The Main Menu: Stir Up Sunday ushers in fruit cake season


Stir Up Sunday was an English tradition based on the church calendar, the last Sunday before Advent, the end of November, when family members got together to stir up the Christmas pudding in readiness for the Christmas celebrations.

Everyone from the youngest to the oldest would give the rich mixture a whirl while making a wish. As an incentive, silver coins were planted in the mixture: a ring for marriage, a coin for good fortune and a thimble for life’s blessings. Later, Christmas cake was added to the tradition.

You can re-create your own Stir Up Sunday with friends and family to ready your kitchen for the Christmas festivities.

This fruit cake recipe from Recipes For Victory, the recently published cookbook from Fort York, is an excellent simple cake delicious any time of the year and wonderful served with a slice of old cheddar. In addition, the cookbook available through Amazon and at Fort York’s canteen, is an excellent gift especially if accompanied by this yummy cake!

Canadian War Cake

Originally called Boiled Raisin Cake or Trench Cake (as it was sent overseas to soldiers in the trenches), it was made with no eggs and very little fat in keeping with the restricted rationing of the time. However, the cake does not lack in flavour. Its moistness, quick and easy preparation and versatility makes it a worthwhile cake for any season or occasion (especially worthy of note for those who usually do not enjoy fruitcake). It’s a winner!

Although the cake calls for sultanas, other dried fruits can be substituted such as: craisins, chopped crystallized ginger, currants, chopped dried apricots even a few nuts. If you like – be creative!

3 cups (750 mL) sultanas
2 cups (500 mL) packed brown sugar
2 tbsp (25 mL) butter
1 tsp (5 mL) ground cinnamon
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
½ tsp (2 mL) ground cloves
2 cups (500 mL) boiling water
1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
1 tsp (5 mL) hot water
3 cups (750 mL) all-purpose flour

Line two 8 x4 inch (1.5 L) loaf pans with parchment paper. Place oven rack in the centre of the oven at 325 F (160 C).

Chop the raisins coarsely. In a medium saucepan combine the raisins, sugar, butter, salt and cloves. Pour in the boiling water. Bring to the boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool to room temperature. Mix together the baking soda and hot water; stir into the raisin mixture. Stir the flour into the raisin mixture about one-quarter at a time. Divide the mixture between the prepared pans; smooth tops.

Bake in the centre of the oven until golden brown on top, firm when lightly touched and a cake tester inserted into the centre comes out clean, 50-60 minutes. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes; turn out onto rakes, right side up and let cool. (Make ahead: Wrap and sore at room temperature for up to 4 days or freeze wrapped cakes in an airtight container for up to 1 month.)

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