Christmas Cake

02 November 2021

To me, fruit cake has always been somewhat disappointing; something that you would pick the currants from at your Grandma’s house and forlornly wonder how it could share the same descriptor as a chocolate gateaux or victoria sponge.  Christmas cake however seems to be an exception to this rule.  Perhaps it is my enthusiasm for the festive period, Christmas traditions, or the thick layer of marzipan and icing, but every year I resolve and then fail to bake a Christmas cake;  this year things are going to be different!

From Fanny Cradock to my Mother, opinions differ as to when you should get started on said cake, but google favors two to three months before Christmas.  With only seven weeks to go until the big day, it is safe to say that I am behind schedule.  So whilst I dash out a hurried shopping list for glace cherries and mixed spice, I thought you might enjoy a few interesting facts about the noble Christmas cake.

  • Christmas cake started life as plum porridge, consumed to fill people’s stomachs during times of fasting in the lead up to Christmas.
  • In the late 18th century plum did not only refer to the fruit that we are familiar with today, but various kinds of dried fruit.
  • Plum porridge evolved when the oats were replaced with richer ingredients such as the flour and eggs that give the dish its cake and pudding like quality.
  • As spices came to England via the Middle East land and sea routes, these too were added to the mix and are said to represent the three wise men.
  • Early on it was only the richest families that would wrap their cakes in marzipan.
  • Royal icing was so named because it was used for royal wedding cakes.    

Whether you a reading this smugly safe in the knowledge that your cake is maturing, have abandoned this article to run to the nearest shop, or will be fine with something pre-made at a later date, I hope that you enjoy your Christmas cake this year and that the above will provide you with some facts to delight your friends and family with as you pick out currants.