Last week, I posted some Christmas cake recipes from my grandmother, her mother, and her mother-in-law. I got messages from my mom as well as two of her sisters with more information about the traditions around these dishes.
My mom wrote (in the comments):
The dark fruitcake was used for birthdays – it had two eggs. However we had another fruit cake that called for a “pound of eggs”, about 10, and this was made only for Christmas and New Year and Lillian’s birthday, December 28!
Your e-mail brought back a lot of memories – of the whole family sitting around the kitchen table late November or early December making mincemeat!
My Aunt Edith emailed me to say “When we were kids, the Christmas cake was made in 3 graduated tins – like wedding cake tins. The largest cake was for Christmas, the middle-sized one for New Year’s (Lillian’s b’day?[December 28]) and when Joyce arrived the third one, for a few years, was her birthday cake.
My Aunt Lillian wrote that the two larger fruitcakes were for Christmas and New Year and that she got the smaller one for her birthday, perhaps until my Aunt Joyce came along some years later in mid-January.
All three sisters remembered, as my Aunt Lillian put it, “the cheap fruit cake”. Aunt Edith wrote “[The] other siblings’ birthday cakes were the much cheaper and less fruity (i.e. no peel, almonds, pecans, cherries, etc.) fruit cakes, the ‘fruit’ being basically raisins.” My mother remembered that the cheap fruit cake had no eggs.
Of the mincemeat: My mother wrote that it was “not at all like the one you get in cans. We liked grandmas although we also liked the other. My father got a hamper from the place where he worked [Canada Packers] at Christmas and it included mince meat in a can.” Aunt Lillian noted that 1/2 the mincemeat recipe is enough to make 2 pies.
Aunt Edith also commented on the handwriting of the second and third recipes, which I did not recognize: I’m not sure who printed out the other two recipes, although my guess is that it was [my Uncle] Ross. When he was at home with nephritis, he did a variety of things like knitting at least one scarf, hooking a rug, and so on. I think he also began to copy some of mother’s recipes on cards to fit into a recipe box. However, the asterisk and ‘2 1/2 tbsp’ on the pudding recipe is my addition!
My Uncle Ross died in 1957 of kidney failure at the age of 22, and so I never got to meet him. It feels nice to have something that he wrote, if that is in fact the case.