Monday, December 01, 2008

Advent: started on the Christmas baking ...

... and crafting a bit too!

Today, in our house anyway, was "Stir Up Monday" (primarily because we always seem to miss Stir Up Sunday!) We usually begin the Christmas treat-making the first week of Advent as some of our goodies need a few weeks to steep. On Stir-Up Monday, I have everyone who is home, stir the batter as the tradition states.
Today, we made Port Cake ... an amazing recipe from a friend in Australia that has prunes, currants, raisins, walnuts (and of course) Port. This cake is so deliciously moist and good after it sits for a few weeks (with additional Port poured over the top every few days). The recipe I used is below -- and it made 4 small loaves (roughly 5 x 3) and 1 larger loaf (roughly 4 x 8) and took 2-1/2 hours to cook:

(Original Source: recipe from Better Homes and Gardens 2002 but I’ve edited the recipe for my tastes (the original called for chocolate, but that was gilding the lily if you ask me!)

· 3 cups currants
· 3 cups raisins
· 3 cups pitted prunes
· 1 cup Port
· 1 cup butter, softened
· 1 tbsp vanilla extract
· 1 cup dark brown sugar
· 4 eggs
· Finely grated rind and juice of 1 orange
· 1/3 cup molasses
· 2 cups all-purpose flour
· 2 tsp baking powder
· 1 tbsp allspice
· 1 tbsp nutmeg
· 1 tbsp cinnamon
· 1 tbsp cloves
· 2 cups walnut halves
· Extra 1/2 cup port, for pouring over cake

This cake is chock-full of sweet, plump dried fruit that's been soaked in port, and it only improves with age. Make this cake on Stir-Up Monday (first Monday of Advent) each year so that it has time to develop its wonderful full flavor. Pour a little port over the cake every few days to give it extra depth and to help it stay moist. It will keep well in a container in a cool dry place or for longer storage, cover the cake well in plastic wrap and store it in the fridge.

NOTE: Yes, the tablespoon measurements given for the spices are correct. Extra spices give a wonderful flavor to the cake.

Here's how
· Put currants and raisins in a large bowl. Cut up prunes with scissors and add to bowl. Add Port and mix well. Leave to stand for at least two hours, stirring occasionally.
· Preheat oven to 325F. Spray the pans (I used 4 small loaf and 1 larger loaf pan) with cooking spray.
· Cream softened butter. Add vanilla and beat for a minute longer. Add brown sugar and beat until the mixture is light and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
· Add the creamed mixture to the fruit. Add the orange rind, juice and molasses and stir to combine. Sift the flours and spices and add the sifted dry ingredients and walnuts to the mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. Don’t overstir as you’ll get a very dry cake.
· Spoon the mixture evenly into the prepared pans. Tap pan gently on the table to settle the mixture. Smooth the surface of the cake mixture with the back of a wooden spoon. Bake for 2-1/2 to 3 hours or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of the cake. Remove cake from oven to cooling rack; pour extra Port over the tops of each loaf and cover with a towel until the next morning. When the cakes are completely cool, cover with foil, plastic wrap or a plastic lid and store in a cool, dry spot.
In addition to kicking off the baking ... we also started our crafting. BamBam and Kotch started making the felt-foam soldiers that BamBam has decided will go on everyone's packages.
Jesse Tree tonight now has two ornaments on it ... the beeswax candle is burning WAY too fast on the Advent Wreath and we are still waiting for delivery of our advent calendar. Other than that ... we're having a wonderful start to our Advent (after all, we made it to daily Mass this morning -- so what else do we need?)
BTW, normally I would have also made traditional fruitcake (either dark or light) tonight, but there is no candied fruit to be found in Northern Virginia! Isn't that odd? Nada ... zilch ... none! And I really like my fruitcake, too. I guess I'll just have to satisfy myself with the rather dense, Port-soaked Port Cake and forget the rather dense, Bourbon-soaked fruit cake!


Alice Gunther said...

Gorgeous, Mary! I could go for some port cake right now!

Debbie said...

The port cake sounds yummy! (I think you may have made it for us before, ya?) Anyway, thanks for sharing the recipe.

Dried fruit was rather difficult to find in Colorado as well, but I asked the produce guy at King Soopers the other day and he showed me where it was ('cause I couldn't find it myself).

Anne (aussieannie) said...

I haven't even bought ingredients yet....I'd really, really like that cuppa - with a nice slice of port cake!!

Frank, Mike said...

Yes, thats true, the tablespoon measurements given for the spices are correct. Extra spices give a wonderful flavor to the cake.