Have you ever read a classic Christmas story and wondered what plum pudding was? Christmas is a time of joy and traditions. One very special Christmas tradition in my household begins to take place in late October. Dried fruits and marzipan are ordered so we may prepare to bake our original Christmas Cakes.
This isn't the fruit cake you might get on the check-out aisles of your local grocery store. This cake is a tradition and a joy that my daughter and I prepare for our friends and family each year. Serving a slice with Wensleydale cheese (Wensleydale is a historic, sweet cheese, sometimes filled with fruit, that has been made in Wensleydale, in the north of England since 1150 by Cistercian monks) and a cup of hot tea is how we enjoy the fruit of our labor.
Back in the 1600s, Christmas time meant Plum Pudding would be served. Only made with the finest ingredients: fruits, nuts, sugar, and mixed spices. History tells us that all of these ingredients were rare and expensive. The mixed spices represented the exotic eastern spices brought by the Wise Men as a gift to the baby Jesus.
Before ovens, cooks wrapped the mixture in cheesecloth and boiled them; hence, the Plum Pudding you read about in all the classic Christmas stories. Over time when ovens became more commonplace, the Christmas Cake was born.
Starting in November, bakers would begin forming the cake and preserving it in an air tight container. Finally, a few days before Christmas they would add the marzipan and decorate with Royal Icing.
Slicing the cake before Christmas Eve was deemed “unlucky”.
Over time we have tried to perfect the art and have gotten a little better each year.
Brandy is poured once a week to preserve our cakes and we use marzipan underneath the royal icing after the cakes are baked.
They are given as gifts in beautiful air tight Christmas tins.
Each is made with love and reminds us as a family: what originally began many, many years ago as a gift fit for a king, using only the finest ingredients, is still appropriate today as it emphasizes the love of our King Jesus.
My daughter and I started cooking together when she was very young. We both enjoy the art of cooking, always trying new recipes, then we share our creations. We cook together and look forward to a table full of friends and family to share our passion for food with.
The father/daughter project began when she was a sophomore in high school baking just one cake. Each year even as she is away at college we plan our baking around her trips home. Today we have a tradition of baking, telling the story of why, and giving our version of this classic cake away as a gift. I cherish this special tradition and look forward to having it continue over the years. I know it's a little early to be making Christmas Cake, however I was hoping to encourage you to start your own tradition this year.