The Main Menu: Getting a head start on the holiday baking season

We're well into November and now is the time to get a jump on the holiday baking season, writes Jan Main.


Bleak November days are perfect for stirring up the Christmas cake, puddings and those special cookies made for the holiday season. This baking improves with ageing or can be frozen, giving you a head start on the Christmas season.

There is nothing better than sharing cooking activities with friends and family to create the true feeling of Christmas cheer!

Gather your favourite recipes together or try these versions, make your shopping list and invite a cooking partner(s) to help in the fun!

Canadian Fruitcake

One of my favourite fruitcakes, this is ideal for those people who dislike traditional Christmas cake. This version is made with apples and a splash of whisky for Canadian flair with a simple glaze. Serve with a dollop of softly whipped cream.

1 cup (250 mL) vegetable oil
1/2 cup (125 mL) orange juice or 1/4 orange juice and 1/4 cup whisky
3 eggs
1 cup (250 mL) EACH, granulated and packed brown sugar
1 tbsp (15 mL) EACH, grated orange and lemon rinds
3 cups (750 mL) all-purpose flour
2 tsp (1- mL) cinnamon
1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
1/2 tsp (2 mL) EACH, salt, nutmeg and ground ginger
3 apples, peeled cored and thinly sliced. TIP: Cortland is a good cooking apple
1 cup (250 mL) walnuts or pecans
1 cup (250 mL) raisins or craisins or mixture of each
Lemon Whisky Glaze
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) sifted icing sugar
1/4 cup (50 mL) fresh lemon juice or use 1/2 whisky and lemon juice
Garnish: Fresh raspberries and mint

Preheat oven to 350 (180C). Spray 9-inch (23cm) tube pan with baking spray. (This ensures you that the cake will come out of the cake pan!)

Using an electric mixer or food processor to beat oil, orange juice and eggs together until thickened and creamy. Gradually beat in granulated, brown sugar, orange and lemon rinds together.

In separate bowl, mix together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, salt and ginger. Gradually beat dry ingredients into liquid ingredients until combined; fold in apples, walnuts and raisins until combined.

Spoon batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake 50-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on rack.

Glaze: Meanwhile, in mixing bowl, sift icing sugar and gradually stir in fresh lemon juice or mixture of lemon and whisky.

Once cake is cool, run a knife around the cake to loosen, carefully unmold onto large cake plate and drizzle glaze over cake to have it dripping down the sides. Cut a lemon and orange with rind into even slices then in half and arrange around the outside of cake alternately to look inviting. Serve with a bowl of flavoured whipped cream. Recipe follows.

Maple Cream with Whisky Overtones

2 cups (500 mL) whipping cream
1/2 cup (125 ml) pure maple syrup
1-2 tbsp (15-25 mL) whisky

In a deep mixing bowl using electric mixer, beat cream until firm peaks form. Gradually beat in maple syrup then whisky and beat until soft peaks. Spoon into serving dish. Cover and refrigerate.

May be prepared 2 hours before serving. Makes 12-16 slices.

Frozen Syllabub

The original syllabub from Olde England was a frothy, warm drink of milk or cream mixed with ale or wine, sugar and spices. This modern recipe has been transformed into a frozen cake, the ideal dessert to complement a rich menu.

It has become our family favourite after Christmas dinner.

It is luscious in flavour, silky in texture, refreshing and simple to prepare ahead of the final Christmas rush! (If you are really tight on time, it can be made in minutes before your guests arrive, serve in pretty wine glasses, decorate with the reserved lemon rind, refrigerate and serve as a mousse!)

2 cups (500 mL) whipping cream
1/2 cup (125 mL) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) sweet white wine (Riesling works well)
1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh lemon juice (2 juicy lemons)
Grated lemon rind from the lemons

In a deep mixing bowl using electric mixer beat cream until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar and wine continue beating then gradually beat in lemon juice and beat until peaks form.

For a cake, line a 4 cup (1 L) bowl with plastic wrap and spoon syllabub into mold. Cover and freeze. (usually it needs 4 hours to freeze)

Unmold onto serving plate, decorate with fresh raspberries and mint. Cut into 6-8 wedges to serve.

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