While she had actually copied down many of these recipes, which I stuck inside the baking bowl for future reference, ma never took much notice of them. She did, however, take one precaution while baking and that was to warn my brother and me not to be slamming the backdoor in case the fruitcake in the oven would collapse. I have resisted the urge to Google this; I want to believe it’s something only Irish mammies say.
I love fruitcake, not the kind that comes packaged in stores here at Christmas, but the kind that would collapse in the oven if we slammed the door. Homesick one day last year, I rang my mother to ask her for the recipe for her fruit cake. Pen at the ready, I waited for clear, step by step instructions. Verbatim, this is what she told me:
“Well now, you just put your ingredients in, boil them, and then let them cool. Add your egg and your flour, put in your margarine, sugar, and water or two cups of black tea, all your cherries, raisins, and sultanas. Be you careful when you bring it to the boil. Let it cool and then throw in two or three eggs. Stir it all up and put it into your loaf tin. That’s your boiled cake.”
Should I want to make a fruit cake instead of a boiled cake, she elaborated thus:
“Sure you know that for a fruit cake, you just cream your butter and sugar in the mixer until they are nice and fluffy. Put in your eggs and your flour and all your fruit. Stir it all up and throw it in the oven. It will take longer to cook than the boiled cake. Use a slower oven.”
I am none the wiser, and I think it would be fair to say that my Domestic Science teacher would have dismissed my mother’s fruitcake “method” as highly unsatisfactory without the obligatory list of ingredients and numbered directions that included the weighing of things.
Still, if this were a fruit cake throw-down with Bobby Flay on the Food TV Network, my mother would win hands-down. Every time.