Tuesday, 2 December 2014

So this is Christmas - Christmas Food - the Christmas Cake

Christmas food - all the special treats that appeared only at Christmas. Things were different then, foods that we have all year now were only available at Christmas time or had to be specially ordered at other times during the year.

As you would know by now my grandmother, the doyen of Christmas, of course had a list of 'must have' Christmas food.

Preparation for Christmas started early. 

The Christmas cake had to be baked well before Christmas as it had to 'mature'. My mother was the cake baker. Every Christmas she made eight Christmas cakes. Two for us, one for my grandparents on both sides, one for her sister, one for her grandmother & aunts, one for a neighbour, and I don't remember who had the last one. Perhaps it was a reserve in case we ran out of cake! The recipe was an adaptation of a 1948 Women's Weekly recipe. 

Soaking the fruit
Ready for baking
No packets of mixed fruit here. All the ingredients had to be separately added. Sultanas, raisins, currants, dates, orange peel, apricots etc. All measured out, weighed and put in a large basin overnight with rum. What a luscious smell. Mum made two cakes at a time so the process was lengthy and time consuming. I had the job of licking the spoon before Mum washed up. When they cakes were baked in round 'soldiers tins' more rum was added - a skewer in the top to make holes - and small amount of rum added - the brown paper was folded over the top and the lid sealed. The round 'soldiers tins' apparently had been used during the war to send cakes overseas and my mother had eight of them. They were useful as they were lined with greased brown paper - no baking paper in the 1950s - and could then store the cakes safely until Christmas.    

Adding more rum
The plastic Merry Christmas
Once the cakes were sealed - with elastoplast around the top and sides I seem to remember one year - they were stored in the cupboard until the week of Christmas. Then they were brought out for when neighbours called in for a Christmas drink. I can't image having a Christmas drink of probably beer and Christmas cake but they did. The cake usually had a pattern of almonds on the top - placed there just before putting it in the oven. Then Mum had a plastic Merry Christmas that she placed on the cake. For some reason we never seemed to have an iced Christmas cake. My aunt, my mother's sister, sometimes iced her cake with almond paste icing - I loved it!  However my mother, who had her instructions from her mother, never ever iced her Christmas cakes. It seemingly would not have been 'right'.

By the way I have Mum's recipe but haven't the energy to do all the preparation I'm afraid. Thanks to Google images for the photos - unfortunately I don't have pics of my mother's cakes.

Stay tuned for the Christmas pudding ...

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