(by Jane Clarke)
My mother said she knew, just knew I was going to be a girl, two boys before me and two boys after, fodder for a hungry farm, but I was hers. She taught me her tricks of the trade; it’ll look like dinner is nearly ready if the table is set when he comes in,
bread and butter will fill them up, add three drops of vinegar to water so your mirrors and windows will gleam, cool your fingers before rubbing lard into flour for pastry, a handful of ground almonds will keep your fruit cake moist,
darn a few socks every night and never leave the ironing for more than a week, don’t cut off rhubarb stalks with a knife, just twist them clean from the crown, and always hold onto the children’s allowance; a woman must have something of her own.
Jane Clarke is a poet in in Glenmalure, County Wicklow, Ireland. She has a degree in group analytic psychotherapy, and worked in community development, adult education, and psychotherapy in Dublin for 15 years. She now combines writing with her work as an independent consultant providing facilitation, team building, and leadership development to public service and not-for-profit organizations. Her second collection of poetry is When the Tree Falls. She can be found at www.janeclarkepoetry.ie.
12 oz. flour
4 oz. ground almonds
1 t. mace
1 t. ground ginger
1 lb. butter, softened
1 lb. dark brown sugar
8 oz. candied citrus peel, chopped
1 lb. currants
1 lb. sultanas (golden raisins)
8 oz. glacé cherries
grated rind of 2 lemons
2 T. brandy
Preheat oven to 300 F. Grease your biggest ring tin, and line it with greased parchment paper.
Tie a double thickness of parchment paper around the outside of the tin. Sift the flour, ground almonds, and spices together. Set aside. Cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in eggs. If the mixture curdles, add some of the flour, ground almond, and spices mixture. Lightly fold in remaining flour, ground almond, and spices mixture.
Fold in candied peel, currants, sultanas, glacé cherries, and grated lemon rind. Stir in brandy.
Spoon mixture into prepared tin, leveling the surface.
Bake for up to 4 hours, until a knitting needle comes out clean. You can cover the top with parchment paper 1 hour before the end of the cooking time to prevent burning.
Cool in the tin on a wire rack for 1 hour, and then turn the cake out of the tin.
The cake will keep for weeks in an airtight tin if you wrap it in parchment paper and tin foil.