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Patisserie Valerie

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The History of Christmas Cake

Thursday, 15 Dec 2016

Once again we welcome the festive season! Christmas is time of frosted trees, crisp white snow, and chestnuts roasting over crackling fires. Most of all Christmas is a time for celebration, and what better way to revel in the festive season than with a delicious Christmas cake? But where did this tradition begin?

Christmas cake started its life as Plum porridge which was eaten on Christmas Eve to line people’s stomachs after fasting. Dried fruit, spices and honey were eventually added to make this a special dish for the festive season. This was the beginning of today’s Christmas pudding, which would have been tied and boiled for many hours before eating. It wasn’t until the 16th Century that oatmeal was phased out and butter, flour and eggs were added to create a boiled plum cake which was eaten at Easter.

This ‘Christmas Cake’ evolved further when dried fruit of the festive season and spices (which represented the gifts brought by the 3 wise men) were added. This cake was eaten at the Twelfth Night Feast which marked the last day of Christmas on the 5th January, and became known as the Twelfth Night cake.

Traditionally a dried bean and a dried pea were baked into either side of the cake! At the feast the gentleman who found the bean in his slice would become King of Revels for the night and the lady who found the pea would be Queen.

Eventually Twelfth Night celebrations lost popularity, and with the increase of Christmas festivities during the 1830s this cake began to be eaten at Christmas. As this shift occurred Victorian bakers began to decorate these cakes with snow scenes. These cakes became a staple of Christmas parties and by the 1870s what we recognise as modern Christmas cake had emerged!

Patisserie Valerie offer a range of festive celebration cakes and slices both in-store and online, which shall be the perfect way to enjoy the festive season. Why not try our deliciously chocolatey Festive Fudge cake or indulge in our spin on an old classic with our Fruity Framboise Gateau, which will be the ideal complement to your festive celebrations.

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