by Deborah Rogers –
I can’t turn down a good tale. If it involves family secrets passed down through the generations, effort on a vast scale, overcoming obstacles and turning challenges into opportunities, well it’s hard for me to resist. Something else I find hard to resist? Fruit cake. Imagine then how intrigued I was to learn of an epic fruit cake production line happening right here on the Peninsula, year after year! The family recipe comes from Ann Moskow’s grandmother, and it is Ann that I arrive to meet bright and early one Saturday morning at Camosun College’s Commercial Kitchen.
Ann is co-chair of the Cakes from Rotary Committee, part of the Rotary Club of Victoria – Harbourside. In the kitchen with her were 45 volunteers, mainly Rotarians from various local Clubs (including our Sidney-by-the-Sea Club), a few family members and visiting friends, and me! I’d brought my apron and a willing attitude with the hope that I could get a bit hands-on while I learned the story of the Cakes from Rotary fundraiser.
Ann’s family fruitcake was a real hit at an afternoon tea many years ago, causing her to wonder if there would be a fundraising opportunity if she made more and sold them. That first year, 2005, 119 cakes were baked and took about a month to sell. The next year they doubled the quantity, and they sold out in three weeks. A legend had been created! Fast forward to this year and 800 fruit cakes are ready for sale.
None of this would be possible without the support of Chef David Lang, Chair of Camosun College’s Culinary Arts Program. Ann explains: “he’s the 4th Chair of that program with whom we’ve partnered. All have helped us successfully scale up a two-cake family recipe to what we do now, while ensuring that the cakes remain ‘homemade’ in a professional setting.” The weighing, measuring, decorating and baking of 800 fruit cakes takes an even bigger volunteer crew than the one assembled when I met with Ann. Those cakes were actually baked in September and are maturing, ready for Christmas. What I had my hands on, and eventually covered in, is chocolate!
On sale alongside the traditional fruit cakes are boxes of homemade truffles, and bags of chocolate bark. The truffles were a happy accident, created after one of the ovens was set too high and a batch of cakes was scorched. Ann couldn’t bear to waste the ingredients, and with the edges cut off, she set about devising a way to use the cake middle. Mixed with some extra brandy, it made for a delicious centre to a chocolate-coated truffle, and so what was a mistake became an additional income stream.
This year I had a (small, chocolate covered) hand in the making of 3,000 individual truffles, to be sold by the half dozen. The group also packaged over 70 kg of chocolate almond bark, made for them by a Rotarian in Courtenay through his company Hot Chocolates.
What a happy, chatty production line it was! I heard jokes, learned and forgot names, listened in to the regulars instructing the new volunteers, and generally felt quite content to be surrounded by such friendly, helpful people. We scooped truffle centres, coated them in tempered chocolate, rolled them in coconut, ground almond or chocolate vermicelli, and packaged them carefully in gift boxes.
This fundraiser will make $20,000 once all the cakes, truffles and packages of chocolate bark are sold out – an extraordinary amount that will go to support projects both locally and abroad.
I did not get to sample a truffle, despite having so much truffle mixture on my hands by the time I’d rolled them in chocolate. However, in the coffee room there was a tub of Christmas cake pieces, and my goodness, that cake is delicious! Get your order in quick; they are sure to sell out again: www.harboursidestore.ca.