The Lousy Cook Makes a Fruitcake

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My brown Caribbean Black Cake (if I’d burned the sugar as the recipe required, I would have burned the house down, so I substituted dark molasses)

The first time I used my new KitchenAid mixer(s), I might have gone overboard. I threw out my hip while making a fruitcake.

The day started out by finally making The Fruitcake. To be specific, this was a Caribbean Black Cake six months in the making. I’d read about it in Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking the previous summer, the same week I watched the Great British Baking Show and decided it wouldn’t be too difficult to make my own 30th anniversary cake. Colwin’s Caribbean Black Cake recipe stresses that the cake must be extravagantly decorated (“colored icing, flowers, swags, and garlands”), as it is typically for weddings. Also, the cake recipe includes two bottles of booze. Sounded like a good starter cake for me: a cake Colwin confessed that she herself had not attempted to make.

Finding the specified fruit and booze had taken some effort, and I’d been soaking 4.75 pounds of fruit in two bottles of booze for nearly two months. I needed to get that vat of fruit off the counter to clear more room for the mixer.

I’d been cleaning and reorganizing the kitchen since the day after Christmas, to make room for the new mixer and for all of the wonderful kitchen gadgets my mother sent me for Christmas and my October birthday. I called this The Poor Man’s Kitchen Remodel, which consisted mostly of buying lots of square, stackable storage containers for the pantry and getting rid of stuff (like the microwave popcorn popper I hadn’t used in at least a decade).

My mother went for the Nature Abhors a Vacuum model, because she started mailing me every kitchen gadget she hadn’t used in years, including my grandmother’s plastic pastry tips, which clearly hadn’t seen the light of day for 50 years. She mailed me a cheese maker. She mailed me a little sweater for the rolling pin.

Black Cake making day started off well as my first trial for the KitchenAid. I could never, ever have mixed the cake batter by hand. Boozy fruit made for a stiff batter. Also, the recipe made way more than one cake, it turned out. It was one hell of a lot of batter, and I ended up with two cakes plus six “individual cakes” (made in a giant muffin pan). More to decorate.

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Mixer on new expandable, rolling stand (cheerfully assembled by MIM)

Here’s where I went sideways. I decided that since I’d put so much into making these cakes, I should practice decorating first. Which meant making cupcakes as well, making icing for the cupcakes, and decorating the cupcakes. On top of making 2 big cakes and 6 little ones. Keep in mind that I had never made cupcakes nor homemade frosting before. I had both mixer bowls and paddles going at once.

In the middle of all that, I went to the gym to meet with my brand new Personal Trainer, who is maybe 15 years old. He had me doing The Plank, The Butterfly, The Knee in Mouth, and The Who Needs a Mirror to See Your Cervix exercises. That is, he tried to have me do all of these, with varying degrees of failure. He would say, “Okay, let’s try to do a Modified Plank. Just ten seconds. Five?” Pretty soon I was doing The Cockroach as I crawled out of there.

Afterward, I did The Limp and The Stagger over to the craft store next door to buy bigger pastry bags and bigger piping nozzles, because naturally I needed to make two-toned flowers. I ran into Claire and Jeanette, who were there to find more scraps of pink material in order to make more pink pussy hats for the upcoming women’s march. Jeanette said to me, “You look really white. Are you okay?”

Let’s put this in perspective. A woman engaged in making 500+ hats and thousands of hygiene kits was telling me that I looked done-in.

cupcakes-01092017-4I should have listened, but I went home and baked and decorated cupcakes. And a hell of a lot of fruitcake.

Perhaps the problem was that they were really fucking heavy fruitcakes.

By 7:00, I was medicated and in bed, where I largely remained for a week. My hip, which has been an issue for a while, was now in total spasm—like an ice pick attached to an electric cattle prod periodically and unpredictably jabbing a pelvic joint, which makes it look like you are grabbing your privates when it zings you. On the bright side, at least I was grabbing my own pussy and not leaving the honors to the leader of the free world.

I missed the Women’s March. What was my excuse? Fruitcake. Imagine telling that to your grandchildren when they ask where you were on that historic day.

A week after that, I got a steroid injection that put me on the couch for another week. So there went January.

But it was a really good cake. The Man I Married spent the month of January working his way through the entire thing, plus four of the mini-cakes. Better him than me.

Hm, an incomplete border. Borders are highly overrated, anyway.

As far as the second fruitcake, it’s still not decorated. It’s on the counter, soaking up more rum. It would make a hell of a shot put at this point, but I hope to have a party for this one. If you come over, just remember, it’s not a fruitcake: it’s a brown Black Cake. And that is not an alternative fact.

* * *
In other news, my much loved cooking teacher, Amanda Coba, has apparently fled the country rather than continuing to try to teach me to cook during her lunch-time cooking classes. I’m sorry to see her go but hope she enjoys her travels. Best of luck, Amanda.

* * *

All photos by Jennifer D. Munro

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