I owe everything about this cake to my dear friends Karen & Dave. Karen got me the recipe, a highly spiced Victorian stunner that she clipped from a magazine. Dave (Wondrich, the famous cocktail writer and author) taught me how to set things on fire, safely that is. So together, they spawned this lovely recipe, whether they meant to or not.
First of all, about the cake. Although it is supremely delicious, you do not need to make a pork cake in order to set something on fire. Any old cake will do. Fruit cake works nicely but even chocolate bundt cake will fill the bill.
However, if you're at all interested in attempting this old-fashioned recipe, it's a good one. A little like a fruit cake, a little like gingerbread. It's sort of like the porky, soft counterpart to a crisp beef suet-filled mincemeat pie. The pork needs to contain a good amount of fat - there is no other shortening in the recipe. Pork works well because not only is it naturally fatty, it's also relatively bland, which is what you want in this case. Do not substiute ground turkey. Really, you will be sad.
If you've never flambeed your food, there are a few rules to which you must adhere. The first is to use high-proof (aka overproof) spirits. They flame up more easily than regular proof. Just ask at your liquor store. Dave recommends Lemon Hart rum (151 proof) but I used a 120 proof rum from Jamaica and it was fine (as evidenced from the photos, below).
Ideally the rum should be a bit warm, which helps it flame up. Room temperature is fine but don't store the rum in your fridge (or freezer) and then try to use it directly out of the cold.
Do I need to tell you to keep your face, dangling hair, small children and pets away from the flame? Probably not, you know that. But what you might not consider after some holiday cheer is to remember that although this cake is dessert, you should flame it amidst the oohs and aahs at the beginning of the meal, before the cocktail hour. Don't try it at the end of an evening of toasts. You want to be sober when playing with fire. Then, when the flames die down well, pop the cork and pour forth your libation of choice. And Happy Holidays to you all!
Flaming Spiced Pork Cake
Serves 8 to 10
1 pound ground pork (not too lean)
1 1/4 cups raisins
1 1/4 cups chopped dried apricots
1 1/4 cups chopped candied lemon peel
2 cups sugar
1 cup molasses
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cloves
Hig- proof (aka overproof) rum, as needed (at room temperature or even a little warm)
Whipped cream, for serving, optional
1. Preheat the oven to 300° F. Grease a 10-inch bundt pan.
2. In a large bowl, combine the pork and 1 cup boiling water. Stir in the raisins, apricot, candied lemon, sugar, and sugar. Dissolve the baking soda in a splash of water and stir into the mixture. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and clove. Stir the dry mixture into the pork mixture until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the top is golden brown and the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 1 hour 40 minutes.
3. Cool the cake on a wire rack. Unmold and place the cake back on the rack. Place the cake on the rack on a rimmed baking sheet (to contain the flames, this keeps them from spreading). Pour some rum all over the cake until the cake is moistened. Pour some rum into a ladle. Dim the lights. Fill a bowl with water and keep it nearby, just in case. Light the rum in the ladle on fire. carefully pour it all over the cake. The flames will ignite the rum on the cake, and also any drips on the baking sheet so be prepared for this. If things get out of control douse with water. But don't panic, the flames die down on their own in seconds.
4. Eat the cake! It's good with whipped cream.