Bless Your Spoon: Candied confections and custards

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 22, 2022

By Stephanie Williams Dean

Have you ever thought of offering Santa a little candied cake with custard instead of cookies and cream on Christmas Eve? My favorite holiday sweet confections include classic holiday sugar-plums — candied fruit. These sweet treats are made with different varieties of dried fruit, nuts, preserves and holiday spices. Yes, I’m referring to a glorified, non-gag-worthy seasonal fruitcake. My acquired taste resulted from the divine flavor combination of certain fruits and nuts minus the liquor.

The sugar plum has been popularized in poems and ballet as a symbol of hope, seasonal splendor and childhood dreams. We all are familiar with the lines of the read-aloud childhood classic, “Twas the Night before Christmas,” a narrative poem first anonymously published in 1823 entitled “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” In 1837, the poem was attributed to Biblical scholar Clement Clark Moore. The sweet sugar plum is found in this couplet:

“The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads….”

Without our traditions, holidays wouldn’t be the same. Your celebrations might include serving some fruitcake or other cake with eggnog at Christmas. In my home, there were two things my parents always had at Christmas: a fresh flower arrangement for the dining room table and at least one of Ms. Gillispie’s homemade cakes on hand — either a prune, spice or blackberry jam — all iced with a delicious, creamy caramel frosting. Ms. Gillispie was a local baker who lived across town. Also served were round cake balls frosted with white marshmallow icing and then rolled in flaky coconut with boiled custard.

My feelings about serving pre-baked goods are the same about decorating with fake greenery. If you’re going to use artificial greenery, add some fresh in with it. If you’re buying a cake, throw in a treat made from scratch. Another option is to buy a dessert at the grocery, take it home and dress it up to give it that “made from scratch” look.

Sometimes we can’t do it all and that’s OK. But, if you’re going to bake, the holidays are not the time for substitutions: splurge on real butter, whole milk and whipping cream. The days leading up to Christmas are like eating sugar plums. With every bite of a sweet treat, our days keep getting sweeter.

In the Bible, the book of Psalms is known for providing sweet words of comfort. You, too, can discover the power of God’s forgiveness and everlasting love for us. Words of Psalm 19 were written by David and meant to show how both God’s word and His creation reveal God’s greatness.

Psalm 19: 7-9 points out how living by God’s guidelines revives our soul, makes wise the simple, gives joy to our hearts and gives light to our eyes. God’s law illuminates our path in the darkness — His words guide us to joyfulness.

“The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.” Psalm 19: 9-10.

Isn’t that just the sweetest passage you’ve ever read, like candy in our fruitcake?

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine.

Pecan Fruit Cake

• ½ cup softened salted butter

• 1 cup sugar

• 5 large eggs

• 1¾ cup all-purpose flour

• ½ tsp. baking powder

• 2 Tbsp. vanilla extract

• 1 lb. each crystallized pineapple and cherries

• ½ cup all-purpose flour (for fruit)

• 1 lb. chopped pecans

In a mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, thoroughly beating after each addition. Add flour, baking powder and vanilla extract. Mix well. In a bowl, dredge both pineapple and cherry fruit in flour until thoroughly coated. Fold fruit and pecans into the mixture until well combined. Pour into a greased and floured tube cake pan. Place pan in a cold oven. Place a pan of water under cake while baking to maintain moisture. Set oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 250-degrees and cook 2½ hours.

Easy Boiled Custard

• 1-quart whole milk

• 12 regular marshmallows

• 6 beaten egg yolks

• 1 cup sugar

• ½ pint real whipped cream

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a large saucepan, heat milk. Add marshmallows and bring to a boil. Remove from heat. In a mixer bowl, beat eggs well and add sugar. Add a little hot milk to the egg mixture. Then add all the egg mixture back into the milk mixture. Beat the mixture and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. In a mixer bowl, whip the cream and fold it into the cooked mixture. Fold in the vanilla extract. Mix well. This custard is good served very cold or partially frozen.

Christmas Bread

• 2 beaten eggs

• ¾ cup sugar

• 3 Tbsp. melted salted butter

• 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

• 4 tsp. baking powder

• ¼ tsp salt

• 1 cup whole milk

• ½ cup chopped nuts

• 1 cup chopped candied mixed fruits

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add sugar and melted butter. Mix well. Beat in the flour sifted with the baking powder and salt while alternating with the whole milk. Mix well. Fold in the nuts and candied fruit. Mix well. Bake in a greased and floured loaf pan a 375-degree oven for 1 hour or until bread tests done.

Quick Eggnog

• 1-quart whole milk

• 1/3 cup sugar

• 1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract

• 1 small package Jello instant vanilla pudding

• 1 cup whole milk

• Whipped cream

• Ground nutmeg

In a large bowl, combine 1 quart of milk with the sugar, vanilla and instant vanilla pudding. Stir until smooth. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Thin the mixture with 1 cup whole milk and mix well. Serve topped with whipped cream and sprinkle of nutmeg.

Cherry Christmas Roll

• 8 oz. softened cream cheese

• ½ cup chopped pecans

• 1 cup well-drained, crushed pineapple

• ½ cup chopped green candied cherries

• ½ cup chopped red candied cherries

• 1 Tbsp. real premium mayonnaise

• ½ cup crushed graham crackers

In a mixer bowl, combine softened cream cheese, chopped nuts, drained pineapple and chopped green and red cherries. Mix thoroughly and shape into a log. Roll mixture in the graham cracker crumbs.

Mocha Punch

• 3 cups whole milk

• 1 cup chilled double-strength coffee/espresso

• 1 quart premium chocolate ice cream

• ½ tsp. almond extract

• ¼ cup sugar

• Dash of salt

• ½ pint real whipped cream

• ¼ tsp. nutmeg

In a punch bowl, pour milk and cold coffee. Add half the ice cream and stir until partially melted. Add almond extract, sugar, salt, and blend all together. When ready to serve, fold in whipped cream and remainder of ice cream. Stir to mix. Sprinkle evenly over top lightly with ground nutmeg. Serves 12.

Cherry and Nut Cake

• 1 pound softened salted butter

• 2 cups sugar

• 6 beaten egg yolks

• 1 tsp. lemon extract

• 4 cups all-purpose flour

• 1 tsp. baking powder

• 6 stiffly beaten egg whites

• 1 pound chopped pecans

• 16 oz. halved maraschino cherries

• 3-4 Tbsp. cherry juice from jar

In a mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in beaten eggs or one at a time, making sure to thoroughly incorporate after each addition. Add lemon extract and mix well. Beat in sifted flour and baking powder and mix well. Add stiffly beaten egg whites and mix well. Fold in nuts, cherries and cherry juice. Mix well. Bake in a greased and floured tube pan. Starting with a cold oven, bake in a 250-degree oven for 2½-3 hours or until cake tests done.

Tennessee Boiled Custard

• 4 egg yolks

• ½ cup sugar

• 2 heaping Tbsp. all-purpose flour

• 1 quart scalded whole milk

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a mixer bowl, beat egg yolks. Add sugar and flour. Mix well. In a large saucepan, scald the milk. Add 1 cup of the scalded milk to the egg mixture and mix well. Add all the egg mixture to the scalded milk. Constantly stir over medium heat until thickened.

Sugar Plum Pudding Cake

• 3 beaten eggs

• 1 ½ cups sugar

• 1 cup Wesson vegetable oil

• 2 cups all-purpose flour

• 1 tsp. soda

• ½ tsp. salt

• 1 tsp. each cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice

• 1 cup buttermilk

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

• 1 cup cooked, mashed prunes

• 1 cup chopped black walnuts

Buttermilk Topping

• ¼ cup melted salted butter

• ½ cup buttermilk

• 1 cup sugar

• 1 Tbsp. light corn syrup

• 2 tsp. vanilla extract

• ½ tsp. soda

For the cake, in a mixer bowl, beat eggs until light and frothy. Beat in sugar and mix well. Beat in oil and mix well. Sift together the flour, soda and salt. Add flour mixture and spices while alternating with buttermilk and vanilla extract. Mix well. Fold in prunes and nuts. Mix well. Bake in a well-greased and floured tube pan in a preheated 375-degree oven for 60 minutes. Remove cake from pan while warm and punch holes in top of cake with toothpick Pour hot topping over cake. For the topping, in a saucepan, melt butter. Add buttermilk, sugar, corn syrup, vanilla and soda. Mix well and simmer on medium heat for 30 minutes.

Holiday Delight

• 20 vanilla wafers

• ½ pint whipped cream

• 3 sliced ripe bananas

• 1 drained small can crushed pineapple

• ½ drained bottle maraschino cherries

• ½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts

• ½ cup flaked coconut

Line a glass dish with vanilla wafers. In a mixer bowl, whip the cream. Fold in the sliced bananas, pineapple, cherries, walnuts and coconut to the whipped cream. Evenly spread cream mixture over the vanilla wafers. Top with a few cherries and twig or greenery for color. Chill in refrigerator for 4 hours before serving.

Egg Nog Pie

• 3 beaten egg yolks

• ½ cup sugar

• ¼ tsp. salt

• ½ cup whole milk

• 1 Tbsp. unflavored gelatin

• ¼ cup cold water

• 3 beaten egg whites

• ½ tsp. vanilla extract

• ½ tsp. almond extract

• ½ cup confectioners sugar

• 1 pre-baked pie shell

• Whipped cream

• nutmeg

In a saucepan, combine beaten egg yolks, sugar, salt and milk. Cook until the mixture thickens and will coat a spoon. In a bowl, dissolve gelatin in water. Stir the gelatin mixture into egg mixture and stir until dissolved. Allow to completely cool. When cool, in a mixer bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Add vanilla and almond extracts and confectioners sugar to the egg whites. Then add the egg white mixture into the cooled yolks mixture. Pour into a pre-baked pie shell. Cover with a thin layer of whipped cream and evenly sprinkle nutmeg on top.

Coffee Frappe

• ½ gallon double-strength coffee/espresso

• 1-gallon vanilla ice cream (or half vanilla/chocolate)

• 1 pint heavy whipped cream

Make coffee and allow to completely cool. Allow ice cream to begin to soften. Either use all vanilla or half vanilla and half chocolate. When coffee is cold and ice cream a little softened, combine the two and mix until smooth. Fold in the whipped cream and serve immediately.