Holiday Home Cooking for the Autumn Harvest
A Christmas Cake in Four Quarters
A Christmas Cake in Four Quarters by Lady (Mary Anne) Barker
London & New York: Macmillan and Co., 1871.
This charming book is a collection of stories and anecdotes about Christmas in four different countries, including England, Jamaica, India, and New Zealand. The author, Lady Barker, had lived in all of them.
She was born in Jamaica, spent her childhood in Great Britain, lived with her husband George Robert Barker briefly in India until he died; returned to England, married Frederick Broome, and raised sheep in New Zealand. After three years and a hard winter, they returned once again to England. In England, Lady Barker wrote from a set of letters she had sent to her sister to create the book Station Life in New Zealand (1870).
When her husband was sent to work in Mauritius, Western Australia, Barbados, and Trinidad and then knighted by the Crown in 1884, Lady Barker took the name Lady Broome. Among two dozen books, her tales of A Christmas Cake in Four Quarters (1871) is one of the best.
In this book, set on Christmas Day at the estate of Steventon in England, the adults tell the children stories of Christmases in other lands - in great detail. The stories include a ghostly account of play-acting spirits, Christmas morning in Jamaica, and a dramatic survival during the historic Sepoy Mutiny of 1857.
To commemorate the title of this book, I've included four cake recipes below.
My other favorite collection of Christmas tales is "Christmas on Ganymede and Other Tales Edited by Martin Greenberg." (I'm sure to find recipes to go with those as well.)
This original request was made by ParadigmShift as “What are some of your favorite/native recipes for Thanksgiving and Christmas? How can we make them?”
By the term native recipe is often meant a recipe developed by a specific ethnic group or what one group may call another, an interesting “foreign” culture. Within America, of course, we have 100s of different ethnic groups and each one may be looked upon as native in its own way. This is true even for families that can trace their heritages back to early Spanish Explorers, the Mayflower, and Native American cultures.
The following recipes are native to what is known as Middle America.
These individuals and families are often portrayed in film and literature as our middle-middle class of working people and small business owners, primarily in the American Midwest, but all across the country. These recipes have been shared among women's clubs, charity foundations, libraries, church groups, and neighbors for many years. With each passing from one cook to another and down the generations, small modifications have usually been added by each recipient in order to make them uniquely the cook's own unforgettable family tradition.
Christmas Pineapple Cake
Not everyone likes the traditional fruitcake, evidenced by the number of holiday jokes going around about the same cake being passed around the family for 110 years, finally to be used as a door stop. This recipe may be more to your liking. It is a light cake that contains tropical fruit – mandarin oranges and pineapple.
- 1 box of Duncan Hines Pudding Cake Mix (the pudding is in the mix)
- 1/2 Cup vegetable oil 1 large can (11 oz.) of mandarin oranges, plus the juice
- 4 whole eggs, slightly beaten
- 1 large (family size) box of instant vanilla pudding
- 1 large can crushed pineapple – save the juice
- 1 large tub of Cool Whip, or 4 cups of your own fresh whipped cream
- Shredded coconut – leave white, or dyed with food coloring to red and green.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, oil, eggs and 2/3 Cup mandarin orange juice.
- Mix well and carefully fold in the mandarin orange sections so as not to break them up.
- Bake for 25 minutes, remove from the oven, and set aside to cool.
- After cake is cool, poke 6-8 small holes around the central portion of the cake and pour in a small amount of the pineapple juice to soak into the cake. Don’t overflow the juice.
- Mix the pineapple and dry pudding mix together in a bowl..
- Mix in the Cool Whip or whipped cream.
- Use this mixture to ice the cake and chill it overnight in the refrigerator.
- Before serving the cake, sprinkle the icing with red and green sprinkles or shredded coconut dyed with safe food coloring. Or leave it white to look like snow -- If you can find some tiny Christmas decorations, place a few around the cake. You can even make hills of snow. Remember to tell you quests and family that these figures are inedible.
Christmas Apple Nut Cake
During the Great Depression, children might receive an apple in their Christmas Stockings, but more likely it was an orange, which kept better in its skin. It was a real treat to have piece of fresh fruit.
This is a recipe for good times, after we have come through the dark times of recession and layoffs and other unfortunate events, or to celebrate what we have been able to produce and save for the Holidays. Apples and nuts have also been mainstays of the farm kitchen across this land, particularly in Ohio, where Johnny Appleseed scattered precious seeds to result in magnificent orchards years later. Those apples became pies, apple butter cooked in huge iron pots outside over an open fire, and this cake. During World War II when sugar was rationed, farmers that kept bees were able to substitute honey in this recipe.
Even in the Great Depression, some cooks saved apples in the root cellar or dried apple slices to be used later in this recipe. It was a treat then and still is today.
- 3 sticks of butter or margarine
- 2 whole eggs, slightly beaten
- 1 Cup of evaporated milk or cream
- 2 Cups all purpose flour
- 1.5 Cups granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 5 large apples, cored, sliced and peeled. Some cooks leave some of the peelings on.
- ½ pound of chopped nuts (your choice)
- 1 Cup granulated sugar
- 2 Tablespoons cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Melt the butter and set it aside to cool completely.
- Beat butter with eggs the evaporated milk.
- Add the flour, 1.5 Cups sugar, and baking powder and beat the batter until all ingredients are fully combined.
- Grease and flour a cake pan and put apples on the bottom.
- In a bowl, mix the nuts, 1 Cup sugar, and cinnamon. Then sprinkle half of this mix evenly over the top of the apples.
- Next, take the flour batter and carefully pour over top of the apples. Follow up with the rest of the nut mixture.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes or until done. Serve warm.
Hot Glazed Carrot Cakes
Makes 16 individual cakes
- 2 Cups sugar
- 1 1/2 Cups vegetable oil
- 2 Cups carrots washed and grated
- 2 Cups self-rising flour
- 2 Cups walnut or pecan pieces
- 4 whole eggs, slightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- A pinch of salt GLAZE
- 1 Cup granulated sugar and the juice of one whole orange
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Cream 2 cups sugar and the oil together and add eggs a bit at a time, mixing well each time.
- Add grated carrots, flour and salt and mix well.
- Stir in the nuts and pour the batter into muffin pans.
- Bake 35-45 minutes or until done. Remove fr0m oven, cool, and turn cakes out of pans and arrange on serving platters.
- When ready to serve, heat the orange juice and 1 Cup sugar over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.
- Bring the pot to the full boil and then turn off the heat.
- Slowly spoon the orange glaze over top and sides of the cakes.
- Repeat until all glaze has soaked into the cakes and then serve hot.
Christmas Morning Surprise
Christmas can be full of magical surprises, if we allow it to be. To the open-hearted child, animals talk, presents appear, a baby is born, loved ones return from war, feuds are mended, or a cake appears in the oven "all on its own."
- 1/2 Cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 Cup butter
- 2 whole eggs, beaten
- 1/2 Cup warm milk
- 1 package of yeast or 2 teaspoons of bulk yeast, dissolved in 3 Tablespoons of warm water
- 3 Cups al purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 2/3 Cup sugar - light brown or granulated white
- 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
- 4 Tablespoons melted butter or margarine
- 1/2 Cup nuts or maraschino cherries, or candied red or green cherries
- Cream together the sugar and butter in a large bowl.
- Add the eggs, milk, yeast/water mixture, flour, salt and vanilla.
- Beat all ingredients together well to form a ball of dough. Set this aside to rise until double its size.
- When dough has indeed risen to double (may take 2 hours) put it into a greased 9x13" pan or glass dish and spread with topping: Mix the sugar, cinnamon, melted butter, buts and fruits and spead on top of the batter.
- Now place in a cold oven and leave it in there overnight to rise again.
- Early on Christmas morning, turn the oven to 350 degrees F and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the cake when done and serve warm. Hopefully, the good smells form the kitchen will wake the household, if the kids weren't already up at 6:00 AM.