Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Alice B. Toklas and Liberation Through Fruitcake

I am illustrating this with a lovely 1950s ad* for candied fruit. I don't know why, but I like this ad so much that it very nearly makes me want to go bake something with candied fruit in it. I do have some in the cupboard. But the impulse will probably pass.

I think it will, because I have just seen the recipe for writer/culinary expert/Gertrude Stein companion Alice B. Toklas' Liberation Cake. Do you have any idea of what Alice expects us to do in order to make a so-called Liberation Cake? Let me boil down her instructions (which are even longer than the following ten points):

1. The day before, sliver up 1 1/2 lbs citron and a pound of candied cherries. Wash and dry 2 pounds of white currants and then cover them with brandy. Oh, and blanch, dry and chop a pound and a half of almonds.

2. Next day, rouse yourself and cream a pound of sugar with a pound of butter. Add 12 egg yolks, one by one. Drain and dry off the currants. Add them to the citron and cherries. Sift a pound of flour over the fruits and stir it in so they don't stick together. Then sieve the whole thing to get rid of the extra flour.

3. Take the flour you got rid of - don't throw it out! - and add: 2 tsps cinnamon, 1 tsp mace, 1 tsp nutmeg and 1/2 tsp cloves. Now sift it into the egg/sugar/butter mixture, in small amounts, stirring after each bit. Add the almonds...which she says are now ground almonds although the instructions are to chop them. When did they get ground? Never mind, chuck them in along with a cup of your best brandy and 3/4 cup orange-flower or rose water, whichever you have handy.

4. No, you're not done yet. Not by a long shot, mister or missy. Now beat up 12 egg whites - oh yeah, you were supposed to save those. Beat them up  - I don't know for how long, Alice does not say. But fold them into the batter lightly when you think they look OK. Now fold in the fruits.  Chuck the batter into pans that you have lined with buttered brown paper. Oh - you haven't done that yet? Better get busy!

5. Bake for 4 hours. It doesn't day how many pans you'll need but the recipe does make 12 pounds of fruitcake. During those 4 hours, you may want to collapse onto the nearest sofa. Make sure you are awake when the oven timer goes off, though.

6. No, you're nowhere near being done now that they're out of the oven. You must put on a full inch of almond paste and then the usual royal icing goes on top of that.

7. You need to have already made the almond paste, buddy. Take 1/2 pound of blanched and dried almonds in a mortar and pound them into a paste. Add to this a pound of sugar and a teaspoon each of vanilla and orange-flower water. Stir over low heat until smooth. This must be done in a heavy enamel saucepan. If you do not have one, stop and go out to buy one. When done, turn it onto a marble slab (if you do not have one, you know what to do) and knead in a couple of tablespoons of powdered sugar.

8. OK, I think you're about done now.

9. Feel liberated, don't you?

10.That's why it is called Liberation Cake.

*From Life, December 8, 1952. The recipe for Liberation Cake is from my 1964 Doubleday paperback edition of The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook (first pub. 1954), p. 236.


Richard @ The Bewildered Brit said...

Blimey, I feel exhausted just *reading* what you had to do to make the cake!

Lidian said...

Richard - Yes, you kind of need a nap afterwards. You probably would after you made this, too.

RNSANE said...

I wouldn't mind buying one to try it but I sure as heck would bake it. I do love almond paste!! And marzipan cake. It's a good thing the recipe makes so much, it would make one hate being in the kitchen for the rest of the year!

Brandy said...

Wow, that is too long for me! LOL

Thanks for stopping by today and leaving a comment! Have a Merry Christmas!

Elise said...

I like the mushroom-cloud-shaped confection on the top left of that ad.

Barbara said...

I'm sure I'm the only one here who is completely disgusted by candied fruit!!

That recipe applied to the Atomic Mushroom Cloud fruitcake as well, right?

Lidian said...

RNSANE - You'd want a long break after this, yes. Personally, I would require a two-week spa vacation.

Brandy - All the best to you too :)

Elise - Yes, that is a nice touch.

Barbara - It is quite similar, yes ;)