Joni Woolf: Something old, something new

Published 1:51 pm Thursday, December 13, 2018

Recently a reader asked about cakes for Christmas. Was I going to write about any? Would there be any new recipes? Or old gems? We talked about the old ones, and agreed that Japanese Fruit Cake was one of our favorites. Several years ago, we published an easy, up-dated version of it. It is easy, delicious, and uses a cake mix. But just for fun, I did a little research among my many cookbooks. I found there is no end to the combinations of nuts, fruits, and juices that imaginative cooks have conjured for their fillings. We’ll start with the easy one, and move forward.

Japanese Fruit Cake
1 box Duncan Hines moist Deluxe Butter Recipe Golden Cake mix.
Mix according to directions. Divide into 3 portions. In one layer add 1teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon allspice. Put in three, 9-inch pans that have been lined with parchment paper and cook according to directions on cake box. Cool layers in pans 10 minutes.
Icing (“filling” might be a more appropriate term)
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups sugar,
½ stick butter
¾ cup fresh lemon juice
Grated rind (zest) from three lemons
1 cup drained, canned crushed pineapple
Cook in heavy pan as it will burn easily. Cook until thick. Add 6 oz. frozen coconut, ½ cup chopped pecans and ½ cup raisins. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Let rest a few minutes before putting an equal amount on warm layers. Icing tends to run a bit, so keep spooning back on. It will stay, as it cools.

The next recipe comes from the New Perry Hotel recipe book. Many will remember the fine meals they enjoyed in that establishment years ago. This recipe is one of the best of this cake.

Japanese Fruit Cake (a four-layer cake)
1 cup butter
3 ¼ cups plain flour
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups sugar
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon baking powder
Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Sift flour and baking powder together. Add vanilla to butter mixture, then add flour and milk alternately, ½ cup at a time. When batter is mixed and well-beaten, divide it into two parts (in medium-size bowls). Stir into one part the following:
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ pound seeded raisins, chopped
1 teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon cloves
Bake both parts of the batter at 350 degrees F., in two layers, making four layers in all. Cool layers.
Juice of 2 lemons
1 package frozen coconut
1 cup boiling water
Grated rind of one lemon
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Put all except cornstarch into saucepan. When mixture begins to boil, add the cornstarch which has been stirred into a half cup of cold water. Continue to cook slowly, stirring constantly. When mixture will drop from the spoon in a lump, remove from heat and cool. Spread between layers, (and though it does not say, I assume on the top layer, also).

In the 1961 edition of Americus Recipes, published by the then-Junior Welfare League, the recipe of Mrs. W. H. Vissage for Japanese Fruit Cake offers a similar cake, in three layers, with the middle layer containing the following ingredients. (In fact, you could follow the above recipe, make it into three layers and in the middle layer, add this.)
½ cup nut meats
½ teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
½ cup strawberry preserves.
When layers are done, the cake is frosted with an old-fashioned cooked icing, as follows:
2 ½ cups sugar
½ cup white Karo syrup
½ cup water
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla
Few grains of salt
Boil sugar, water, salt, and syrup together until it spins a thread, or reaches about 240 degrees F. on a candy thermometer. Have egg whites stiffly beaten and when syrup is ready, pour slowly into egg whites, beating while pouring. Continue beating until it loses its shine and begins to hold shape. Put layers together with icing, sprinkling tops of each with fresh coconut.

Pick one. They all sound lovely to look at, and delectable to bite into. You can’t go wrong.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at