Christmas in the Country

Childhood Inspiration for The Chocolate Goddess

After composing a chocolate rum bundt cake for a cookbook photo shoot last week, I was suddenly thrown reeling back into my past. Emerging from the recesses of my mind, recalled a story book that I had where there was a cake that looked so much like this.

There are many sources of inspiration that contribute to the path one takes in life. The foundation of my inspiration was of course my grandmother, a personal chef to the wealthy families both in Europe and here in the United States. However one very significant source of inspiration for me was the Little Golden Book “Christmas in the Country” first copyrighted 1950. My parents purchased the book for me when I was three. I would admire the pictures for hours on end, etching the adorable images into my mind.

I still have the book and searched for it out of the attic to compare. In the book Betty and Bob, visit their grandparents for the Christmas holiday. There is much preparation to be done Betty strings cranberries for the tree with Grandmother and Bob goes to cut down the fresh tree with Grandfather. The house and tree need to be decorated and the family enjoys a festive meal.

The most fascinating thing of all to me as a child was that the animals were getting ready in the barn as well. They were stringing popcorn and decorating a tree with popcorn garland and vegetables. The sheep were knitting sweaters, stockings and mittens as gifts and decorations. The cows were wrapping presents with spools of ribbon on their horns and some cute little pigs were baking a pink cake decorated with cherries.

I still have the book, and going through it the other thing that struck me was not only the cake similar, but so was the look of the store I used to own in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, that came with a black antique stove just like Grandmother’s. During the Christmas season the store became a place where people came to get the Christmas spirit. There was not an inch of store that wasn’t decorated with the spirit of Christmas. It looked so much like the book it was amazing.

Not only did I replicate the décor of the store to look like the book, but I made a cake that looked like the one the little pigs made in the barn. It came out super scrumptious! Moist chocolaty and delicious with undertones of dark rum to warm the coddles of your heart. Now please enjoy the recipe Chocolate Rum Cake, inspired by my Golden Book “Christmas in the Country”.

Cake Ingredients:
1 Box Duncan Hines Devil’s Food Cake Mix (18.25 ounces)
1 box Instant Chocolate Pudding
4 Large Eggs (lightly whisked)
1 cup Sour Cream
½ cup Vegetable oil
½ cup Dark Rum
1 ½ cups Semisweet Chocolate Chips

2 tablesppons Unsalted Butter
½ cup Granulated Sugar
¼ cup Dark Rum
¼ Maraschino Cherry Juice

1 tablespoon melted Unsalted Butter
1 cup Confectioner’s Sugar
1 - 2 tablespoons Maraschino Cherry Juice
1 tablespoon of Whole Milk
Maraschino Cherries for decoration.

Baking Directions:

- Grease bundt pan well with butter. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Combine ingredients with mixer on low setting until incorporated. Mix on medium setting for two minutes.
- Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees. Lower oven to 325 degrees and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
- Immediately prepare glaze by melting butter with sugar and rum. Poke holes with toothpick in bottom of caste and baste repeatedly with about half the glaze.

When cake is fully cool invert onto plate and poke holes discreetly in top and sides with toothpick. Warm glaze again and baste top and sides.

- Prepare icing by melting butter and combining with Confectioner’s sugar, Maraschino cherry juice and milk. Pour glaze over top and let cool. Decorate with cherries.

- Barbara Esatto, The Chocolate Goddess