Tag Archives: Christmas Cake

Day 356: Christmas Cake

I know some of you prefer a nice dark fruitcake and I think Mrs. Richard Jaffray‘s recipe for Christmas Cake in The New Galt Cook Book (1898) might be that kind.

Ad for fruitcake ingredients in The Canadian Grocer magazine December 1898.

Ad for fruitcake ingredients in The Canadian Grocer magazine December 1898.

Since I made another fruitcake a few days ago I’m going to cut this one in half so that my family won’t hate me when I present them with three kinds of fruitcake (light, medium, and dark). Mrs. Jaffray’s recipe has some very specific directions so I’ll try to follow them exactly. I creamed 1/2 pound (1 cup) of butter and 1/2 pound (8 ounces) of sugar. Then I started added the 4 eggs one by one, stirring after each. Next it was 1/4 cup of molasses. I completely forgot to dissolve the 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda or even add it at all! I kept thinking it was interesting there was no leavening. Now I realize I missed that direction but I did remember to add the 1/4 cup of brandy.

Once the more liquid ingredients were ready I weighed 1/2 pound (8 ounces) of flour and added 1 teaspoon mace, 1 teaspoon nutmeg and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Then I mixed the spicy flour into the rest of the cake. Finally I weighed 1 pound currants, 1 pound raisins, 1/4 pound (4 ounces) citron, and 1/2 pound (8 ounces) of chopped figs and added it all to the cake. It was a challenging cake to mix since it was so heavy with dried fruit. Once it was well blended I spooned the mixture into three loaf pans and baked them at 325 F. for 45 minutes. I could probably have used just two pans but I was concerned about cooking the centres of such a dense mixture. Once they were out of the oven I let them cool a little and then cut my first slice at 11:45 pm. It’s been a long day but I was looking forward to tasting this cake especially since I made the baking soda mistake.

Mrs. Richard Jaffray is Mary Havel (Havill). She was born in 1848 somewhere in Ontario most likely Galt since she was living there for the census when she was four. Her mother was Maryann and her father James was a plasterer. By 1871 she’d married Richard Jaffray and they had a one year old daughter named Mary Gertrude. Richard was born in England but his heritage is Scottish and he was a printer in Galt. They eventually had two more daughters Kate Fleury and Minnie. Richard became the proprietor of a newspaper. They lived next door to Mary’s parents in 1891. Unlike many of the other contributors this family’s religious was the Church of England (Anglican) rather than Presbyterian. At 64 Richard died of kidney disease the year this cookbook was published. Mary and two of her daughters continued to share the house until Mary’s death in 1922 when she was 73.

Mrs. Jaffray’s Christmas Cake is probably an acquired taste but I liked it. It is more dense than Mrs. Jaffray intended since I forgot to add the baking soda but it is also nice and moist. Some day I’ll try the proper way but in the meantime this is a good fruitcake. It is buttery which make the top of the cake a bit crispy, including the fruit. I like it that way. The figs are probably the most challenging part of the cake but they add an interesting flavour as well as their seedy texture. Although the cake is sweet it seems to come more from the fruit than the sugar or molasses. The brandy flavour enhances the cake and I can imagine Mrs. Jaffray in the weeks before Christmas “feeding” her fruit cake by wrapping it in a brandy soaked cloth.

If you try Mrs. Jaffray’s Christmas Cake let me know how it turns out when soda is added and what you think of the taste. I think it can time travel into the hands of 21st century fruitcake lovers but each person seems to have their favourite kind of fruitcake.

Mrs. Richard Jaffray

One pound butter, one pound sugar, one pound flour, two pounds currants, two pounds raisins, one-half pound citron, eight eggs, one-half cup molasses, one teaspoonful soda dissolved in the molasses, two teaspoonfuls each of nutmeg, mace and cinnamon, one half cup of brandy, one pound figs. Mix butter and sugar to a cream, then add eggs slowly, then the molasses and brandy, then flour, and last of all fruit.


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