Merry Christmas!! And what a Christmas it has turned out to be!
Christmas time is the “most wonderful time of the year,” but does this sentiment ring true in 2020? I, like very many of you out there, was unable to have a family gathering this Christmas. Scrolling through Facebook, I see that many “friends” are in the same boat as me, while some others are gathering safely (mandating quarantines beforehand) and others still — just gathering.
Maybe the most wonderful time of this year was actually January to mid-March 2020, pre-pandemic. The world was relatively normal, the economy in the U.S. was growing, and we did not appreciate it, because we did not know what was looming in the near future. With our sense of safety gone, we wish more fervently for the simple things this Christmas— the safety of our family members, our financial well-beings, an end the pandemic, and if we dare, a bright future for ourselves.
I was very lucky to be able to visit family members last year (more here), so this year, I am content to keep my distance here in Boston. Fun, of course, can still be had in a safe way. In fact, keeping up on our tradition, my boyfriend and I Zoomed in with my family to make gingerbread homes. Mine turned out to be a gingerbread watchtower (following the directions is for squares 😉 pic below).
Another fun holiday activity for me is baking. A few days ago, I made an apple cake without added sugar (mostly following this recipe). I’m trying to do a less-added sugar thing (more here), which by the way crashed and burned (in a good way 😉 ) when my boyfriend and I received boxes of sweets from both our families. I find that I feel better with less (or no) added sugar in my diet. However, my apple cake experience makes me feel that cakes should have sugar in them…gasp!
Although I say that my apple cake has no added sugar, perhaps, this statement is not entirely true. For a sweetener, instead of using refined sugar as the recipe called for, I added maple syrup, which is essentially liquid sugar. Still with the addition of syrup, the sweet flavor turned out to be very mild. In fact, had the baked good not looked like a cake, I feel it would be indeed appropriate to serve this cake as a sweet bread.
Sugary cakes are an American tradition. In contrast to my slightly sweet apple cake, I also made a “banana pudding poke cake,” following this recipe. While I did not add any sugar to this cake, some of the ingredients (like the cake mix) were already endowed with added sugar. When comparing my slightly sweet apple cake to my luscious banana cake, I have come to the hesitant conclusion that “sugar makes the cake” (at least in the U.S. that is). In my opinion, the slight sweetness of the no-added-sugar apple cake could please the delicate palate not tainted by high-fructose corn syrup, but to all others (and myself included), the apple “cake” would taste like no more than a sweet bread. The banana cake, on the other hand, was a cake indeed! It was soft, moist, sweet, creamy, and altogether delectable. There is no debate over whether this dish is a cake!
I will continue to try to cut down my added sugar intake… but on this Christmas day, dare I say — let them eat good old-fashioned American cake!
Have a wonderful and safe holiday, dear Reader!!