Last night I was on a Zoom call with several of my most cherished friends to facilitate our annual Christmas dinner party. It would have been our 23rd Christmas dinner together if life had not taken a hard-right turn almost a year ago. It was just one of the many moments of this holiday season that needed to be reinvented. And while we didn’t prep food for each other, open a few bottles of good wine or linger around the dining room table reminiscing about parties past we still found a way to deliver those special touches that make this seasonal fête the much-anticipated celebration that it has become.
What I have learned during the lead up to Christmas 2020 is how important all of the little touchstones of the holiday season really mean to me. Reminding myself that these things are merely on hiatus and it won’t be long before we will return to regular programming, I am having a lot of fun dialing in the creativity of so many people who are channeling their energies into projects that bring both a little more compassion and laughter into our world when we need it the most.
Christmas lights, carols and sweet treats top my list of holiday indulgences. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend filling up your thermos with some hit chocolate, pop in your favorite Christmas CD or tune into a satellite radio holiday hits and take a drive around your community. There are a few displays along our North Shore that are making headlines and going viral. This holiday season is not going to last forever so soak up as much cheer as you can before it’s over.
As my work commitments start to slow down in the next few days, I look forward to spending a little more time in the kitchen getting ready for the festive feast. With only three more sleeps until the big day I have some work to do. Like everyone else we won’t be setting as many places at the table this year, but I still want to make sure that all of the favorites are ready to be dished out and enjoyed.
Anyone who knows me knows that I have a huge sweet tooth. I do try to temper it most of the time…well sometimes… but for a few days during Christmas my sweet indulgences are guilt free. I have shared a few of these favourite treats in this space before and this year I have one more to add to the roster of decadent and delicious confections. Thirty Day Cake or Friendship Cake as it is sometime called because it really is meant to be shared is a seasonal staple for my family. It is not the same quick sugar fix as some of my cookie and fudge recipes but this one is so worth it even if it does take an entire month to make!
Don’t worry you are not going to be shackled in your kitchen for 30 days… however, some of you might be okay with this… it’s just the daily tending to the cake starter that needs your love and attention for just a few minutes each day.
If you are starting this recipe from scratch you need to make your own starter. This recipe then becomes 44 day cake for the first time as it takes a two weeks to get your starter ready for your first real batch. I was gifted a jar of starter over ten years ago and I am still working from that original mixture that gets rejuvenated every year it gets added to a new batch. The only difference in making the mixture for the first time is the addition of the yeast. After that you will always have your starter to use the next time.
To make your starter you need a large crock or BIG glass jar with a lid. Combine ¾ cup of peaches in heavy syrup, ¾ pineapple in its juice, 4 ounces of maraschino cherries drained and halved, 1 ½ cups of sugar, 1 ¼ ounces jar of yeast. Make sure your yeast is mixed well. Stir your mixture twice on the first day to make sure all ingredients combine. Then stir once a day for the next two weeks. Give your jar or crock a special place on your counter so that you don’t forget to stir it. This does not go in the fridge. The lid should not be air-tight. The yeast needs a little air to do its thing.
At week two (I like to add a sticky note to my crock to remind me) add ½ cup of peaches and ½ cup of pineapple drained. Stir this mixture daily. Two to three days later drain the fruit, you will use this for your cake recipe and the reserve liquid is now your generation one starter that you can share but remember to keep enough so that you have enough starter of you own year after year!
It’s a little late to get one of these cakes started for this Christmas but in the new year you might want to get your starter ready and stashed in the back of your fridge so it’s ready to pull out next year.
I have included the recipe that was gifted to me from my mother-in-law a decade ago. It’s not in her hand so not sure who penned this note. But I love the way it’s been stained by the splashes of ingredients over the years and the time it spends tucked into an old cookbook.
The recipe makes three cakes; one for home and two to share with friends who are the icing on the cake!
How ever you slice up your Christmas this year I hope it is layered with sweet memories.