Look out Martha Stewart. Move over Nigella. This holiday season, forget your inhibitions in the kitchen, and show these two that they’re not the only ones who can create a mean holiday meal. Throw away the leftover pizza, don’t even think about Easy Mac, and impress your family, friends, (and yourself) by whipping up some of these international holiday recipes.
Given the chance, many people might give in to their sweet tooth and eat dessert first. If this sounds like you’re style, why not make the first course of your holiday feast a Japanese Christmas Cake? A Japanese Christmas Cake is basically a sponge-like cake that is frosted with white frosting and strawberries. More strawberries and other fresh fruit may also be used for added decoration.
Sayako Fujii is a freshman and an international student from Japan. Although she isn’t Christian, she said that she has always celebrated Christmas.
“I think most people [in Japan], especially young people, celebrate Christmas,” she said. “Most of them are not Christian, so they tend to have a Christmas party just for fun”.
Some Japanese choose to bake their own Christmas cake, but they are also available at bakeries and supermarkets. Fujii said that she and her mom make Christmas cake every year.
Japanese Christmas Cake
For sponge cake:
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
1 1/2 tbsp butter
For whipping cream:
2 cups heavy cream
4 tbsps sugar
16 whole strawberries divided
Cake: Preheat the oven to 350-degrees. Put eggs and sugar in a bowl and whisk them together. Place the bowl inside another large bowl with hot water and whisk again until the egg mixture turns white. Combine the flour and baking powder together in a separate bowl the add it to the egg bowl. Add melted butter into the bowl and mix. Pour the batter into the pan and bake in the preheated oven for 25-35 min. Remove the cake from the pan and cool it on a rack. When cool, cut the cake in half horizontally.
Frosting: Whip heavy cream and sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer. Slice 8 strawberries into thin pieces. Take the half of the whipped cream and mix with the sliced strawberries. Place the cream on top of a round cake slice. Place another cake slice on top of the cream. Spread the rest of the whipped cream on top and around the cake. Decorate the cake with more strawberries.
After enjoying your Christmas cake, why not wash it down with some punch? Stay hydrated during this holiday season by making some Ponche Navideño, the thick Christmas punch from Mexico. Ponche Navideño is a warm punch and is traditionally served during the celebration of Las Posadas, a simulation of the pilgrimage of Mary and Joseph in which families visit neighbor’s houses asking for posadas (shelter). The adults drink Ponche Navideño at the end of the “journey.”
Ponche Navideño
ß 12 quarts water
ß 10 oz tejocotes (dried apricots)
ß 6 oz walnuts
ß 5 oranges juiced
ß 8 guavas
ß 4 sugar canes
ß 10 oz prunes
ß 3 sticks cinnamon
ß 2 lb. sugar
ß 1 quart brandy
Wash the fruit. Cut the sugar cane into strips. Cut the guavas. Add everything except the sugar to a pot and boil. When the mixture is cooked, add the sugar and brandy and stir.
For those who light the menorah around this time of year (or for those who would like to eat it), latkes are a classic. Latkes are a traditional Jewish food similar to potato pancakes. The oil that latkes are fried in represents the oil that kept the lamp burning in an ancient Jewish temple’s eternal lamp for eight days, when there was only enough left after a war for the light to burn for one day. The eternal lamp signifies the continuous presence of Judaism through the ages and the constant presence of God on Earth. When the light burned for eight days, it was considered a miracle and is now the basis for Hanukkah. For a little twist on the traditional holiday food, try this recipe for Sweet Potato Latkes.
Sweet Potato Latkes
ß 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and shredded
ß 2 eggs, lightly beaten
ß 1 tablespoon brown sugar
ß 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
ß 2 teaspoons ground cloves
ß 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
ß 1/4 cup vegetable oil for frying
Wash, peel, and grate the sweet potatoes and squeeze out the liquid through a colander. Let the potatoes sit to release more liquid, and then squeeze them again. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, eggs, brown sugar, flour, cloves and cinnamon, and mix it all together. Heat the oil in a skillet to about 375 degrees, and spoon in tablespoons of the mixture to make medium sized patties. Brown the patties on one side, turn and brown lightly on the other. Repeat with the rest of the mixture.
Kwanza is a holiday celebrated over seven days from December 26 to January 1. According to the Official Kwanza Web site, Kwanza was created “to reaffirm the communitarian vision and values of African culture and to contribute to its restoration among African peoples in the Diaspora…” Beginning with African Americans, Kwanzaa is intended to expand to include the world’s African community. A traditional dish during Kwanza is Benne Cakes. The recipe for Benne Cakes comes from West Africa. Benne means sesame seed, which is eaten for good luck.
Benne Cakes
ß oil to grease a cookie sheet
ß 1 cup finely packed brown sugar
ß 1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
ß 1 egg, beaten
ß 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
ß 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
ß 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
ß 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
ß 1/4 teaspoon salt
ß 1 cup toasted sesame seeds
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Beat the brown sugar and butter together until creamy. Stir in the egg, vanilla extract, and lemon juice. Slowly add the flour, baking powder, salt, and sesame seeds. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto the cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake for 15 minutes or until the edges are browned.
Whether or not you celebrate a holiday this winter season, these recipes are easy to follow and good to eat. Happy cooking!

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