Thursday, November 29, 2007

Holiday Spirits

In the spirit of the impending season, I want to share a recipe that I’ve often made for the holiday dinner. There’s still time, since this is best mummified in cheesecloth and soaked in liquor for a few weeks.

Many years ago (I think I was halfway through college), I found an old recipe clipped from the newspaper in one of my Mother’s cookbooks from her days as a new housewife in the late 1950’s. The faded newsprint had a note, in my Kentucky grandmother’s handwriting “This is the cake you all enjoyed so much at Xmas last year.” It’s dated 1964.

Over the years I have fiddled with the ingredients a bit and the result follows. But with important notes first.

Use the best bourbon you can! This is no time to scrimp. You only need a small bottle. Get the good stuff. I’ve had decent results with Old Grandad. And, you can try other liquors as well. I’ve tried Irish whiskey, and I think a dark rum like some Mount Gay or Meyers could be quite tasty too (with some grated coconut, mmm).

The original recipe was written as more of a traditional “fruit cake”. Nothing gives me the shivers quite like those icky colored candied “fruit” bits. If you like them, I’m very sorry, and you can have my share. The point was, I’ve most often made this with golden raisins alone. The black raisins seem to scorch more easily, and the golden have a lighter flavor. I’ve also used dried cranberries, and I think you could make a nice fruity cake with dried cherries, apricots, currants, and maybe dates included.

And how does this relate to knitting? It’s going to be baking for a good long time. So get some knitting done while you wait!

Kentucky Bourbon Pecan Cake

Makes one cake
Preheat oven to 250°

2 cups sifted flour

2 Tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp nutmeg (also cinnamon, mace, allspice, and cloves if you wish)

2 cups brown sugar

1 cup butter (2 sticks)

6 eggs, separated

1 cup bourbon

1 pound coarsely chopped pecans

1 pound golden raisins


Grease bottom and sides of a 10” angel food cake pan or two 8” springform pans, and line bottoms with greased brown paper. (A recipe of its time – I certainly think you could use parchment paper instead)

Mix 2 Tbsp of flour with nuts and raisins and set aside.

Sift remaining flour with baking powder, salt and nutmeg.

Cream butter and sugar. Thoroughly beat in one egg yolk at a time. Beat in sifted ingredients alternately with bourbon. Beat until smooth.

Stir in pecans and raisins.

Beat egg whites until stiff, then fold into batter.

Turn into prepared pan. Bake at 250° - about four hours for angel food cake pan, or about 2-1/2 to 3 hours for springform pans - until cake tester comes out clean and top springs back. Place a shallow pan of water in oven for first 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 hours of baking.

Cool 30 minutes on a rack. Turn out and remove paper. Cool completely.

Store wrapped in bourbon-soaked cheesecloth and in plastic in an airtight tin. (Nowadays, get a nice big ziploc bag)

Best made at Thanksgiving, and soaked until Christmas.