Thursday, 27 December 2012

Dilemmas of the Christmas Cake variety

I'm coming to the conclusion that our taste buds have memories.

Most of the year I can happily do without fruit cake. Chocolate usually springs to mind. Yule logs are chocolaty and rather festive, aren't they? One might think they're the perfect combo, for this time of the year. I had noticed, earlier in the month that Pig in the Kitchen had come up with a tempting looking recipe, for one of these. However, come Christmas, it seems desirable, in fact necessary, to partake of the slightly more traditional fruit-full festive favourite. 

Growing up, I remember that I didn't enjoy the cake at all - although I loved the covering - marzipan and icing. However, with age, it grew on me, to the point where I couldn't imagine Christmas without it. 

You might wonder why I'm blogging about this after the Big Day, but you see the thing is, over the years, my mother only seemed to get 'round to decorating her cake, after the event - usually Boxing Day. I seem to have inherited this trait, which seems slightly lacking of me, BUT, it turns out that this is actually more traditional than you might think! The origins of the Christmas cake apparently came from the tradition of baking a cake to celebrate Epiphany and the arrival of the Three Kings on Twelfth Night - a tradition that ended with Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan ideals.

The Hub is not a fan of Christmas cake. Baby does not like fruit cake. So it was that a month or so ago, I was puzzling over what to do about a Christmas cake this year. I did consider making a gluten and dairy free version, but fairly quickly abandoned the idea - after all, much as I love this cake, I couldn't imagine eating a whole one, all my myself!!!

However, I rather wanted to continue the Christmas cake decorating tradition - I have fond memories of decorating the cake, with my mum, and wanted to recreate that with Baby. I did consider buying a ready-iced slice, or what can only be described as a 'chunk,' of Christmas cake (such forms of Christmas cake are readily available in the supermarkets) but really I wanted a small round version -  a miniature of the 'real thing.' I wanted something that could be marzipanned, iced and so on.

I finally found the answer in a cake by a firm called 'The Village Bakery,' which I found in my nearest health food shop. It's organic as well as both dairy and gluten free and being only 450g in weight, the perfect size, so I thought, for me... and maybe Baby as well, if she fancied it.

And here it is:

The ingredients (just in case you're wondering) were as follows:

Sultanas, Raisins, Ground Almonds, Eggs, Sunflower Oil, Brown Rice Syrup, Dates, Apricots, Concentrated Apple Juice, Manioc Flour, Molasses, Cinnamon, Mixed Spice, Raising Agent, Baking Powder

All I needed (on Boxing Day, of course) to do was coat it with some jam, (I think you're supposed to use apricot, but I only had strawberry to hand) roll out some marzipan and slap it on.

The marzipan I used was by Dr Oetker. It contained Sugar, Almonds, Glucose Syrup, Invert Sugar and Water.

The final layer, the icing, was mixed from scratch. It contained the usual: icing sugar, egg white, water and a dash of lemon. 

Icing on, Baby (with a little direction from me) added the decorations.

It may look a little over decorated to you, but believe me, this cake is getting off lightly - you should see the other cake, which Baby decorated unleashed!! That one had a large Easter chick on it - foolishly left in the box of cake decorations, by my mother!!

Once the cake was decorated, Baby couldn't wait to eat it and neither could I, but we had to let the icing set... we didn't leave it for that long though - just an hour or so.

Baby had some. I had a bit more and it was alright, although not as rich as I remembered the Christmas cake of my childhood - maybe I should have fed it with some booze. I'd give that a try next year, but for some reason this cake has made my gut sore - not it's fault - I seem to have developed as sensitivity to a spice or two (following a recentish porridge enriching experiment, I'm thinking the cinnamon). 

So, for me, it's back to the drawing board *sigh*! Next year I may have to begin a new tradition - of baking yule logs. At least I know where to find the perfect recipe!


  1. Thats a wonderful Christmas Cake, I'm really pleased you got to make one with baby. I'm intrigued by your spice sensitivity. I too had a completely dairy and gluten free day yesterday but did make a tagine containing cinnamon and ginger and a slice of yule log with spices. This morning I'm suffering and I'm scratching my head as to whats caused it. I'm sure it may be a build up of unusual non dairy and gluten foods, or it could be the fact for the first time in years I've had more than a single glass of alcohol this week. However, a small part of me wonders if it not just little one that suffers when eating dried fruit?
    I'm very tempted (after finding out what my next appointment with the consultant brings)to investigate a complete exclusion diet starting from the very basics. Less of a New Years resolution and more of a necessary process.
    Hope you feel better soon, Emma x

    1. Thanks Emma!

      The dietitian warned me prior to weaning, that I needed to introduce foods slowly, to Baby, as she might prove allergic even to spices. At the time I was surprised and had never had problems with them myself. I am gutted that it seems to have begun to be a problem for me - I love spicy food. However, it may make sense of why a Free From Christmas pudding badly affected me last year.

      It needs further investigation, but my suspicions have been building, since the porridge incident and since using a ready made gluten free cooking sauce, which contained a LOT of cinnamon. However, I may be jumping to conclusions, you never know!! I'm not throwing in the towel just yet, but am going to let my gut heal a bit before trying again.

  2. I'm not a fan of christmas cake but love your decorations :) shame that you had a reaction to the cake, hope you feel better soon

    1. Thanks Sarah! I'm gutted, but c'est la vie! I love decorating the cake so much, that next year I may go wartime and decorate a cardboard cake - apparently that's how they 'did' wedding cakes during the war, when food was rationed! Or just go with the Yule log - after all, what's not to love about chocolate? :)