Thursday, 18 August 2011

Gifts From The Heart

Saturday is day that I have been looking forward to for some time. I have a wonderful Aunt, who is the kind of person who just makes you feel better from talking with her. As long as I have known her, she has worn her hair up in a twist of some kind or another, is ever so properly mannered yet has the naughtiest laugh and a delightful sense of humour. When I was a little girl, we would never know when she and my Uncle were coming to visit. Instead, we would get home from school, and they would either just be there, or were on their way. They visited rarely enough for it to be a wonderful surprise, and often enough that I was never shy with them. My Uncle was an airline pilot, and as well as teaching me the phonetic alphabet almost as soon as I knew the real one, he used to give me little gifts that meant so much - such as a rubber with a black swan on it, from Australia.

When I was 8 or so, my sister and I went to have a weeks holiday with them. It was so exciting to be away from home on our own, and I just remember the most exciting time. Then the next year, I went on my own. I have a memory and also a photograph of me in their beautiful garden, wearing the biggest smile, and what I thought then was the prettiest jumper in the world. It had a lady clown on it with sparkly buttons and ribbons and things, and they had bought it for me when I fell in love with it in a shop.

Fast forward a few years, and they lent our family their home in Looe in Cornwall so we could holiday there. Such a lovely time, and the best day of all when they dropped in to visit us. It is the same Aunt and Uncle who kindly lent us their appartment in Barbados for our honeymoon.

Best of all are the days we drive down to visit them. It only happens 3 or 4 times a year, and I really wish it were more. I wish I could capture the loveliness of their home and hospitality for you. She is not houseproud but everything is clean and tidy and just so. She loves pretty things, and there are pretty throws on the sofa, embroidered tablecloths, and always a cup and saucer for tea from the pot, usually accompanied by a plate of homemade sausage rolls warm from the oven.

As you can tell, they have given me a lot of happy memories over the years. And this Saturday, the day I have been looking forward to, is their Ruby Wedding Anniversary. To celebrate they have invited us and the rest of their family to a hotel near their home, where we are having a celebration lunch. It is the South Lodge hotel, and hopefully, if I have done it correctly, the title of this post should link to it. It looks wonderful, and I am really looking forward to seeing the family, celebrating such a wonderful marriage, and in such a setting too!

Now Aunty Dottie has been pressing on us how they don't need presents, how they have everything they want, and how our company is their gift. A lovely thought indeed, but we really want to give them something. What to get though? And then, I had a thought. Rather than 'get' them something, I want to give them something. So I have baked them a cake, a fruit cake with rum-soaked fruit that I will marzipan and ice. I am going to put a red ribbon around it, and have a silver '4' and '0' to put on top, along with a spray of red roses made from icing. I do hope they like it! This is my recipe:

A week or so before you want to make the cake, take 12oz of currants and raisins (the combined weight, not 12oz of each) and steep them in 550ml rum or, if you would rather 350ml rum and the rest port. Be sure to use dark rum, Barbados if you can get it.

On a rainy summer afternoon, preheat your oven to 160 oC then tie on your prettiest apron, and grease and line a 8.5-9.5 inch cake tin (a round one, not a square one).

Beat together 6oz soft butter with 7oz dark muscavado sugar. Then beat in the zest of 1 large orange, 2 large eggs, 1tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp mixed spice, 1/2 tsp nutmeg (again from Barbados if possible, mine came home in my honeymoon suitcase!), and the steeped fruit and the excess rum that hasn't yet soaked into the fruit.

Stir it together, and breathe in the rich scent, making you realise how soon it will be that you will be baking your Christmas cake, and remember when you made your own wedding cake, and smile.

Sift in 13oz plain flour and 2tsp baking powder. As you stir, stir in lots of love.

Turn the mixture out into the baking tin, and bake for 1 hour- 1 hour 15 minutes.

This cake is so delicious and moist that you do not need to ice it, but can eat it plain. However I will be marzipanning and icing this one.

The kitchen is warm from the glow of the oven now, the air is rich with fruit cake cooking, and my heart is warm too, from happy memories. Aren't the best gifts those made or given with love?

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