A Lighter Side to Fruitcake

Fruitcake seems to perpetually have a bad rap. Not entirely sure why. I mention the words "fruit cake" to someone and they are often met with "ehwww....I hate fruit cake. So gross.". Why? What did fruit cake ever do to them?

Many find fruit cake too dense and heavy. True, a number of fruitcakes are made this way. I have discovered that most commercially made fruitcakes contain too much fruit to batter ratio and this is what makes them so heavy. Added to this is a thick layer of overly sweet marzipan (personally, I'm not a fan of the stuff in any season).

I've been making our family fruitcakes for years. I like to make two types. One with the traditional candied cherries and peel and nuts and dark raisins. The other I make with only the light fruit. Golden raisins, dried citrus peel, dried cranberries and slivered almonds. This mixture gives the cakes a more blonde appearance with the red dried cranberries giving just a bit of colour.

I also separate the egg yolks from the egg whites (trivia question - what is the egg white called . . . besides "egg white"). The yolks get blended into the cream mixture while the egg whites are beaten stiff and then folded in at the end. This makes for a lighter, airier cake.

Another problem with fruitcake is that it can be dry. Good fruitcake remains moist. This comes from properly curing the fruitcake. And this takes time. And brandy. And a dark closet. So I usually start the fruitcakes in mid October.

So here is the recipe our family has used as far back as I can remember.

Blonde Fruitcake

Fruit Mixture
2              cup         golden raisins
1              cup         diced candied citron
1              cup         dried cranberries
1              cup         candied pineapple, chopped
1              cup         slivered almonds
1              cup         brandy, orange brandy, asbach or spiced rum

¾             cup         milk
¼             cup         brandy, orange brandy, asbach or spiced rum
1              tsp          almond extract
1 ½          cup         butter, softened
2              cup         granulated sugar
6                            eggs, separated
3 ½          cup         all purpose flour
1              tsp          cream of tartar

Cheesecloth for wrapping cakes
2              cup         brandy, orange brandy, asbach or spiced rum

In a large bowl, combine the raisins, candied citron, cranberries, pineapple and slivered almonds with the 1 cup liquor and toss to coat. Cover and allow to sit for two days. Toss, and allow to sit for another two days. Repeat until all liquid has been absorbed by the fruit mixture (about a week).

Butter 4 standard sized loaf pans (8 ½ x 4 ½ x 2 ½ “). Line bottoms with brown paper. Butter brown paper. Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.

Combine the milk, ¼ cup liquor and almond extract and set aside. In a large mixer bowl, cream the butter at medium speed until creamy. Gradually add the granulated sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the flour alternately with the milk mixture, beating well after each addition. Pour over fruit mixture. Mic well and set aside.

In a clean mixer bowl and with clean beaters, whip the egg whites on high speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until still peaks form. Fold into batter. Spoon batter into prepared loaf pans. Pack evenly by pressing down batter with the back of a wooden spoon.

Bake at 275 degrees F for 1 ¾ hours until skewer inserted into center of each cake comes out clean. Remove pans from oven and cool in pans on wire racks for 30 minutes. Run knife around edge of cakes to loosen. Remove cakes from pans. Peel off paper and allow cakes to cool completely.

Wrap each cake with a double layer of cheesecloth. Using extra liquor, brush each cake with enough liquid to dampen cheesecloth. Wrap cakes in aluminum foil and store in a dark closet for 2 to 3 weeks, brushing occasionally with more liquor.

Cured cakes can be frozen for up to a year. 

A New Look for Hoop Earrings

Here's a quick fix for giving new life to your existing jewelry.

These connectors and pendants by EverLuxe are delicate and light enough to be threaded onto silver or gold hoops to add a new dimension to your existing earrings.

Or, you could place them between a stud earring and your ear. Imagine a diamond or colored stone sparkling at the top of these.

They would look great with pearl studs as well. And at such great prices, you can easily create several new looks by changing and swapping the look to extend your jewelry wardrobe.

Stick a Fork in it . . .

Earlier today I was sitting in the window on a cold and dreary day, sipping a cup of tea and wishing for the sunshine. Or even just a little brightness in the day to lift my spirits.

And then there was a knock at the door . . . .

Look what arrived today! A new bracelet . . . made from an old fork. I’ve only worn it to the store and to the post office and already I have had three comments on how unique and interesting it is. And I have to agree.

One of the nice things about this bracelet is that it fits my small wrist comfortably, since it is more oval than round. I sometimes find wrist cuffs or cuff bracelets just don’t sit right when I’m at the computer. They keep banging around on stuff. I thought it was because they were too big. Then a light bulb went on and I realized it wasn’t necessarily the SIZE of the bracelet, but the SHAPE. Oval bracelets with the same circumference as round bracelets will move less because they sit flatter and have less room to go anywhere. Yes, I know it seems like a simple concept, and no, I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t figure this out before.

This design shown right (and mine, shown above) is by The Fork Whisperer. Each of the pieces is done individually so each one is different. Even though they are silver, there is something organic about the curves and shapes that the artist coaxes out of each utensil. The once straight and rigid tines appear softer and more graceful.

Anyhow, here are a couple examples of fork bracelets for you to enjoy and marvel over. A fork around your wrist you say? How bizarre, how unusual. I say how handy . . . in case you find yourself buying lunch from a street cart and are in need of some cutlery.

Paris Chic meets Dark Espresso

Anyone who has seen my apartment (and not many people have, since it is still in the final stages of renovation.) will note that most of my furniture is dark espresso and fairly contemporary. Bedroom set? dark espresso with black leather insets in the headboard. Dining room chairs? dark espresso with beige ultra suede. Book shelves? You guessed it, dark espresso with pictures in dark espresso or silver frames. Even my crown molding and baseboards are now painted in Behr # 790B-7 Bitter Chocolate Espresso. And I don’t even like coffee.

So I find it a bit interesting that recently I have become drawn to French style occasional furniture. Perhaps it is a reflection back to my
stay in Paris in my oh-la-la bed & breakfast.

I like the chipped and peeling antique look of this gorgeous hand carved Louis XIV style dresser from the 1930’s (left). It would look lovely in the same room as this carved mirror (left, with top scroll detail depicted at the beginning of this post). Both are available from Karina Gentinetta.

So imagine my surprise (and delight) when I found myself enamored with this coffee and end table set at a local antique store. Even more surprising was that I bought them, even though I vowed I didn't want a coffee table because I felt it would chop up the traffic flow of my living space; not to mention that they are pretty much the opposite of the rest of my furniture.

But wait! there's more . . . the idea is to make these two tables into extra storage for magazines and such.

The tops of these tables are screwed in place. I will remove the tops, add piano style hinges to give them "lifting lids", and add bottoms to them with braces just under the skirting. This will give me about four inches deep of storage. Lots of room to hide all those remote controls out of sight for when company is over.

A little bit of functional French je ne sais quoi in the middle of my living room.

. . . how à propos !

Slow Day for Self Promotion . . .

. . .just an update of some of the projects we've been working on. . ...(I know, I know . . it's been awhile).

First up is this beautiful necklace with a large blueberry quartz teardrop focal bead (left). The facets on the focal bead capture the sunlight quite brilliantly (yes, I know, there's a pun). Or even better, the candlelight as you gaze into his eyes over that romantic dinner you have coming up.

Another one that turned out really well is this green and teal combination (below right). Turquoise, amazonite, pale apple and dark African jade beads mixed with Czech glass. This piece reminds me of the warm ocean on a summer's day. All that's needed is the white sand . . . . and a margarita.

One of my favorite things to do when coming up with new jewelry designs is to lay out all my boxes of beads in my studio. Then I take a small glass mixing bowl and start mixing in beads that I think will go well together. A dash of this one, a pinch of that one. Give it a stir and put it all together.

This also means that none of my pieces end up the same. Which is great, because who wants to see the same necklace on someone else when walking down the street. It's nice to own something that's unique and one-of-a-kind. Warning though: if you don't like receiving compliments, then these pieces aren't for you.

This one (left) features some nice pale moss agate. It has three fantastic carved flower donut-style beads, the center one larger than the other two. Their centers are threaded with very pretty amazonite round beads. Again, I've used Czech glass and Bali silver to accent the focal beads. A very pretty Y shaped drop necklace.

As always, you can find these designs and many others in our online store at http://www.silverbluedesigns.etsy.com/.

I will also be listing a number of beads as I try to make room for new finds (though I maintain that one can never have too many beads . . .just not enough space)

. . . and so a little bit of self promotion never hurt anyone . . . right?

Perfect Petite Pincushions

I’m sure this has happened to many a sewing phenom who’s had one of those magnetic pin holder contraptions. You know, the yellow oval thing that looks like it could double as a soap dish. Nice for keeping the pins in place . . .not so nice when it drops on the floor late at night and all the pins go scattering across the floor along with the cat who was dozing so nicely under the sewing table. So I have reverted back to a traditional stuffed fabric pincushion.

The uber-common design of a tomato with a funny little strawberry attached was most likely introduced during the Victorian Era. But really . . . a tomato and a strawberry? I mean, the strawberry is kinda cute but the tomato just makes me think of pasta which makes me hungry. According to Tomatoes Are Evil.com, pins were initially stuck in ripe tomatoes all over Europe. The firmness of the skin with the softness of the inner pulp was ideal for keeping the pins in place. When no ripe tomatoes were abound, housewives and seamstresses made red, tomato-looking cushions for their pins. And since tomatoes and strawberries grow well together . . . voila!

Pincushions are typically filled tightly with stuffing so that the pins are held rigidly in place once poked into the fabric. Traditionally, wool roving (un–spun wool) is used in the tomato in order to prevent rust on the pins. The attached strawberry is typically filled with an abrasive such as emery in order to keep the pins clean and sharp.

So in not wanting to stay with the traditional, in my search I came across a couple different takes on the tomatoes-love-strawberries theme. And I must say, these would make pretty additions to any home, sewing phenom or not. I like the idea of the little strawberries in reds, greens and whites by allthingssmall to decorate a holiday tree. Or a trio of little pumpkins by Sea Pinks for a centerpiece at Thanksgiving. And I adore the sunny yellow flowers on denim blue felt by The Daily Pinchusion, while the yummy cupcake design by Smarmy Pants reminds me to smile and find the whimsy when my sewing isn't quite going as planned.

Sharp, clean pins with no rust that don’t fall all over the floor held by beautiful and charming designs . . .? Genius!