Happy New Year!
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, and we begin a new church year, another Year of Grace, or Year of Our Lord. This time of Advent we focus on two comings: we remember the longing, the anticipation, the hope, the long patient wait for the Messiah. We also are remembering that Christ will come again at the end of time, and we prepare for that Final Judgment. Our time here is precious! The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this much more eloquently:
When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (CCC, 524)
And so, we need to stir up our hearts, renew ourselves to prepare for His coming. In the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, the translation of the Collect (or Opening Prayer) of the Mass for the First Sunday of Advent invited that stirring:
O Lord, stir up Thy might, we beg Thee, and come that by Thy protection we may deserve to be rescued from the threatening dangers of our sins and saved by Thy deliverance. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
A traditional English custom on this day was to make a Plum pudding, with every family member giving a good stir representing their hearts being stirred on that day. Plum pudding and fruit cake have taken a hard rap over the years. There are those who hate them and those who love them, and few fall in between. I know this is a bit late for actually stirring up on Sunday, but all week is a good time to do this. I’m offering this recipe as an alternative to standard fruitcake — because it contains rum AND no candied fruit. Perhaps this will suit someone’s fancy?
This recipe requires soaking the fruit in rum at least 3 days prior to mixing up all the ingredients, so on Wednesday or Thursday before Advent, start soaking. (The years that Thanksgiving is the week before Advent, just plan on having a cocktail with rum to remind you to start soaking!)
Jamaican Fruit Cake
1 lb. each of currants, seedless raisins, prunes, and dates.
Cut with scissors into small pieces.
Mix and stir in, soaking for 3 days:
1 pt. light rum
1 pt. white tablewine
After soaking fruits, sift together:
6 cups flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. each nutmeg, cinnamon
1 lb. butter
2 cups sugar
8 beaten eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
Mix well, then add flour mixture gradually.
Lastly, fold in fruit and liquor, and
1 cup English walnuts, if desired (chopped to desired size).
Grease and line with wax paper 4 bread pans or 2 tube pans. Place cakes on rack in middle of oven. Place shallow pan of water (hot) on bottom or slower oven (300 F.) Bake 3 hours, removing water last 30 minutes of baking.
When cakes are cold, wrap in aluminum foil. Store in air-tight container in a cool place. Allow at least 2 weeks, preferably longer for aging.
(If this is baked in a tube pan, it can be used as the Christ Child’s birthday cake, with as many candles on it as there are children in the family.)
Recipe adapted from Family Liturgical Customs, No. 1: Advent by Ethel Marbach, 1964, Abbey Press.