Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Aw, traditions.

This is long overdue, and I apologize. I mean, New Year's Eve was a whole eight days ago. A distant memory to many (myself included).

I have my list of excuses lined up, though. You see, my sister had to leave town on the 2nd, so our time together was precious (and Elise does not consider watching me blog to be "fun"). And my mom and I have been on The Office-marathon-mode, laughing the hours of our evenings away. And my room has turned into one heaping pile after another (the bed included; the blankets are heaped into a pile as to keep the articles on the floor visible and then smoothed out each night to the best of my ability so I have some warmth to snuggle under). I could go on, but it stops at the bedroom because that is where I lost my camera...I can't imagine how.

When it comes to my own bedroom, it's bizarre how my neat habits go out the window every time I come home for a holiday. I still do the dishes (and take showers), but for some reason I don't care whether my carpet is visible -- as my mom puts it, I let everything "go to pot." (The first time my sister and I heard my mom use this expression we had to suppress a giggle because mothers like my own never use such slang words as "pot"...excuse my immaturity. That was a long time ago.)

Anyway, I found my camera today under some socks and books. On the dear ol' thing were some pictures of the rum cake I mentioned in my previous post, the rum cake that I anticipate from January 1 till December 31.

My mom has been making this cake since we lived in New Zealand. Over there Christmas and summer collided, and we often found our family of six piling into our stationwagon to camp near the beach over New Year's Eve. I have many happy memories of this time. The sand dunes, hearing about the wild turkey chases my brothers would go on, playing in family-size tents that, at the time, felt as big as circus mom had to remind me, though, of how the rum cake tradition came about.

She said that it seemed practical to make a recipe that became better with age, since she would have to make it about a week in advance and bring it to the campsite. Also, she had four young kids who thought that lighting a cake on fire was the most funnest, coolest thing in the world.

So, since 1990 we have been lighting a cake on fire on New Year's Eve (or sometimes a night or two before, since growing older has landed us at our own New Year's celebrations). From the age of four I loved watching the hot blue flames in the ladle of rum that my dad lit and then poured over the cake, but it took several more years to appreciate the full flavor of the cake. I would always avoid the edges of my slice because that's where the rum tended to pool and my throat to burn (not that there was any alcohol left after the heat of the flame).

I have to admit, though, that I have come to love every inch of this cake by now. It's a regular, dense pound cake that looks beautiful in its bundt-pan form and is flecked with tangy apricots. The outside is coated with a sweet rum apricot glaze, and then the additional rum is poured on top at the stroke of midnight.

This year our rum cake made the journey to Olympia, Washington to be shared with relatives. My sister, mom, and I went down the weekend before New Year's, and since we had individual plans for the upcoming holiday, brought along the cake. (My mom reduced it to a loaf pan for the first time because our crowd is annually growing smaller.)

Apricot Rum Cake
from Mom's family cookbook

Makes 10 servings.

1/4 cup dried apricot halves, coursely chopped
3/4 cup golden rum (divided 3 times)
1-16 oz. can apricot halves, drained
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1/2 cup sour cream
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups sugar
3 cups unsifted flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1-12 oz. jar apricot preserves

1. In small bowl, combine chopped dried apricots, and 1/4 cup rum; let stand for 30 minutes.

2. Heat oven to 325°F. Generously grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.

3. In food processor or blender, process apricot halves until pureed. Stir in dried apricots with rum.

4. In a large bowl, with electric mixer, beat butter, sour cream, eggs, vanilla, and sugar until well blended.

5. Add flour, salt, baking soda, and apricot puree mixture. Beat at low speed just until combined, scraping side of bowl frequently.

6. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 1-1/4 hours or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes. Loosen edges; invert and unmold cake onto flameproof plate with rim.

7. In small saucepan, heat appricot preserves. Strain and stir in 1/4 cup rum. Brush apricot glaze over cake every few minutes while it is cooling until all glaze is used. Set aside or store until ready to serve.

8. If desired, in long-handled metal ladle, gently warm remaining rum (1/4 cup) over burner until vapors rise. Ignite vapors and pour over cake. When flames subside, slice cake and serve.


kristin said...

What a wonderful tradition you have created with the rum cake. The best part of being an *adult* is creating your own traditions out of the ones you experienced from childhood. I love it - so unique and steeped in the fanfare of celebration!

Peggy said...

Lael, I'm so glad you're back! Your writing, photography and recipes are inspirational. It's never too late, especially with grandkids around the corner, to start a flaming rum cake tradition at Grandma's house! Thanks for sharing.