Monday, December 8, 2008

Making Fruitcakes with the Sisters


The fruitcake gathering--or is it a gathering of fruitcakes?--at the beginning of the day


How often can eight sisters gather for a day of baking? If it's my family, it only happens once a year, and even at that it's difficult to get all eight of us together at the same time. But this year we all traveled to Julie's house to share the ritual begun by our mother when we were children--making fruitcakes and stirring in our wishes.

Click on the photo to get a bigger version--one you can read!

The recipe is one we decided, after much searching of Mom's recipe files, to be the one. The cookbook that holds it is in Theresa's keeping-- it's old and tattered and has no cover. The recipe itself is varied every year by what we have brought to make it, and it even varies from sister to sister as we stir up our bowls.


Theresa shows niece Amanda and great-niece Alyssa how to mix the cake

Some of us use blackstrap molasses, for instance, others use sorghum. some use dark brown sugar and some use light; some like currants, others don't. I added black walnuts this year instead of the traditional English walnuts.


My fruit and nut mixture after flouring

We don't measure very carefully either. "That looks about right" is a common phrase while we're mixing the batter. We use sherry AND port in the mix, and some added brandy too. The amount of fruit and kinds of fruit depend on individual taste. So in the end our cakes are as individual as we are. And about half of the sisters don't make fruitcake at all! They either bake cookies and other things, or just help and talk.


You can see what Theresa thinks about me mixing the fruit with my hands! Hey, they were clean!


There are two ingredients that all the cakes have in common--talk and laughter. This year's funniest moment? For me it was when one sister asked another, "Did you put on makeup today?" And the reply: "Well, yeah! Sue's probably going to put this on the blog and I'm not going to be on the Internet without makeup!"

Or maybe it was when I tasted the Cream Sherry and someone said "take a picture of that for the blog!" So I obligingly posed with the cup for Judy, who suddenly realized she'd been accidentally videotaping the whole thing--so she's got a good blackmail tape if I put a photo of her that she doesn't like on here :0

Then there were the 12 times we tried to get one good photo of us as a group. There was always one doing something--laughing, making a weird face, etc. We took several photos and uploaded them to Julie's computer, only to find that we had not one good shot in the bunch. So we tried again. Did we do any better? I'm not sure. This is the best one I had on my camera. What a bunch of clowns!

A few other female relatives joined us--a couple sisters-in-law (and Theresa surprised one with a birthday cake and we all celebrated), a couple daughters-in-law, and a few grandchildren. A few brothers-in-law and one brother also were there, but stayed pretty far from the kitchen! There must have been over twenty of us gathered together to share this longtime tradition.

Judy and Maggie stir in wishes

In the end, I made 13 little cakes and one regular sized loaf of fruitcake. Mary took the bigger loaf home with her in trade for the banana bread she'd made, and I have to admit one of my little cakes didn't make it to the getting-soaked-with-brandy stage last night! Even unsoaked, it was delicious.

It was hard to say goodbye to everyone, knowing that I won't see most of them again until the family reunion in May. Julie made us all so welcome in her pretty home in the Virginia mountains, and her husband Jackie proved that men can cook, and cook well. We feasted, there's no other word for it.

When it's time to taste the cakes at Christmas, they will be flavored with the laughter, love and memories that went into making them. And that is a tradition worth keeping, even if it means driving 600 miles to be part of it.



Finally! A fairly decent photo, even if a little blurry. In order left to right, front row: Julie, Lizzie, Cathy. Back row, left to right: Maggie, Theresa, Judy, me and Mary. Age order? Me, Judy, Mary, Theresa, Maggie, Lizzie, Cathy, and Julie is the youngest.

23 comments:

Terry Thornton said...

Sue, What a wonderful family tradition. I can't image the fun youall had making fruitcake --- my favorite holiday cake.

Thanks for sharing this family get-together. All you fruitcake-baking ladies are to be commended for making Christmas cheer!

Merry Christmas.

Terry Thornton

Granny Sue said...

Thank you, Terry. We've decided that it really should be a weekend event, not just one day--so we can talk some more.

Here's to you, another fruitcake lover. The cake is much maligned, but those who've never tasted the brandy-soaked, fruit-filled, rich concoction of a homemade fruitcake just haven't had the real thing. (Well, they still might not like it...)

Janet, said...

Looks like you had a wonderful time. A great tradition! I think I would leave the brandy soaking out, tho.

Tammy said...

I'm the oldest of 4 sisters. We are scattered all over the US...we had a reunion the summer of 2007 after a 13 year seperation, it was awesome and that is when we started planning our up-coming cruise celebration to celebrate one of the sisters fifth year past her breast cancer diagnosis. We plan on having a great time!

Love your traditions, stories and your blog in general...it is so homey here!

Blessin's!

Tipper said...

What a fun day-and a very neat tradition!

City Mouse said...

Looks you had a wonderful time - what a wonderful tradition. Your bowl of mix looks delicious as it is! LOL

Angelena said...

What a wonderful family tradition.

Anonymous said...

Sue--What a great picture of the 8 of you. I have 1 sister--I can't even imagine the dynamics of 8. Have you ever gone to SisterFest? They hold a sisters weekend each March in Sistersville WV. We had a great time when we went. You guys would love it.

Susan said...

Sorry--I didn't mean to be anonymous. Check out the Sisterfest web site. You can google.

Tracey said...

What a fun family tradition!! I love fruitcake...my grandma makes it every Christmas!

Mary said...

You all look like you are having fun! I wish I were close enough to join in. In your first photo, the smallest helper?? Just wondering who that is . . .
Hugs to you all!

Mary said...

BTW, not at all in your league, but I did just make some cranberry bread to try out baking in this new oven. It was a mix, but I did add pecans, so that's a start. Riverwinds is having a storytelling potluck at Lynn's house tomorrow, and I wanted to bring something I made myself. . . .

Mary said...

BTW, not at all in your league, but I did just make some cranberry bread to try out baking in this new oven. It was a mix, but I did add pecans, so that's a start. Riverwinds is having a storytelling potluck at Lynn's house tomorrow, and I wanted to bring something I made myself. . . .

Vera said...

I can't imagine how it would feel to have seven sisters, I always wished I'd had a sister, I just have two brothers.

Juli said...

How very wonderful !! and you're all so beautiful :)

I have two sisters and I love them more then I can say.

Granny Sue said...

Mary, the small helper is my great-niece Alyssa, daughter of Amanda (young one with the dark hair) and granddaughter of my sister Mary. Amanda's two little boys were there too, but the photos I took did not seem to have the boys in them--they were probably outside! Catherine is another great-niece; she's Maggie's granddaughter--she has the blond hair and glasses.

I'm trying to think how many nieces and great nieces we have, but I've lost count. I'd have to use all my fingers and toes, I know that much!

earth heart said...

Granny Sue, what a great day! I loved reading about it. I so love the idea of baking your wishes into the cake and carrying on this honorable tradition.

Carol said...

How I envy you! Sisters AND fruitcake.

Tiger Lady said...

It sounds like you gals had another set of fun memories making fruitcake.

Granny Sue said...

Yes we did, Jaime, and next year you really need to come--Shake 'n' Bake too.

The Tile Lady said...

What a fantastic family tradition! I love the beautiful family you have, and that you all work hard at getting together each year to do this! It's so inspiring...it's what the Christmas spirit is all about!

Marie

Maggie and Roger said...

Let's do it! Wouldn't that be fun to go to sister fest? If we planned far enough ahead we might could do it!
We could all stay together. That would just be fun!

ratu said...

a fun ritual for a family ... :)

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