The fresh, spicy scent of a young she-oak filled our home for a week before Christmas Day arrived. It was a trigger, setting in motion a flurry of school holiday fun. We strung all the Christmas cards we received around the lounge room; made tree decorations from paper, glue, and glitter; and collected pine cones from the back yard which we painted and sprinkled glitter over.
Mum spent half a day making her famous boiled fruit cake. She sweated in the December heat, the oven of our old wood stove making the temperature climb to well over a hundred degrees. After the cake had baked for a couple of hours, Mum would let it cool on a rack, then pour extra rum over the top of it.
The aroma of the spices, fruit, butter, nuts, flour – and a dash of Bundaberg Rum – was enough for us all to ignore the heat and concentrate on decorating our tree and house for the big day.
Mum’s boiled fruit cake was the best ever.
We never had alcohol at Christmas dinner that I remember, except for a small bottle of brandy that my Great Aunt would produce from her handbag and share with Mum and Dad. But my tipple of choice these days is a chilled glass of champagne to celebrate the day.
Recipe for Boiled Fruit Cake
1 cup water
620g (4 cups) mixed dried fruit
250g (1 cup) white sugar
250g (2 cups) plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon mixed spice
2 eggs, beaten
- Let the dried mixed fruit soak in some alcohol (rum, sherry, port etc) for an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 150 C. Grease a square tin and line with baking paper or alfoil.
- Combine the water, mixed fruit, sugar and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally, then cook gently for about 10 minutes.
- Sift the flour, baking soda and mixed spice into a large bowl. Pour in the boiled fruit mixture and stir until well blended.
- Mix in the eggs. Pour into the greased loaf pan.
- Bake in preheated oven for 90 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool cake in the pan for at least 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.
Elizabeth Ellen Carter