Unforgettable holiday family recipes

Hailey Goebel
By Hailey Goebel December 8, 2023 12:21

Unforgettable holiday family recipes

by Hailey Goebel

The meals associated with the holidays draw friends and families together around tables and feed our sense of nostalgia.  

We all have memorable stories about the food prepared and the recipes passed on from generation to generation.  

Three public figures from Windsor and Essex County shared one of their essential celebration recipes. 


Fruitcake has a long and fascinating history, according to Culinary Agents. 

During ancient times, the Romans developed a bread packed with calories made of barley mash, pomegranate seeds, raisins, pine nuts and honeyed wine to sustain their soldiers during long and exhausting battles. 

As dried fruits became more readily available, this Roman warrior energy bar eventually found its way into homes as a dessert for special occasions. 

By the early 19th century, the typical recipe included citrus peel, pineapples, plums, dates, pears and cherries.  

In the late 1800s, the fruitcake was gifted in decorative tins, becoming a holiday staple. 

It is now enjoyed worldwide, with seven million pounds of this cake produced annually. 

Hilda MacDonald, Mayor of Leamington, has been making the same fruitcake recipe since her first year of marriage in 1974. 

MacDonald received a fruitcake recipe from a friend whose grandmother had been making it for years.  

Around 1982, MacDonald found a similar recipe in a Canadian Living magazine and combined the two to make her own one-of-a-kind version of the recipe. 

“I feel like my recipe is unique now,” MacDonald said. “I’ve made some adjustments and put the two together.” 

MacDonald said she is selective about fruitcake since many people do not like it.  

“I make a light fruitcake with canned pineapple, red and green fruit, coconut, almonds and golden raisins,” MacDonald said. “My daughter, who is 45 years old, loves this fruitcake but hates raisins. Whenever she eats it, she picks out all the raisins and puts them in a small dish.”  

However, MacDonald’s husband, Doug, will eat the unwanted raisins. 

This incident has become a funny family story they often share and laugh about. 

According to MacDonald, this tradition is all about cherished family memories. 

“Those memories we hold onto year after year are the ones that matter the most,” MacDonald said. “I think about all the people who used to love this cake that are not here anymore, like my mom and mother-in-law, who are both gone.” 

MacDonald said her mom and mother-in-law started making this fruitcake after she did.  

“It was a treat we always shared during Christmastime,” MacDonald said. “It has a lot of really good family memories.” 

According to MacDonald, repeating these traditions reinforces “that family feeling” within her. 

MacDonald owned a kitchen store from 1997 to 2006.  

She published her fruitcake recipe in the local newspaper during that time.  

“Many customers came in because they saw the article in the paper,” MacDonald said. “Someone on social media recently asked me to post the article again.” 

Additionally, MacDonald said her daughter made a family cookbook a few years ago for Christmas with all their favourite family recipes, including the fruitcake recipe she advertised. 

Hilda MacDonald, Mayor of Leamington, poses for a photograph. Photo courtesy of Hilda MacDonald.


  • 2 cups coconut 
  • 1 1/2 cups halved candied cherries 
  • 1 1/2 cups light raisins 
  • 1 1/2 cups slivered almonds 
  • 2 2/3 cups flour 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 cup butter 
  • 2 cups sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract 
  • 1/4 cup peel 
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract 
  • 3 eggs 
  • 1 can crushed pineapple 
  • 1 cup pineapple juice 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


Grease and line a nine- or 10-inch tube pan with brown paper. Then, grease the paper. Drain the pineapple, reserve juice. Combine coconut, dried fruit, nuts and one cup of flour. Mix well until the fruit is separated and coated with flour. Set aside. Combine the remaining flour with baking powder and salt. Cream the butter, sugar and flavourings thoroughly. Add one egg at a time, beating well after each addition. Then, add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture alternately with pineapple juice, making three dry and two liquid additions. Add the flavoured fruit mixture and mix well. Add the drained pineapple until combined. Spread the batter evenly in the pan. Bake at 275 for two 1/2 to three hours, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Place a pan of hot water on the bottom of the oven to prevent the cake from drying out. Cool the cake in the pan, then remove it from the pan, remove the paper, and store it, wrapped well in a cool, dark place. Store the cake at least one week before cutting. 


English trifle is more than just a dessert to Sanjay Maru, CTV News Windsor weekend anchor and reporter.  

“It represents celebration and togetherness,” Maru said. “Trifle has always held a special place in my heart. I have a lot of happy memories associated with it.” 

According to Southern Living, trifles originated in 18th-century Britain as a way to use up leftovers and stale cake. 

The dessert was made by soaking pieces of cake in alcohol and then layering them with fruit, custard and jelly in a round bowl. 

Although the dessert has British origins, the word “trifle” comes from the old French word “trufe” (or truffle), which means something of little importance. 

Maru’s mother was born and raised in Bolton, a small town in England.  

Maru said his mother developed a fondness for custard during her childhood and taught herself how to make an English trifle, a dessert consisting of sponge cake and custard. 

“She found trifle an ideal way to combine all the ingredients she enjoyed into one dish,” Maru said. 

According to Maru, this recipe has been part of his family for about 25 years. 

“I remember having trifle since I was a little kid,” Maru said. “My first memory of trifle is when I was around four years old.” 

Maru said whenever his mom brought out the trifle, it was a sign of a special occasion, like getting a new job or promotion, doing well on an exam or celebrating a birthday.  

“I even had a birthday trifle instead of a cake on one of my birthdays,” Maru said. “Trifle symbolizes how important it is to have our loved ones around us during these times.” 

The dessert is prepared by layering jelly, custard, fruit and whipped cream.  

Statistics Canada reported 6.2 million litres of whipping cream were sold commercially in December 2017. 

“This dessert does not contain beef like the trifle Rachel Green attempted to make for Thanksgiving in Friends,” Maru said. “It consists of layers of sponge cake that are not overly sweet but just enough to absorb the pieces of fruit added, along with a layer of custard.” 

The fruit adds a refreshing taste as the custard acts as a creamy, rich ingredient binding everything together, according to Maru. 

“When you take a bite, you can taste all these layers together,” Maru said. 

Trifle is a dessert to share with loved ones, according to Maru. 

“Whenever someone makes trifle, it’s not just about dropping it off and eating it alone,” Maru said. “It’s about enjoying it with the people you care about.” 

According to Maru, the trifle serves as a metaphor, with its multiple layers, for the individuals who come together to eat it. 

“Although we are all separate individuals, we can always unite in times of celebration and enjoy something together,” Maru said. 

Sanjay Maru, CTV News Windsor weekend anchor and reporter, poses for a photograph. Photo courtesy of CTV News Windsor.


  • 4 cups whole milk 
  • 8 large egg yolks 
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar 
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • 1/2 cup butter cut into small pieces 
  • 9×13 yellow cake baked and cooled 
  • 1/2 cup cream sherry 
  • 3 heaping tablespoons seedless red raspberry jam 
  • 2 cups sliced fresh strawberries 
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries 
  • 1 tablespoon cream sherry 
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
    1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream 
  • 1 teaspoon powdered sugar


  1. Heat the milk over low-medium heat, stirring frequently, until it just begins to simmer and steam rises from the surface. 
  2. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch until light and smooth. 
  3. Remove the hot milk from the stove. While whisking the egg yolk mixture constantly, dribble hot milk, a few drops at a time, into the yolks. Once you have dribbled in a good amount you can increase the amount of liquid you add at a time, whisking continuously until all the milk has been added. 
  4. Pour the contents of the mixer bowl into the saucepan and heat over medium, whisking constantly, until the mixture just comes to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, keep whisking, ensuring that the milk mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pan, until thickened, about 1-2 minutes. 
  5. Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in butter. Custard will be thick and smooth. Pour into a shallow bowl and cover the top with plastic wrap so that the plastic is touching the surface of the custard. This will prevent a skin from forming on top. Cool in the refrigerator until chilled. 
  6. Cut the full 13×9 cake in half horizontally. Brush the cut sides of both cake halves with the cream sherry. Spread raspberry jam over the sherry. Cut the cake halves into small squares (about 1-2-inches). 
  7. In a medium bowl, combine the strawberries, raspberries, sherry and sugar. Stir to coat and allow to macerate. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to assemble the trifle. 
  8. Combine the heavy whipping cream and the powdered sugar in a larger mixer bowl. Beat on high for 2 minutes, or until stiff peaks form. Keep chilled in the refrigerator until ready to assemble. 
  9. Place 1/3 of the cake cubes in the bottom of the trifle dish, jam side up. Top the cake cubes with 1/3 of the fruit, followed by 1/3 of the custard and finally with 1/3 of the whipped cream. Repeat layers two more times. Decorate the top with fresh fruit. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

Irene Moore Davis, an educator and public historian, poses for a photograph. Photo courtesy of Irene Moore Davis.



Irene Moore Davis, an educator and public historian, shared a holiday culinary tradition unique to members of the Black community – collard greens. 

“In my family, we make absolutely delicious and very well-seasoned collard greens,” Moore Davis said. “Collard greens might be a dish we have in our tradition that maybe other folks don’t.” 

According to Moore Davis, collard greens have been a tradition in her family for at least a century, dating back to her great-grandmother’s generation. 

“I remember watching my mother and grandmother cook them,” Moore Davis said. “I prepare them pretty well the same way.” 

Moore Davis said the flavourful broth that remains after cooking the greens is known as pot likker. 

“It’s not unusual for family members to eat the greens and then crave the leftover broth,” Moore Davis said. “It’s perfect for dipping bread or anything else to savour the delicious liquid it has been cooking in.” 

At one point late in her mother’s life, Moore Davis said her mother had to limit her consumption of vegetables high in vitamin K due to medication, as they could cause blood clotting. 

Moore Davis recalled a humorous moment when the doctor provided her mother with a list of foods to avoid. 

“My mother reacted in a funny way when she found out that collard greens were on the list of foods she couldn’t eat,” Moore Davis said. “She was so angry that she swore because they are a significant part of our tradition.” 

Moore Davis said her favorite thing about the holidays is gathering around the table with family and friends to enjoy good food. 

“Whether it’s just an evening with cocktails and finger food or a big Christmas dinner, it’s always wonderful to have beautiful bowls and platters of food passed around,” Moore Davis said.  

But it is not really about the food, Moore Davis said.  

“Although we want the food to taste good and be enjoyable, it’s about coming together around the table that means so much,” Moore Davis said.  

According to Moore Davis, the most meaningful thing about the holidays is gathering everybody together. 

Moore Davis said it is great to have people around the table during celebrations, including those we see frequently, those we don’t see often and relatives who come in from out of town, from different generations.  

“It’s really great to have everyone around the table to celebrate together,” Moore Davis said. “That’s what I really look forward to.” 


  • 1 smoked turkey leg 
  • 4 cups chicken stock 
  • 2 large bunches fresh collard greens 
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped 
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes 
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder 
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 
  • liquid smoke to taste 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper


  1. Remove tough stems and center veins. Chop greens into 1/2-inch pieces, evenly stack 7-8 collard leaves, tightly roll the leaves, then slice, perpendicular, into thin ribbons. 
  2. Wash bagged collard greens thoroughly, drain, and chop into 1/2 pieces. Add oil in a large skillet over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Reduce heat and add onion, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. 
  3. Add more oil if necessary. Sauté until onions are soft, fragrant, translucent and just beginning to brown, 5-7 minutes. 
  4. Add collard greens, stirring constantly until soft and leaves are well-coated, about 5 minutes. 
  5. Add broth and bring to a slow boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until greens are tender, 20-30 minutes. 
  6. Once greens are tender, add liquid smoke and season with salt and pepper to taste. 
Hailey Goebel
By Hailey Goebel December 8, 2023 12:21

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