Celebration cakes are, by definition, produced for those occasions when that little something extra is required. Savings are made to obtain the required ingredients that, in normal circumstances, would not be on the shopping list.
Throughout history all ‘rites of passage’ events have been marked in some way or another, usually a family gathering for a birth, marriage, coming-of-age, birthday or even death.
The actual cakes themselves can be round, oval, square, oblong, single or multi layered.
But there is, in my humble opinion, nothing better than a rich fruit cake, made several weeks in advance and liberally drenched with either whiskey or brandy as the cake ‘matures’ to warm the cockles of the heart.
About a week to ten days before Christmas, or other joyous celebration, the covering of marzipan should be applied, smoothed and allowed to dry for 48 hours before the first coat of icing is made. Once that is done, the preparations for the ‘final finish’ can be made.
Models of houses, fir trees or even of Santa Claus may be included in the decoration. Coins can also be added to Christmas cakes as ‘good luck’ tokens. The usual choices would have been the silver 3d piece, or the sixpence.
In Northern England, Christmas cake, as with other types of fruit cake, is often eaten with local cheese, such as Wensleydale.
A cake that may also be served at Christmas time, in addition to the traditional Christmas cake, is the cake known as a “chocolate log”.
This is, basically a Swiss roll coated in chocolate, resembling a log.
In Japan, Christmas cakes are traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve. They are simply a sponge cake, frosted with whipped cream, often decorated with strawberries, and usually topped with Christmas chocolates or other seasonal fruit. In the past, single women over the age of 25 were sometimes referred to in Japan as a “Christmas cake” based on the belief that just as a Christmas cake is unwanted after December 25th, so single women become unwanted after their 25th birthday!
In the Philippines, Christmas cakes are bright rich yellow pound cakes with macerated nuts or fruitcakes of the British fashion. Both are soaked in copious amounts of brandy or rum mixed with a simple syrup of palm sugar and water. Traditionally, civet musk is added, but rosewater or orange flower water is more common now, as civet musk has become very expensive. These liquor-laden cakes can usually stay fresh for many months provided they are handled properly.
In Germany, the Stollen, a traditional German fruitbread is popular. During the Christmas season, it’s also called Weihnachtsstollen or Christstollen.