic to all varieties of nut, dried banana chunks are excellent. Broken biscuit (cookie) chunks and honeycomb pieces can work (but these two result in a slightly different kind of cake). I know people who've even used cola cubes (but I really wouldn't recommend it).

Use anything you feel like (and feel might work). If you want to play safe, just skip the almonds and throw in bit more of any of the others - still tastes delicious.




yicky yacky
**************
'The actual reasonable Britons are correct, you're being a cock.' - Hide The Hamster.
[ Parent ]
Yest another great link (none / 2) (#41)
by nebbish on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 09:24:40 AM EST

On the strength of which I went out and bought a bag.

---------
Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee
[ Parent ]

For what, exactly, (none / 1) (#62)
by metalfan on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 04:37:55 PM EST

does one use cola cubes?  Also, of what are they made?

[ Parent ]
They are an example of (none / 1) (#65)
by yicky yacky on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 05:11:25 PM EST

Ye Olde British Boylde Sweete.

During the cretaceous period, you could wander into a wood-beamed shoppe and buy them for ~15 pence for a quarter-ounce-worth. Of course, these days, most kids are interested in quarter-ounces of other things, usually much more expensive...




yicky yacky
**************
'The actual reasonable Britons are correct, you're being a cock.' - Hide The Hamster.
[ Parent ]
Ah still avn't the foggiest what you're on about (none / 0) (#71)
by metalfan on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 06:32:59 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Prophylactics. (none / 0) (#75)
by Zerotime on Sat Dec 20, 2003 at 01:23:08 AM EST

Well, what else would they be?

---
"You don't even have to drink it. You just rub it on your hips and it eats its way through to your liver."
[ Parent ]
Notwithstanding... (none / 1) (#82)
by scruffyMark on Sat Dec 20, 2003 at 04:58:36 PM EST

...coca cola's reputed spermicidal properties, a boiled sweet is in fact more like a hard caramel, or those hard sugar candies with mint or rum or whatever flavouring, than like any form of birth control I've ever encountered.

[ Parent ]
Hahaha, fuck you (1.06 / 31) (#12)
by debacle on Thu Dec 18, 2003 at 09:32:03 PM EST

I've read recipes for crystal meth shorter than this.

You can scream "ADD" all you want, but perhaps you should provide a shorter version that can be printed and taken along.

-1, until you fix the length.

It tastes sweet.

A.D....something... (none / 0) (#14)
by yicky yacky on Thu Dec 18, 2003 at 09:52:11 PM EST

What ... were you ... saying, ... again? Gee, look at that...




yicky yacky
**************
'The actual reasonable Britons are correct, you're being a cock.' - Hide The Hamster.
[ Parent ]
I was there (1.11 / 9) (#17)
by JChen on Thu Dec 18, 2003 at 10:23:38 PM EST

cuz my buddy's down,

there was nothing wrong,

with helping a buddy out.

Let us do as we say.

Um.... (none / 0) (#63)
by kshea on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 04:48:10 PM EST

What the hell does "Soccer Practice" have anything to do with Fruitca..... Oh. Hahahah :-D

[ Parent ]
thanks for sharing! (2.80 / 5) (#25)
by relief on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 02:36:15 AM EST

its been a while since we've had a recipe... i remember the bread, sourdough bread and homebrew recipes?

nice intro too. will bake.

----------------------------
If you're afraid of eating chicken wings with my dick cheese as a condiment, you're a wuss.

Best written thing on here in ages (2.85 / 7) (#29)
by nebbish on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 05:17:53 AM EST

And very amusing linkage, +1FP.

Anyone who doesn't like their cake sticky, full of cherries and 40% proof is weird, but props for giving the poor souls the option.

And I wouldn't chop the cherries much myself. Actually, I'd probably be better off with a bottle of whisky and a bowl of glace cherries... mmmmm

---------
Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee

I second that motion! The intro alone is worth it. (none / 2) (#50)
by poopi on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 12:13:24 PM EST


-----

"It's always nice to see USA set the edgy standards. First for freedom, then for the police state." - Parent ]

Definately FP+1 (none / 2) (#32)
by SlashDread on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 05:28:43 AM EST

Quelle timing! Nifty hacker/baker merge. +1fp from me.

"/Dread"

First recipe ever... (2.50 / 6) (#33)
by rusty on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 08:24:09 AM EST

...to actually make me laugh. "Svelte wrist action" indeed.

Great job. :-)

____
Not the real rusty

you mean to say.. (none / 0) (#40)
by Lord Fly on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 09:19:11 AM EST

that someone else actually submitted a recipe before?

yikes.
I am no longer the person you have come to know and love. I am now controlled by an asshole.
[ Parent ]

well (none / 1) (#52)
by mlc on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 01:27:51 PM EST

Perhaps he's read recipes somewhere else. Like, say, a cookbook. Or a recipe website.

--
So the Berne Convention is the ultimate arbiter of truth and morality. Is this like Catholicism? -- Eight Star
[ Parent ]

You're welcome. (none / 0) (#57)
by yicky yacky on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 02:08:08 PM EST

I try to maintain a healthy flippant-facetious / contributory balance on this fine site, but Contributory Bank plc phoned a few weeks weeks ago and pointed out that I'd run up a bit of an overdraft. :)




yicky yacky
**************
'The actual reasonable Britons are correct, you're being a cock.' - Hide The Hamster.
[ Parent ]
What about serving? (3.00 / 5) (#36)
by caek on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 08:43:22 AM EST

You missed out the bit where you set it on fire!

On fire? (none / 0) (#73)
by bkeeler on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 08:24:11 PM EST

That's plum pudding, not christmas cake!

...until the word "Maudling" is almost completely obscured.
[ Parent ]

Depends... (none / 0) (#87)
by adrianbaugh on Sun Dec 21, 2003 at 12:12:59 AM EST

whether you doze off while it's in the oven :-)
"'I pass the test,' she said. 'I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.'"
-
JRR Tolkien.
[ Parent ]
teaspoons and tablespoons (3.00 / 5) (#38)
by speek on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 09:09:38 AM EST

I never knew American and English tsp and Tbls differed. However, if an English tsp is 5ml, then it is essentially the same as an American tsp. If an English Tbls is 20 ml, then it is a bit larger than an American Tbls, which would be about 15ml. So, an English Tbls ~= 1 Am Tbls + 1 tsp, or 4 tsp.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees

Yup. (none / 3) (#56)
by yicky yacky on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 01:51:43 PM EST

The fact there might be a difference didn't occur until I started checking imperial/metric conversions.

According to onlineconversion.com:

  • A UK teaspoon is 4.62 ml
  • A US teaspoon is 4.92 ml

So, yeah, not very much difference at all - basically 5 ml all round. Whereas:

  • A UK tablespoon is 18.48 ml
  • A US tablespoon is 14.78 ml

So one's roughly 20 ml and the other 15 ml.
Quite what this says, I'm not sure. Americans like more sugar in their coffee and the Brits can't get food onto their plate quick enough, maybe?




yicky yacky
**************
'The actual reasonable Britons are correct, you're being a cock.' - Hide The Hamster.
[ Parent ]
Australian ones differ too (none / 1) (#76)
by kesuari on Sat Dec 20, 2003 at 02:55:20 AM EST

Metricated Australia has nice round (metric) measurements for teaspoons and tablespoons. I think they're 5 mL and 20 mL, and there's also a 15 mL measurement used by some countries. The three of us also have different cups: ours are 250 mL, but they're different in the US and UK (I'm guessing a quarter of the respective quart in both cases). I think this all goes back to the different sized gallons used. (And then, of course, Australia metricated its British ancestory in the logical and appropriate manner.)

[ Parent ]
just use google (none / 1) (#77)
by JackStraw on Sat Dec 20, 2003 at 04:36:50 AM EST

type in whatever conversion you want; it's never wrong. Even in my upper-divsion physics classes, it's never wrong.

for example:

1 US tablespoon = 14.7867648 milliliters

1 Imperial tablespoon = 17.7581714 milliliters

unless you need more than 9 significant figures to do your baking.
-The bus came by, I got on... that's when it all began.
[ Parent ]

Weight vs volume (none / 0) (#97)
by squid ca on Mon Dec 22, 2003 at 09:27:15 AM EST

Also note that, for the larger, dry measurements at least, the measuements are by weight, not by volume (as is done in North America). Thus, the 12oz of plain flour doesn't necessarily mean to use a cup and a half of it (I mean, it MIGHT, depending on the density of flour...).

[ Parent ]
Hurray! (2.40 / 5) (#42)
by waxmop on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 10:21:32 AM EST

This was a great story -- everything that a food article should be.
--
We are a monoculture of horsecock. Liar
People like Christmas cake? (2.75 / 4) (#43)
by LittleStar on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 10:39:27 AM EST

I had always thought no one except my parents liked it (and they buy it out of season, weirdos).

In any case no man has ever even tried to cook me a cake, and you can be damned sure it would have gotten my attention (I am not, sigh, a celery muncher; I am too fond of my senses). Also, this cake sounds as though I might like it, of course without the gross little plastic pieces/gellied fruit. Good work Yicky, thanks for sharing.

littlestar.
Twinkle. Twinkle. Twinkle.
real people like fruitcake (none / 1) (#51)
by bandy on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 12:46:49 PM EST

Yes, real people like fruitcake, although they are generally "older" [40+] adults.
Marlboro: War ich Rindveh bin.
[ Parent ]
Thank you. (none / 0) (#68)
by yicky yacky on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 05:36:19 PM EST

...no man has ever even tried to cook me a cake...

This is probably because he is too busy worrying about sesame-seed buns. Cheeseburgers | cake == all good. :)




yicky yacky
**************
'The actual reasonable Britons are correct, you're being a cock.' - Hide The Hamster.
[ Parent ]
Sounds tasty (2.80 / 5) (#46)
by imrdkl on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 11:17:20 AM EST

The only thing lacking, imho, is a picture of the final result. Great article, though.

That occurred to me... (none / 2) (#55)
by yicky yacky on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 01:39:36 PM EST

...as I wrote it. I've made three this year, but they'd all gone to good homes by the time I realised the omission. In an ideal world I'd like to have linked to pictures of various stages of preparation too.

I'm going to one of these homes over the weekend. If I remember the digital camera, I'll grab a snap and link to it in a comment.




yicky yacky
**************
'The actual reasonable Britons are correct, you're being a cock.' - Hide The Hamster.
[ Parent ]
I've just made one (none / 1) (#86)
by adrianbaugh on Sun Dec 21, 2003 at 12:10:39 AM EST

It'll be baked in about six hours so if you want I'll bung you a photo. Thanks for the recipe, anyway. I modified it as follows: 1) I didn't have any molasses (and it was 2am) so I used maple syrup. It won't be quite as good but at least I had demerara sugar... 2) Into the "dried fruits" ingredients I added 2 tsps dried jalapenos. Should spice things up a bit! 3) I blended half the glace cherries. I'll post a followup to say whether the cake tasted good or not!
"'I pass the test,' she said. 'I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.'"
-
JRR Tolkien.
[ Parent ]
Excellent. (none / 0) (#89)
by yicky yacky on Sun Dec 21, 2003 at 12:54:18 AM EST

Yes indeed. Post a link here.

Re: the jalapenos - I've actually made it with chilli powder in the past - tastes surprising good - never neat jalapenos though - report back and tell how it went. I've no idea how maple syrup should affect it - guess we'll see!




yicky yacky
**************
'The actual reasonable Britons are correct, you're being a cock.' - Hide The Hamster.
[ Parent ]
Here it is! (none / 1) (#91)
by adrianbaugh on Sun Dec 21, 2003 at 12:00:15 PM EST

Photo of my cake. I'ver only tried little bits that "just crumbled off" ;-) so far, but it tastes good. (The chillis I added were dried, not fresh!) For the juice I used 3 parts sherry, 1 part port and 1 part homebrew damson gin, which seems to keep things nice and fruity.
In terms of post-baking, I'll probably just dust it with icing sugar.
"'I pass the test,' she said. 'I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.'"
-
JRR Tolkien.
[ Parent ]
Cool. (none / 0) (#92)
by yicky yacky on Sun Dec 21, 2003 at 02:30:22 PM EST

That looks excellent: very slightly lighter than I'm used to, but I'd lay money that's the maple syrup.




yicky yacky
**************
'The actual reasonable Britons are correct, you're being a cock.' - Hide The Hamster.
[ Parent ]
Brown paper? (none / 2) (#47)
by kesuari on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 11:21:05 AM EST

I know what greaseproof paper is, but could someone translate brown paper into Australian? I assume it isn't simply paper colored brown.

Its basically GreaseProof Paper (n/t) (none / 1) (#49)
by RichardPrice on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 11:51:32 AM EST



[ Parent ]
It's the sort of stuff (none / 1) (#54)
by yicky yacky on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 01:35:50 PM EST

that you might use for wrapping up a large parcel for sending through the mail. Generally less wax-impregnated and more absorbent than grease-proof paper.




yicky yacky
**************
'The actual reasonable Britons are correct, you're being a cock.' - Hide The Hamster.
[ Parent ]
Parchment (none / 0) (#72)
by KWillets on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 07:07:47 PM EST

At least that's what I would use.

[ Parent ]
parchment paper (none / 1) (#74)
by bandy on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 09:28:37 PM EST

It's what my dad uses when he makes his fruitcakes. It's what I've used in the past.
Marlboro: War ich Rindveh bin.
[ Parent ]
baking parchment (pre-greased) (none / 1) (#78)
by suquux on Sat Dec 20, 2003 at 10:55:42 AM EST

Also referred to as silicone paper, baking parchment is a non-stick paper used to line tins or trays to prevent cake or biscuit mixtures from sticking to the tin. Unlike greaseproof paper, baking parchment does not need to be greased before use.

from waitrose glossary

CC.
All that we C or Scheme ...
[ Parent ]
Prep on the cake pan/tin... (none / 2) (#58)
by Gooba42 on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 02:33:34 PM EST

Could you maybe avoid the whole paper bit by using a Bain-Marie (sp? The water bath thing)?

Everything I've heard about that method parallels your stated reasons for mucking about with the paper, a "gentler" and more even cooking process.

Altogether an entertaining read and a recipe I might even try, thanks.

secondary function of the paper (none / 1) (#66)
by bandy on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 05:18:45 PM EST

The other thing that happens is that the cake is incredibly sticky and so the paper prevents it from sticking to the pan.
Marlboro: War ich Rindveh bin.
[ Parent ]
Other ways of dealing with that... (none / 0) (#98)
by Gooba42 on Mon Dec 22, 2003 at 06:29:51 PM EST

Given that other methods of cooking this particular cake haven't been tried, but maybe it's worth experimenting?

There are plenty of ways of keeping things from sticking to a pan, the old butter and flour, various sprays and non-stick pans, even just parchment paper.

It just seemed worthwhile to approach what looks like the most complicated part of the process with an eye towards simplicity.

[ Parent ]

Got to admit. (none / 0) (#67)
by yicky yacky on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 05:20:10 PM EST

I've not tried, or even contenplated, that.

I've a suspicion that, given the temperatures involved (steam), it might play merry hell with the consistency / texture, though.




yicky yacky
**************
'The actual reasonable Britons are correct, you're being a cock.' - Hide The Hamster.
[ Parent ]
Maybe more complicated than necessary then... (none / 0) (#99)
by Gooba42 on Mon Dec 22, 2003 at 06:33:25 PM EST

It's possible maybe to cover the cooking batter with a sheet of foil or something. Loose enough to allow whatever rising or expansion is involved in the cooking process but enough to shield it from the steam.

I'm not actually sure how much steaming to expect from a water-bath cooking method though. Various custards and cheesecake recipes call for that cooking method without mentioning any effect from the steam. Altogether different end product so I guess the only way to tell would be to try it.

[ Parent ]

Steam & Springform pans (none / 0) (#105)
by elbel on Fri Dec 26, 2003 at 12:55:58 PM EST

Water baths are used to control the temperature for delicate foods that tend to burn easily, e.g. custards, puddings, chocolate, hollandaise. (Same principle as a double boiler.) It's probably worth a try -- at most it might make the cake more moist and dense.

Also, you might try a Springform pan ( http://www.cooking.com/products/shprodde.asp?SKU=117557 ). it uses a clamp-thing around a separable base so that when you're done, you just release the clamp and the sides spring away. they're very good for sticky and moist cakes, like spice cakes and cheesecake.

Oooh, a quick glance on epicurious for fruitcake seems to advocate a steamy oven anyway:

http://www.epicurious.com/run/recipe/view?id=13549

[ Parent ]

sultanas == golden raisins (for those in the US) (none / 3) (#59)
by lordpixel on Fri Dec 19, 2003 at 03:27:26 PM EST

I have a cake on order from my friend's parents <yum>. But now I want to make my own...

I am the cat who walks through walls, all places and all times are alike to me.
Just what the world needs (none / 2) (#79)
by Lenny on Sat Dec 20, 2003 at 11:26:59 AM EST

another fucking fruitcake...


"Hate the USA? Boycott everything American. Particularly its websites..."
-Me
Great... (none / 0) (#93)
by sparklebutt on Sun Dec 21, 2003 at 08:49:17 PM EST

...another damn fruitcake.

Yes you.

[ Parent ]
Getting ingredients in the US (none / 1) (#80)
by vnsnes on Sat Dec 20, 2003 at 12:57:41 PM EST

I remember having currants in Europe in childhood, but never seen them fresh or dried in the US. Are they commonly available in supermarkets?

Where would they keep Italian Mixed Peel (Candied peel) in a supermarket? The spice aisle?

Nice article. I'm planning to surprise my wife and her mother-in-law with this cake. Thanks!


Pretty much... (none / 1) (#81)
by yicky yacky on Sat Dec 20, 2003 at 01:24:03 PM EST

...everything, bar the lemon, is usually stacked up in the equivalent of a baking / home-cooking aisle here in the UK: The same aisle where you'd find sugar, flour and spices. The peel is usually in the same region as the cherries / almonds.

I'd imagine they have currants in the U.S., or at least they should do - the currants I used came from California...




yicky yacky
**************
'The actual reasonable Britons are correct, you're being a cock.' - Hide The Hamster.
[ Parent ]
Easy to make too (none / 2) (#83)
by scruffyMark on Sat Dec 20, 2003 at 05:04:41 PM EST

Just use a vegetable peeler to take strips of peel off oranges, lemons, grapefruits, etc. Mandarin peels are usually very nice. Try not to get much of the white stuff underneath the coloured peel. Then chop the strips as small as you like, boil them in a little water and a fair bit of sugar, until the syrup is mostly boiled off. That's usually much nicer than the store-bought stuff, which can be of questionable freshness (they'll keeps nice and juicy for a month or two, but it's not a big mover at the stores, and they tend to set the sell-by dates at about a year after the stuff is made)

[ Parent ]
buy them from the supplier (none / 2) (#88)
by bandy on Sun Dec 21, 2003 at 12:42:41 AM EST

My father buys his fresh from the supplier, Anne's House of Nuts in Prince George's County, Maryland, just outside of Washington, DC. Ann's House Of Nuts Inc Address: 8375 Patuxent Range Rd, Jessup, MD 20794 Phone: (410) 813-0080 I've seen California fruit packaged by them sold here in California, odd as that may seem. [that's a 7k mile round trip]
Marlboro: War ich Rindveh bin.
[ Parent ]
I thought this was going to turn out about (none / 0) (#84)
by noogie on Sat Dec 20, 2003 at 06:20:31 PM EST

a boy who can communicate with aliens via the cake. My expectation of this, and the eventual realization that this it was merely some boring recipe made me sad.


*** ANONYMIZED BY THE EVIL KUROFIVEHIN MILITARY JUNTA ***
Panettone for dummies? (none / 0) (#90)
by Stavr0 on Sun Dec 21, 2003 at 11:04:38 AM EST

My lady absolutely wants to bake an italian panettone. I keep telling her to just buy one for any italian trattoria (about $5) but to no avail. Post your recipes here. Grazie.
- - -
Pax Americana : Oderint Dum Metuant
Pannetone (with peel candying tips)! (none / 1) (#103)
by pietra on Fri Dec 26, 2003 at 01:28:16 AM EST

http://www.recipecottage.com/breads-yeast/panettone02.html

Well, it isn't *easy*, but it isn't hard either. This is the recipe I use for pannetone, and which works much better if the damn yeast isn't dead straight out of the package, which unfortunately was the case today. My poor dad had to go without his Xmas bread, alas. Tomorrow, I will be going through the whole process all over again, but with livelier yeast.

To candy orange peel: take one orange, cut into quarters. Remove peel as though you were about to eat each quarter. Squeeze juice of peel-less quarter into small saucepan, discard orange pulp. Slice orange peel into small strips, turn each strip sideways, and cut off pith (white stuff). Cut strip into smaller strips (similar to marmalade shreds, but not as fine as what you would get from a zester, which does admittedly take way less time). Repeat until you have half the total orange's peel converted to little zestless strips, approximately 1/2 inch long and 1/8th inch wide. Place strips into saucepan with orange juice, enough water to just cover, and two tablespoons of sugar. Turn stove to medium, and stir every now and again until most of the water is cooked down and the whole concoction is sticky and bubbling frantically (approx. 10 minutes). It may burn very quickly if you don't keep a close eye on it. Add water to cover and another tablespoon of sugar. When the resultant mix has cooked down, remove it from the pot ASAP and combine with milk/butter/sugar mix. Follow same instructions for lemon, but double the sugar. The key to this recipe is to NOT add anything to the yeast mixture until it is lukewarm.

[ Parent ]
Correction: (none / 0) (#104)
by pietra on Fri Dec 26, 2003 at 01:31:33 AM EST

"pith-less strips," as opposed to "zestless strips." It's been a long day ;)

[ Parent ]
dense? did I get it right (none / 0) (#95)
by dimaq on Mon Dec 22, 2003 at 06:22:25 AM EST

there seems to be no mention of yeast or baking soda/citric acid kind of stuff. so I presume the result will be very dense, as in not at all porous. is that right?

S'right. (none / 0) (#96)
by yicky yacky on Mon Dec 22, 2003 at 07:09:30 AM EST

The 'cake mix' serves mostly as a binding medium for the fruit, in that there's not much room for fairly large 'blocks' of raw 'cake' itself.




yicky yacky
**************
'The actual reasonable Britons are correct, you're being a cock.' - Hide The Hamster.
[ Parent ]
Cake? (none / 1) (#100)
by LilDebbie on Mon Dec 22, 2003 at 06:51:36 PM EST

Pfhh! Everyone knows the quickest way to a women's heart is between the 3rd and 4th ribs, just to the right of the sternum.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

the booze (none / 1) (#106)
by bandy on Sat Dec 27, 2003 at 07:39:16 PM EST

One comment that I haven't seen that my dad tells me is paramount: don't cheap out on the hooch! Cheap booze will ruin your cake. Soak it in something that you like to drink.
Marlboro: War ich Rindveh bin.
Silicone Baking Dish (none / 0) (#108)
by frankwork on Tue Dec 30, 2003 at 03:38:39 PM EST

I tried out this recipe last night anad had very good results using a silicone baking dish that I picked up at the local department store (here is a similar one for sale online).

Not only does it not burn the sides and bottom of the cake, it also doesn't need to be greased. The finished cake literally slid out of the pan (right onto the plate I had sandwiched on top of it, thankfully). I should note that I have a "convection" (air) oven, which might change the cooking dynamic somewhat.

Also, for USians making this recipe: I couldn't find Italian peel anywhere in the local (semi-yuppie) grocery store, so I imagine it's a Trader Joe's-type specialty item. I was going to mix in some orange marmalade, but decided against it. I substituted Maraschino cherries (the kind with which you top an ice cream dish or a particularly froofy drink) for the Glacé cherries, but I'm not sure if it's a slightly different animal or just a different name.

Finally, it occurred to me that you could substitute dark brown sugar for the molasses and some of the sugar (since brown sugar is basically white sugar with molasses). And I suspect a handheld mixer would make the butter/sugar mixing step much less of a chore (unfortunately, I didn't have one lying around).

A Cylindrical Yuletide Heart Attack | 106 comments (77 topical, 29 editorial, 3 hidden)
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