There’s a scene at the end of A Christmas Story–and stop reading now if you’ve never seen the film that plays on TV 24 hours a day leading up to December 25 because there will be spoilers–where the family’s Yuletide feast is ruined. Not to be defeated, the dad gathers everyone up and they head out to a Chinese restaurant, Chop Suey Palace, where they’re introduced to Peking duck. Unaccustomed to seeing their dinner “smile at them,” the restaurateur unceremoniously chops off the crispy bird’s head. Et voilà, dinner is served!
I first had the idea to make Christmas cake over a year ago. The Beast and I had visited George Washington’s Mount Vernon in November, 2012. There was a special food exhibit detailing what the Washingtons would’ve eaten in the late 18th century. There were even recipe cards. One was for Martha Washington’s Great Cake, which was likely served as part of their grand Christmas dinner.
I had this in the back of my mind when we visited the duty free shop in Las Vegas a year later. I decided to buy a giant bottle of rum to facilitate my Christmas cake making, but not without quite a bit of deliberation.
Beast: Come on. We have to go.
Foodie: What kind of alcohol are you getting?
Foodie: Should I get this eight-year-old Bacardi rum? It’s such a good deal! And it’s “reserve”!
Beast: How much rum have we gone through in the last 10 years?
Foodie: Not much, I suppose. But I could sure use it to make Christmas cakes come Christmas time!
Beast: Do you even like Christmas cake?
Foodie: [Pause] I don’t think so. Do you?
Despite neither of us liking Christmas cake, I bought the rum and then several weeks later I began Googling and going through my cookbooks to look for recipes for a cake that I do not like. I found a recipe for Joey Smallwood’s wife’s 100-year-old Christmas cake. I found another in my Canadian Living cookbook. And another one from popular British cook Delia Smith.
I decided to take the best elements of them all, including Martha Washington’s, to create a perfect Christmas cake.