Poins of interest.
The Poinsettia has long been associated with Christmas. Being a simple soul I had thought it was merely a case of the red and green leaves being representative of Yuletide colours. “Aww. Look at the pretty red and green flowers. Aren’t they Christmassy?” Well apparently there is more to it than that. The plant is a native of Mexico where it is also known as Flor de Noche Buena which translates into English as Christmas Eve Flower. The association with Christmas first began way back in the sixteenth century. Legend has it that a young Mexican girl (who is most often stated as being called either Pepita or Maria) was too poor to be able to afford a gift to leave as a dedication for the celebrations of Jesus birthday at the local chapel. An angel of the Lord appeared to the girl and asked her to gather the weeds at the side of the road. The angel then told her to take the weeds to the church and place them in front of the altar. Soon after she had left her tribute, the weeds that she had collected began to sprout beautiful crimson blossoms which transformed into Poinsettias. It was a Christmas miracle. From the seventeenth century onwards the Franciscan monks of Mexico have included Poinsettias in all of their Christmas celebrations and the star-shaped pattern of the leaves has come to represent the star of Bethlehem. Which is where the baby Jesus was born. On Christmas Day. You see. It all ties in.
Splurge on spurge.
The Americans seem to jump at any chance they can to have a good celebration. And even a not-so-good celebration. I had a quick glance at the celebrations planned for the first week of December on an American website called Days Of The Year.com and it reveals a pretty odd list. For example:-
- 1st December is Eat A Red Apple Day.
- 2nd December is Fritters Day.
- 4th December is Wear Brown Shoes Day.
- 5th December is World Soil Day.
- 6th December is Pawnbrokers Day.
I wouldn’t usually go in for any of these frivolities. But I did happen to notice that the 12th of December is National Poinsettia Day over in North America and I suddenly remembered that I had bought a Nordic Ware Poinsettia Bundt tin last Christmas and I’ve never had occasion to use it. Poinsettias must be big business stateside to have a whole day set aside in their honour. Now we Brits don’t exactly go mad for them in quite the same way. Over here a potted Poinsettia is the sort of last-minute present you have to resort to buying from the nearest petrol station or supermarket when you are going to visit somebody in the run up to Christmas. One of those gifts you buy for Aunty Marge when you have forgotten to buy her a proper gift and it’s too late to get her anything else. Sure. National Poinsettia Day was a tenuous link. But hey. Any day where I get to do some baking is a red-letter day worthy of celebrating. Count me in.
Take it out or leave it in?
Dried fruit. I don’t get it. We’ve all had that nasty little surprise when you are eating a curry and for some reason the person who made it has thought – do you know what would make this curry better? If I put in some little reconstituted gobbets of sultana or some such that will burst in your mouth and squirt their juicy sourness directly down the back of your throat. No. No. A thousand times no. I am aware that we are supposed to be eating more fruit these days as part of our five-a-day, but really. Eat yourself a banana or something and spare the rest of us. So as you might have guessed I’m not that much of a fan of dried fruit in cakes either. But when I started my blog I decided I couldn’t get away with only baking the things that I like. And anyhow. I get much more of a reward from watching other people enjoy my cakes than from eating them myself. If a recipe is good I want to be able to pass it on regardless of my personal tastes. I should know enough to be able to tell if a fruit cake is good or not. And just to be on the safe side I have plenty of eager tasters to tell me if I’m wrong. I had such rave reviews from this cake that I figured it was worth baking again with the fruit left out. You know. For the fruit haters. And what a difference it made. The second cake was drier and much less tasty. Like there was a whole layer of flavour missing. It wasn’t exactly horrible but next to the fruited version there was no comparison. So it pains me to say this but here goes. If you do try your hand at baking this cake the answer to the question is that you really do need to leave it in. Otherwise you won’t so much be slicing a cake. You’ll be carving a turkey.
A tin to bake it in.
It might be best to start right out by saying this Bundt can be baked in any 10 cup Bundt tin. That’s two and a half litres in old money. Though with the warming winter spices and the fruit it would be a shame not to bake it in something at least a little bit festive. I think the Nordic Ware Poinsettia Bundt tin has been discontinued now. And if you can still buy it, I don’t ever remember it being widely available in this country. If you do want to seek it out you might be as well shipping one in from abroad. Or else cross your fingers and hope you can find one second-hand. Because you can’t celebrate National Poinsettia Day without a Poinsettia shaped cake tin. I managed to find my Poinsettia tin in a charity shop. I couldn’t believe my luck. It was one of those vanity purchases where I knew I wouldn’t be able to use it so very often. But my Bundt-obsessed self had to buy it just the same. I still managed to feel a little guilty about wasting money on fripperies but as I told myself – it WAS for a good cause. And besides, if you can’t help out those people less fortunate than yourself by buying something glorious but completely unnecessary. In a charity shop. At Christmas time. Then when can you? Tis the season of goodwill after all. Now here’s that recipe… Enjoy.
Fruity Christmas Poinsettia Bundt.
- 350g Plain Flour.
- 1 tsp Baking Powder.
- 1 tsp Ground Ginger.
- 1 tsp Mixed Spice.
- 1 tsp Cinnamon.
- ½ tsp Nutmeg.
- ½ tsp Bicarb.
- ¼ tsp Salt.
- 200g Mixed Dried Fruit.
- 220g Margarine.
- 200g Granulated Sugar.
- 200g Soft Dark Brown Sugar.
- 4 Eggs.
- 1 tsp Ginger Puree (optional but lovely).
- 1 tsp Lemon Extract.
- 220g Greek Yoghurt.
- Position a shelf in the centre of the oven. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4. Grease and flour a 10 cup Bundt tin. I used the Nordic Ware Poinsettia.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, ginger, mixed spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, bicarb and salt. Stir in the dried fruit until evenly distributed and well coated in the flour mixture. Set aside.
- Cream together the margarine with both the sugars until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition.
- Add the ginger puree and lemon extract and beat to combine.
- Using a large spoon – gently fold in the flour mixture and yoghurt alternatively until just combined, taking care not to over mix. (Flour, yoghurt, flour, yoghurt and ending with flour).
- Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface.
- Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
- Cool in the tin for at least 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
- I had a few worries getting this cake out of the tin. It wouldn’t come out after the 10 minute cooling period. In the end I had to leave it to stand upside down on the cooling rack – almost like a chiffon cake – for an extra 30 minutes before it finally dropped out of the tin with a blumming good shake. I don’t know if it was the Bundt tin. It could be. I have never used it before so it’s a possibility. I have been having trouble with my cake release paste recently so it could have been that too. I thought it best that I should mention it. Forewarned is forearmed and all that.