Robrt Pela's Dreaming of a Moist Christmas
Well, no. It isn't. At least according to my family traditions. Last year, though, I tossed tradition out the window and, in an attempt to compensate for the parched sweets of my people, I swapped a soaked-in-rum English Christmas Cake for the traditional New Year's Eve rice pie (or, as Tevye calls it, Sahara Desert Pie) that my great-grandmother used to serve every December 31st. We'd had Christmas Cake at a friend's house in London on Boxing Day the year before, and it was the moistest holiday dessert I'd ever eaten. The very complicated recipe involved making a dense, candied-fruit-filled cake that one "fed" with cognac, once a day for a whole month before the holidays. Then, just before serving, one covered the cake with sheets of marzipan and topped it off with a two-inch-thick layer of royal icing.
"So you're replacing the New Year's Eve pie made from wood shavings and sand with a cake filled with rubbing alcohol and smeared with lard," Tevye clarified. "One into which you've poured eighty dollars worth of hooch, and that will set off carbon monoxide meters all over downtown Phoenix?"
I remained resolute, and served my Christmas Cake to the neighbors who came for a midnight toast on New Year's Eve.
They were polite. Mostly. Two or three of them took a nibble, but even the drunkest of our guests left most of their Christmas Cake on their Santa plates. The next morning, I had about 30 pounds of rum-drenched fruitcake to unload.
In the end, we left it on the sidewalk in front of the neighborhood park, hoping a homeless person with a drinking problem might want it.
"Maybe you should go back to baking with splinters and sawdust," Tevye suggested as we headed back to our house. "At least pizzelles look nice."