Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: It’s not too early for Christmas cake

Traditional Christmas cake needs a little planning to ensure it has time for all of the flavours to blend

The first big snow fall Monday has brought Christmas to mind for many of us who like to make Christmas cakes or puddings, as most traditional recipes need to be made at least a month before they’ll be eaten, so now is the time to dig out your favourite family recipes and make your shopping lists.

Today, both recipes are from Canadians who shared their family favourites. The first is a simple carrot pudding, something my mother always made each Christmas and something that we preferred to dark Christmas cake. The second recipe is a light fruit cake made with tropical fruits. It is moist and delicious.

Christmas Carrot Pudding

2/3 cups plain flour

1 tsp. baking powder

3/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. cloves

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

2/3 cups sugar

1-1/3 cups raisins or mixed fruit and nuts of choice

2/3 cups grated raw potatoes

2/3 cups grated raw carrots

1/3 cup milk

Mix and sift dry ingredients. Add fruit and stir until well-coated; stir in potatoes, carrots and milk. Fill a 1-quart greased mold 2/3 full. Cover tightly and steam for 2 hours and 30 minutes. Serve with Hot Pudding Sauce or Caramel Sauce.

Hot Pudding Sauce:

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup cream

1/2 tsp. vanilla

Few drops of lemon flavouring

Heat all ingredients in double boiler until well-blended.

Caramel Sauce:

1 cup brown sugar

300 ml thickened cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup butter

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until sauce comes to the boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 2 minutes. Serve over pudding; add dollop of whipped cream if desired

White Tropical Christmas Cake

2 cups sweetened shredded coconut

1-1/2 cups chopped dried papayas

1-1/2 cups chopped dried mangoes

1-1/2 cups coarsely chopped candied pineapple

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup halved red glazed berries

1 cup coconut rum or rum

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

3 eggs

2 cups slivered almonds

1 tbsp. corn syrup

12 oz. almond paste

Icing: 1/4 cup butter, softened

1-1/4 cups icing sugar

2 tbsp. whipping cream

1/2 tsp. vanilla

In large bowl, combine coconut, papayas, mangoes, pineapple, raisins, cherries and 1/2 cup of the rum; cover and let stand for 1 day, stirring occasionally.

Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the flour; stir just until combined. Set aside. Line two 8- x 4-inch (1.5 L) loaf pans with parchment paper; set aside.

In bowl, whisk together remaining flour, baking powder, and salt.

In separate large bowl, beat butter with sugar until light; beat in eggs, 1 at a time. Stir in flour mixture just until incorporated, then fruit mixture and almonds. Scrape into prepared pans, smoothing tops.

Set shallow pan on bottom rack of oven; pour in enough water to come halfway up side. Bake cakes in centre of 250 F oven, shielding with foil if beginning to crack, until cake tester inserted in centre comes out clean, 2-1/4 to 2-1/2 hours. Let cool in pans on rack. Remove cakes from pan; peel off parchment. Soak 2 double thicknesses of 16-inch square cheesecloth in remaining rum. Wrap cakes in cheesecloth, then plastic wrap, then foil. Refrigerate for at least 1 month or for up to 3 months.

Icing: In bowl, beat butter until light. Beat in icing sugar, cream and vanilla.

Brush tops of cakes with corn syrup. On icing sugar-dusted work surface, roll out almond paste to two 9- x 5-inch (23 x 12 cm) rectangles. Press on top of each cake. Spread with icing.

Cover cakes loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate in airtight container until cold and firm, about 1 day. (Make-ahead: refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.)

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every Wednesday and one Sunday per month.