Oh, it is most certainly the season to be jolly now. And roly-poly from all that Christmassy food and drink. But after being good all year why not cut loose in December? Perhaps even go a little bit fruity?
Which is what my Friday Feast guest this week is doing. But lovely Australian romance author Michelle Douglas isn’t swearing. No, no, no! As with all our fabulous Feasty guests, she’s sharing. Wonderful things, like her latest release, The Nanny Who Saved Christmas.
Take a look!
This Christmas, Nicola McGillroy will:
1. Be a great nanny to Cade Hindmarsh’s two adorable little girls, and give them the best Christmas they’ve had since their mother left.
2. Enter into the Christmas spirit and forget the fact she should have been planning her own wedding right now.
3. Keep a straight head in her attraction to her gorgeous off-limits boss… Surely this is just a rebound thing and not true love—for both of them?
Doesn’t that sound gorgeous? A perfect heart-warming Christmas read. And it’s available right now from your local chain store, as well as online in paperback or ebook format from Mills & Boon Australia or Harlequin.com, Booktopia, Amazon, Bookdepository, Barnes and Noble and many other places. So get a clickety-clicking!
All bought? That’s the Christmas spirit. Now as reward you can have Michelle!
A Fruity Feast
When I confided to an old work colleague that I thought making a fruitcake would be hard, she handed me this recipe and ordered me to give it a go. I did. And now I’ve been making it for… Well, I had to sit down and work it out, but it must be twenty years. Twenty years! It only feels like six or seven…I’d even believe ten, but twenty? Sheesh.
It must be said, though, that at the time I was not an experienced cook. So this particular recipe has, umm…gone through some trial and error.
Error #1: Look at the size of that ingredient list. There’s a kilo of fruit there for a start. How on earth did I think I was ever going to fit all of that in a normal sized mixing bowl? The first time I made this I had to transfer the mixture halfway through to the stockpot I use for making soup. It’s the only thing I had that was big enough (other than the blanket box and even I wasn’t that inexperienced).
Oh, and the painstakingly prepared cake tin? Yep, it was washed up and put back in the cupboard. That first year my Christmas cake was baked in a very large glass casserole dish. Until a couple of years ago I continued to employ the stockpot for mixing—after all, it had deputised most ably—but I did go out and buy a big cake tin for the next year.
Error #2: The first time I made this the DH and I had friends over that evening. With much expectation in my heart, I served us all up a slice (with the appropriate amount of fanfare, of course). Cue disappointment. It was bleh. I couldn’t believe I’d gone to so much trouble for this! Still, I cut it up into four manageable-sized portions and stored it in the pantry in trusty Tupperware containers. OMG! Storing this for a fortnight (though a month is better) makes so much difference. Really truly. It went from bleh to stunning. Really truly. I’m not joking. I couldn’t believe it.
Error #3: A few years ago I absent-mindedly misread the recipe. I put in 2 ½ cups of brown sugar (the flour amount) instead of 1 2/3 cups. I’d become blasé. After all, I’d been making this cake for 6 or 7 (or 15!) years by now and I was an old hand, wasn’t I? But guess what? It still tasted great. Thank heavens as this is one of the DH’s all-time favourite things in the world. He looks forward to the annual Christmas cake with the fervour of every ding-dong merrily on high you’ve ever heard. For him, Christmas is this Christmas cake.
The recipe makes four more than adequate sized squares. My DH hates sharing this with anyone. So he gets to decide the fate of 2 squares, and I decide the fate of the other two.
Oh, and something else I’ve learned along the way. Very few things beat nibbling homemade fruitcake late on Christmas night with a glass of red in hand (or whatever happens to be your poison) whilst congratulating yourself on getting through yet another crazy Christmas. Merry Christmas everyone!
Rich Fruit Cake
1 cup chopped pecans (the recipe asks for brazil nuts, but I couldn’t find them the first year so I substituted pecans and they’ve done so well I haven’t looked back)
¾ cup of brandy or orange juice (I ALWAYS use brandy J)
250g butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla essence
1 2/3 cups dark brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tsp grated orange rind
¼ cup of orange juice
2 Tbsp strawberry jam
2 ½ cups of plain flour
1 tsp each of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger
¼ cup of brandy or apple juice extra (I ALWAYS use brandy J)
Combine fruit and nuts in a bowl, pour brandy over top, cover and stand overnight.
Grease a deep 20cm square cake pan and line with 3 layers of greaseproof paper. Bring paper about 5cm above top edges of the pan.
Beat butter, essence and sugar in a bowl with electric mixer until combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating only until combined between each addition.
Stir in rind, juice and jam, and then stir in sifted dry ingredients in 2 batches.
Stir in fruit mixture and mix well.
Spread mixture evenly into prepared cake tin. Bake in slow oven (150C) for approximately 3 hours (test with a skewer—it’s cooked if it comes out clean). Brush top of cake evenly with extra brandy. Cover with foil and let cool in pan overnight.
Thanks, Michelle, and wow. How easy does that sound? A perfect cake for the Christmas rush while keeping nicely in the seasonal spirit.
So what keeps you in the seasonal spirit? For me it’s cherries and fruit mince tarts, and that sweet moment in a shop when I catch a little-un fretfully asking mum or dad whether Santa will make it to their house and I just can’t help thinking how cute it all is. What about you? Is it that first sip of totally inappropriate for the weather eggnog? The dreaded work Christmas party? That glittery angel on the Christmas tree or spotting a beautifully made Nativity? We’d love to hear your thoughts.
If you’d like to learn more about Michelle and her many wonderful romances, please visit her website.