Saturday, December 30, 2023

The Christmas Cake

My Mother used to make her own Christmas cakes; usually two, one with icing and marzipan and one that was decorated with nuts and cherries. The former was always my favorite. This year I decided to make my own cake using the tried and trusted family recipe. I typed it out below if anyone wants to try it out; I worked from a photocopy of my Mum's recipe notebook.

I started blending the butter and brown sugar by hand, but it was too much like hard work, so I broke out the electric mixer...

Added eggs, flour, dried fruit etc.

Greased my tin. It is not necessary to use butter wrappers, but it is traditional in my family.

Bake in the center of your oven for three (3) hours at 300 F/150 C/GM #2.

Allow to cool to room temperature before turning out the cake:

It is traditional to store the cake for several weeks in an appropriate tin before finishing:

My cake was left in the cabinet for about three (3) weeks after it was baked. The next step is to apply the marzipan. My Grandmother used to make her own marzipan; mine came premade. It is necessary to knead the marzipan for a minute or so and then roll it out; icing/powdered sugar is useful here to prevent the marzipan from sticking to the cutting board.

I took half a jar of apricot jam, added a tablespoon of water and heated the mixture on the stove until it boiled. The boiling step prevents the jam and sugar from fermenting. The residue was strained with a fine sieve:

The apricot slurry is then brushed over the cake - without this step the marzipan will not stick to the cake. 

After applying the marzipan the cake is returned to storage.

A few days later the marzipan was hardened and ready for icing, so I transferred the cake to a cutting board. If I do this again, I will buy a proper cake stand with a cover and use that.

The icing is made by gradually adding four (4) cups of powdered sugar to three (3) whipped egg whites. Sieving the powdered sugar before mixing gets rid of those tiny annoying lumps. 

This gives icing which is easy to apply and sets very hard. Any excess can be applied to cookies or even digestive biscuits if you have some on hand.

I was planning to add decorations and some additional piped embellishments to the icing, but unfortunately, I ran out of time before Christmas, so the cake was served somewhat unfinished, on a cutting board:

It came out OK. The cake was overbaked and dry, but the other bits tasted great!

For the cake:

8 oz butter
8 oz brown sugar
9 oz all purpose/plain flour
5x eggs
8 oz currants
8 oz sultanas/golden raisins
2 oz glacé cherries
2 oz candied citrus peel
2 oz ground almonds
½ tspn gravy browning
pinch of salt
½ tspn nutmeg

Cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Add flour and other ingredients. Bake at 150 C/ 300 F or GM #2 for three (3) hours. Store for at least twenty-eight (28) days prior to consumption. During this period the cake may be finished with marzipan and icing/frosting as above or may be served as is with cheddar cheese.

For the marzipan:

2x 7 oz blocks of marzipan
½ jar apricot jam

For the icing:

4x cups of powdered/icing sugar
3x egg whites

Friday, December 15, 2023

Fixin' The Deck Part 7

The last post ended with the progress we made over the Thanksgiving vacation. After that we had a few days of rain, and a few days of being busy, but the following weekend was dry, so I got back to work. I began by removing all the temporary boards....

And piling them on the remaining part of the roof:

Then it was back to installing the final shims...

...and adding blocking in the places where posts will be located:

The next post location was damaged, so I took a break from shimming to deal with that.

Damaged sections removed:

The joists are Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) which means they are straight, strong, resist warping and shrinking and are the reason the roof doesn't sag in the middle even though there is no central support. This also means they are 1 7/8" wide, and so cannot be patched with standard lumber which is only 1 1/2". The replacement piece was instead milled from a scrap of 4" x 4" in just a few minutes thanks to the gear we have in the workshop.

Installed and adjacent blocking added:

The damage where the corner post used to be is much worse:

The beam which spans the front of the garage above the vehicle door consists of three (3) LVL beams and a 3/4" piece of plywood which have been connected with nails and wrapped with steel banding (below). In front of this is another piece of plywood which acts as a spacer, and a redwood fascia board.

At the far end all of the plywood has been rotted out and the two (2) outer LVLs have been badly damaged; the third LVL was less significantly damaged:

I did not have time to do any repairs to this area since it was getting late, and it was due to rain overnight. Instead, I re-installed the boards, again with just a couple of screws each...

...and rolled back the roof and plywood one more time:

The next evening there was a torrent of water flowing through the garage ceiling:

This was way worse than anything we've had in the past, which does not bode well...

By Friday the blue sky was back:

After I got back from work, I peeled back the old roof covering, and discovered one source of water intrusion:

As I began removing the temporary boards, I noticed that the channels were filled with water: 

The design of the deck boards calls for a one percent slope, which equates to 1/8" per foot. But, in the places which have not been shimmed out, there is no such slope. In fact, there are low points where the channels in the boards fill with water and then...overflow! 

Where temporary boards were installed with the correct slope there was no water in the channels. Which means the deck boards/roofing material works as it should when installed correctly. The lesson from this is that the roof/deck must be covered with correctly sloped boards OR plywood/the old roof before the next rainfall. 

There wasn't much daylight left at this point, but I did have time to take out one more section of the railing and push over another post:

The lag bolt at the base of the post is heavily corroded:

This is the plywood around where the post was located, which doesn't look very promising:

To be continued.....