Myrtle Walker’s Fruit Cake

Like most of their neighbours, Myrtle Walker’s family had few luxuries other than the fruits of their own labour. Though fruits and vegetables were plentiful in the summer, in the era before electricity, refrigerators or freezers, there were not many foods that kept for winter. Day after day, her family got by on meat, potatoes, carrots and parsnips. When Christmas came, the presents were typically quite practical—like winter clothing. Children would not receive an abundance of toys, her son had a toy truck and her daughter a doll. What made Christmas special was the effort that Myrtle put into making a wonderful feast for her family, tirelessly working at the cookstove. Her fruit cake included luxuries such as currants, raisins, brandy, candied lemon and sweet almonds, that had to be bought in town, from the little money that she had from selling her eggs and butter. Myrtle loved to bake, and was famous for serving more than one dessert. These simple pleasures were a big part of what made Christmas memorable.

The simple direction, “bake 3 hours,” reflected the fact that Myrtle baked with a cookstove, and as a homemaker, she mastered the art of judging the temperature of a wood fire and when a cake was done.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs currants
  • 2 lbs raisins
  • 1 lb butter
  • 1 lb sugar
  • 1 1/4 lb flour
  • 1 wine glass brandy
  • 1 tablespoon cloves
  • 1 tablespoon allspice
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon sweet almonds blanched
  • 2 ounces candied lemon
  • 2 ounces citron
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • Salt

Directions

  • Bake 3 hours

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