Tradition. What makes tradition? And why do we celebrate traditions?
Tradition helps to bring meaning to our celebrations and bond us with those we love. It lends a certain "holiday spirit" that nurtures us during various times of the year, and helps give a sense of belonging in our family and community.
I absolutely love traditions. The making of new traditions, the bringing together of different family and cultural traditions, and nurturing the traditions that have been created before me.
And now we get to create the traditions of Voyageurs Bakehouse.
One of the traditions we’re starting at the Bakehouse this Christmas season has been a tradition in Ben’s family for over 50 years: Sonja’s Christmas Dundee Cake.
Ben’s mom, Sonja, has enjoyed this cake as part of her Swiss family tradition since she was a little girl. And as I got to know the Cadman family, it quickly became a very special holiday tradition to me as well.
It started in 2014. Ben and I were living in Malaysia and were packing up our bags to get ready to come back to the U.S. for Christmas with my (Parins) family.
Right as we were saying our farewells to Ben's parents (who also lived in Malaysia at the same time), Sonja exclaims, "Oh wait! Don't forget the Christmas cake!!"
She runs into the kitchen and back out with a beautifully wrapped cake. She places it in my hands.
I thought to myself, "Great... a Fruit cake... Just what I don't need to add to my bag. I'm already at max weight. Is this cake really worth this hassle of re-packing?!"
Little did I understand the tradition of Sonja's Christmas cake.
In the middle of thinking... "Do we really need to lug a 5-pound fruit cake with us to the U.S.?" I graciously smiled and said, "Wow, thank you," not wanting to offend my *hopeful* future-mother-in-law.
On our way through customs in Chicago, we had to declare the cake. Then answer 10 questions about why we were bringing a cake from Malaysia into the U.S.
Again I thought, "Is this cake really worth all this hassle?!"
On Christmas Eve when I finally had my first taste, I immediately had the answer to my question...
YES - this cake was 100% worth the effort to bring it back to the U.S.
What I know now is that this is a beautiful and delicious cake that’s enjoyed throughout Christmas time.
Made with a mix of boozy dried fruits (raisins, sultanas, figs, apricots, glace cherries, and orange peel) that have been soaked in Brandy, this cake needs 3 weeks to mature. Once baked, Sonja's version of a Scottish dundee cake gets "fed" weekly with brandy. This gives the crumb of the cake a little moist texture and helps it to develop a dynamic flavor.
I was genuinely surprised when we opened up this cake on Christmas Eve in 2014. Ben knew just how delicious it was, but I was still skeptical.
Here's what I discovered...
🎄 It’s not overly rich and chewy like my prior memory of a "Christmas cake."
🎄 It's lighter in texture despite its maturity.
🎄 You'll equally enjoy this cake for breakfast with a cup of coffee, and after dinner with a little snifter of something delicious.
🎄 You'll be sad when it's gone, but also excited for Christmas next year when you get to taste it again!
This cake is a special symbol of the creation of a new tradition.
I'll always remember this particular Christmas, as it was the beginning of the Christmas Cake coming into my life, and the beginning of many Christmas to come with Ben.
With a special marriage proposal on Christmas Day 2014, it was the official year we began the next chapter together and began the integration of our families and cultures.
A new Christmas tradition was created. And now, this story will be passed on to our children, as well as our Voyageurs family. You'll most certainly see this cake every year for years to come at the Bakehouse.