This combination of a good book and a yummy cake makes for a very fine winter afternoon.
Cynthia Rylant’s and Arthur Howard’s Mr. Putter & Tabby children’s books are treasures. In easy-read short chapters, these sweet stories invite readers of all ages into the pastimes and projects of a gentle man and his timid cat who are often joined by their more adventurous neighbor and her rambunctious dog. Visitors will appreciate the tender respect and appreciation Mr. Putter, Tabby, Mrs. Teaberry and Zeke share with each other, and the agelessness of lifelong learning.
I’ve also long loved an old family recipe for hearty, heavy fruitcake. But, for those who don’t share that particular pleasure, this is the perfect time of year to read Mr. Putter & Tabby Bake the Cake and then make the wonderful “non-fruitcake” fruitcake recipe published by author Adriana Trigiani (and credited to Cindy Ashley) in the novel Home to Big Stone Gap. This is a “fruit cake” that won’t, as Mr. Putter would say, break your toe.
Long Winter’s Nap Christmas Cake
1 stick butter, room temperature
½ cup shortening
3 cups sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon rum flavoring *see note
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup green maraschino cherries, quartered
½ cup red maraschino cherries, quartered
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup black walnuts, finely chopped
Beat together butter, shortening and sugar until fluffy; beat, beat, beat !!! “The secret of the cake is in the beating,” writes Trigiani.
Add eggs one at a time. Add sifted flour and milk alternately. Add rum flavoring, vanilla, cherries, coconut, and walnuts.
Bake at 325 degrees for 1 ½ hours in a large tube pan.
Optional ~ This is not a frosted cake. I sprinkle on a little powdered sugar before serving.
Notes ~ I thought we had rum flavoring when I started, but either didn’t have it or couldn’t find it (!) No rum, either. So, I cooked the fruit in just enough brandy to cover and poured all of it into the batter. Delicious. As for the pan, this time I used a large bundt pan, reduced the cooking time, and had enough extra for 5 large cupcake gifts. Happy baking ~ and reading!