This recipe came from my grandmother (Granny), who was raised in the northernmost part of Norway. She moved to England just before WWII to become a housekeeper for an Admiral and his wife. In their household, she learned about British cooking which was very different from the kind of cooking she did with her mother on their farm when she was growing up. During the war, she met and married a soldier in England and the first time she was able to return to Norway, the war was over and she brought three children with her. It took a week to go that far north. Her husband died in the 1960's in a flu epidemic and in midlife she had to figure out how to support herself. She became a caterer in her small English town, and was known for her party food and cakes. She made many Christmas cakes and tiered wedding cakes from this recipe. When she came to visit us in Seattle, she sometimes brought this cake in her suitcase, and sometimes she made it after she arrived. She brought many amazing and unusual foods to us - once, infamously, she brought pheasants, wrapped up in a shower curtain in her suitcase for Christmas Eve which was the following night. When the customs officer asked if she had anything to declare - she smiled and in her beautiful Norwegian accent proclaimed she had “12 frozen pheasants”. The officer shook his head, laughed and winked at her, waving her through. A few years later she remarried. She and her husband were deeply in love and very romantic but also very silly and eccentric. Whenever I wanted a recipe from her, JR would type it up and fax it to me, writing half in her distinctive Norwegian-British patois and half in his own highly original style of speaking. The recipe above is transcribed almost exactly from their letter, faxed to me at my first job on November 23, 1993 in San Francisco, just in time for Christmas. This is the opening paragraph - so you get a sense of them: Dear Sarah, Following is translated from the “ancient Norse writing” + Norwegian mutter - to the best of the English Interpreter’s ability - it is for your use and for you to retransmit to your sister. Lucky YOU! Lucky me indeed.
Start 4 weeks before Christmas.
You begin your cake the night before you bake.
Measure all fruits in a mixing bowl and stir in booze. Leave on the counter overnight.
The next day set the oven to 285.
Cream your sugar + butter.
Add flour and eggs gradually - or you can do what I do, put nearly all flour, all eggs, all butter + sugar + spices in a food processor with lemon + orange rind....now stir (process).
Put rest of the flour in with the fruit in a mixing bowl with your cake mix (from the food processor) -
stir well + make a wish or two
Put the mixture in a double parchment-lined 8" round tin.
Cook for 4 hours with a piece of paper over the top (protects the cake from burning).
Remove from oven when straw comes out clean.
Cool, then turn out after 1/2 hour - onto a rack.
Poke holes all over with a long skewer.
Wrap in a double layer of parchment.
Over the next three weeks, feed once a week with 1/4 c brandy.
A week before Christmas, brush with melted apricot jam. (melt gently in a small saucepan on the stove or in a bowl in the microwave - it only takes a few seconds)
Roll out the marzipan to a 14" diameter. Lay smoothly over the surface of the cake. Allow to dry out on the counter for 2 days.
Cover in a thick layer of royal icing, using the back of a soup spoon to make festive peaks. Or roll out the fondant to a 14" diameter and smooth over the surface. Decorate with fondant cut out in holly leaves and berries
If using royal icing, decorate with fresh holly, a little bottle brush Christmas tree, a tiny Santa, a pine cone.
Have fun and hope the proof will be in the eating - you could send us a nibble! More love from the exceptionally SLIM ONES destined for zero pud/cake this Christmas Grrr and John