Christmas Cake Origins & Histories

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February 12, 2016

Christmas Cake Origins & Histories

This is the time of year when we all indulge ourselves with tasty foods and delicious desserts. This blog originally started as a ‘healthy Christmas desserts’ piece but as I was researching I discovered some really fascinating traditions associated to these cakes, some dating back centuries, which seemed more interesting…

Fruit Cake

Originating in England where it is commonly referred to as Christmas Cake. It started as a simple plum porridge that was traditionally eaten on Christmas eve, as a filler, due to the day’s fasting.  Around the 16th Century extra ingredients such as  honey as well as spices, which symbolized the exotic east of the three wise men, were added to the porridge.  Eventually the oatmeal was replaced with wheat flour, eggs and butter and very wealthy families who owned an oven began baking fruit cakes. Not long after the marzipan and almond sugar paste was added and also used as an Easter celebration cake.

 Mocha Yule Log

Christmas would not be the same without a Yule Log. This traditional European cake has been a favourite in France and Belgium for a long time. This delicious holiday treat has now become a global festive favourite. This cake has a great history too, dating back to a Nordic tradition in medieval times. A tree log would be chopped and burnt in the home over the twelve days of Christmas.  The log leftovers from the previous year would be carefully stored and used to re-light the new log the following year, but only by someone with clean hands.

King Cake 

Layered flaky puff pastry consisting of a heavy filling of Apple and Frangipani. The name is used to represent the biblical three kings and is a celebration of Epiphany, a Christian tradition that tells of prominent travellers from the East who came to bestow gifts on Jesus. They are commonly referred to as the 3 Wise Men in nativity scenes.  A small trinket which represents baby Jesus is hidden in one of the pieces and the lucky finder is given privileges as well as certain obligations. This cake tradition is said to be around three hundred years old.

 Panattone

Flour, Candied fruits and raisins, a favorite Milinese cake which dates back to Roman Times. It became mainstream in the early 20th century when two companies went into fierce battle to dominate the Panattone market.  After the end of World War II the price was so low it was affordable in most households and quickly became the most popular cake at Christmas time, replacing even the King’s Cake.

So I’m afraid this list of cakes is not very healthy, but it is the holidays so enjoy and be sure to start thinking about your resolutions; you can atone for your cake-sins then. 

Happy Holidays!

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