And now for something a little different … Christmas fruitcake. Yes, I know the humble fruitcake is universally reviled in the US, but in England and Canada, it’s a beloved centuries-old tradition—probably because we make it properly. I make mine in November—Thanksgiving weekend, in fact—because they have to cure for at least a month before eating. A few friends encouraged me to post my recipe, so here it is. The original was very traditional, but since I don’t live in a traditional place, I’ve made some changes that only make it yummier.
California Christmas Cake
The night before:
- 3 cups each dark and golden raisins
- 1 cup brandy, bourbon, whiskey (I use Jamieson’s), sherry, or clear fruit juice
Heat raisins in alcohol or juice and soak overnight.
- 1 cup coarsely shredded unsweetened coconut
- 1 cup milk
Soak coconut in milk overnight in small bowl in fridge.
In the morning:
- 2 cups chopped dried fruit (peaches, apricots, apples, pears, etc.)
- 1 8-oz tub glace red cherries
- 1 8-oz tub citron peel
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
Mix all the fruit in a very large bowl and toss with sifted flour.
- 3 cups butter, softened
- 4.5 cups granulated sugar
- 9 eggs
- 3 tsp each vanilla and almond extract
Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs 3 at a time, beating well after each. Add vanilla and almond flavorings.
- 6 cups sifted all-purpose flour
- 6 tsp baking powder
- 1.5 tsp salt
Re-sift the flour with baking powder and salt. Add alternately to the creamed mixture with the coconut and milk mixture. Combine batter thoroughly into fruit. It will be heavy; you may need to use both hands instead of a spoon (in which case, take your rings off).
Preheat oven to 275 and place a pie pan half filled with water on the lowest shelf. Line 6 loaf pans with brown paper, then waxed paper. Fill pans with fruit batter and bake for 90–100 minutes. Test for doneness.
Remove from oven and cool in pans. When cool, baste each cake with 2 tbsp whiskey or other liquid. Remove from pans with paper and wrap in zip bags or airtight container. Once a week, baste each cake with 2 tbsp more liquid. Store for one month or more before eating. Keeps up to 4 months in airtight container.
Coming up are a couple of appearances on my friend Suzanne Woods Fisher’s popular site, Amish Wisdom. Hope you’ll join us!
- On July 20, Balm of Gilead will be featured with an excerpt from the book and a giveaway copy or two. Be sure to stop by and comment!
- On July 30, I’ll be talking about those controversial Amish reality shows like Amish Mafia and Breaking Amish, which have pretty well been debunked as made up. But what’s the attraction, I wonder? And why am I even talking about this? Well, there’s a reality show in Balm of Gilead that wants Henry Byler to appear on it … but can he pay the price if he agrees to take their money and let them tell a story that may do more harm than good?
Join us on Amish Wisdom!
The third installment in the Healing Grace series finds young Amish widow Sarah Yoder facing her greatest challenge—herself.
Sarah Yoder hasn’t seen Henry Byler since he became engaged to an Englisch woman, which is best for her peace of mind. Since Henry never joined the Amish church, any relationship but a neighborly one is impossible. So she stays busy with her family, welcoming her son back from the ranch he’s been working on in Colorado, doing a little matchmaking for her sister-in-law, and making the teas and tinctures that heal the members of her church.
Then Henry seeks her out, desperate for a balm for his sensitive hands before his success as a potter is jeopardized, and Sarah must call on every ounce of strength to deny the cry of her heart. Yet there is Someone who just might have a special cure in mind—a healing balm with the power to change everything. But with Henry’s wedding only weeks away, is it already too late?
In the ancient world, a tree known as Balm of Gilead, or the Mecca balsam, provided healing balsamic oils. In the new world, a species of poplar tree possesses similar properties and is also known as Balm of Gilead. Its fragrant, sticky buds are harvested and infused with oil to make a salve for the treatment of skin conditions. In plant lore, poplars are considered to be protective trees, which may be why the Amish and Englisch alike plant them as windbreaks in fields and along roads.
There is also a belief among ancient peoples that in the whisper of the poplar tree’s leaves, you can hear the still, small voice of God.
I’m delighted to let you know that I’ve been invited to be a regular poster at Destination Amish, one of the most interesting, warm, and informative sites around for all things Amish. Regular posters include many authors you love—Marta Perry, Beth Shriver, and Patricia Davids among them. From books to recipes to insights into Amish life and fun giveaways, this is the place to visit—if you can’t get to Lancaster or Holmes County, that is!
My posts so far include:
See you there!
To celebrate the release of Keys of Heaven, the second book in the Healing Grace series, I’ll be doing a bunch of events online and around California. If one of them is near you, drop in! You know me … I love to talk about books, chickens, and Amish life
Featured on the Destination Amish blog
My research rambles in Lancaster County, complete with pictures!
Featured on the Amish Wisdom blog
The “story behind the story” of Keys of Heaven
February 9, 6-9:00 p.m.
South Bay Writers
Workshop: “Revision and Editing”
Harry’s Hofbrau, 390 Saratoga Avenue San Jose, CA
Featured on the Lifeway “Shelf Life” blog
Love, marriage, and matchmaking, just in time for Valentine’s Day
February 14, 3–5:00 p.m.
Book signing: Keys of Heaven (with Jasmine Haynes and Nicci Carrera)
Village House of Books
21 West Main Street Los Gatos, CA
West Coast Christian Writers Conference
Fiction track leader
Featured on Dear Teen Me
A letter to my teen self