Tag: Jane Austen

Our Vintage Christmas

November marks the start of our Vintage Christmas countdown. With just over a month to go until the big event we’re posting a plethora of vintage ideas, traditions, activities, preparations and events that help you to join in with us for an authentic Vintage Christmas.

Home made Christmas Cake Recipe

Traditionally your Christmas cake would be home-made and already soaking up alcohol by the 1st of November so that you get a gorgeous moist and boozy cake by Christmas day and you’ve enough time before then to marzipan it as well as let it dry and attempt something wildly creative with icing and bits of ribbon. Sadly, rich fruit cake isn’t the luxury item it used to be and you can easily buy a cake for much less than it takes to bake – but  where’s the fun, anxiety and opportunity to puncture your self-esteem in that? We love the old tradition of a home made Christmas cake to last between Christmas and the new year and how else would we take on our annual Christmas cake-icing challenge!

picture of Jane Austen with a fruit cake

We like to think of Jane Austen as a fruit cake enthusiast ...Hmm...cake or Mr Darcy? Which is most delicious?

Originally  christmas cake was “plumb cake” and in 1730 included: currants, flower, cloves, mace, cinnamon, nutmegs, pounded and blanced almonds, sliced citron lemon, orange piele, Rong water, ale, yest, cream and butter milke. Not quite sure what rong water is but we don’t have any here at Vintage Dorset so we’re just going to make do with a more modern recipe!

So, tracking back to the Mrs Beaton’s traditional recipe – and combining it with a bit of Delia and the odd tip here and there – we have a new tradition. I personally like more variety of fruit than Mrs B – and to soak it overnight in rum and freshly squeezed orange juice before incorporating it in the cake – more like the delicious regency recipes suggested by the lovely people from the Jane Austen Centre in Bath or of course our modern day Mrs B – Delia!

English Christmas Fruitcake Recipe

mrs beeton's household management

The quintessential English Christmas fruitcake recipe  from “The Book Of Household Management” by Mrs. Isabella Beeton, published by Mrs. Beeton, London, in 1861.

Ingredients: 5 teacupfuls of flour, 1 teacupful of melted butter, 1 teacupful of cream, 1 teacupful of treacle, 1 teacupful of moist sugar, 2 eggs, 1/2 oz of powdered ginger, 1/2 lb of raisins, 1 teaspoonful of carbonate of soda, 1 tablespoonful of vinegar. Ok, enough of all that… what about Delia’s very rich modernisation:

1 lb (450 g) currants
6 oz (175 g) sultanas
6 oz (175 g) raisins
2 oz (50 g) glacé cherries, rinsed, dried and finely chopped
2 oz (50 g) mixed candied peel, finely chopped (we chop this up very fine or make our own peel by cooking up grated orange and lemon rind in sugar)
3 tbsp brandy, plus extra for ‘feeding’ I plump the fruit the night before in brandy mixed with orange juice)
8 oz (225 g) plain flour
½ level teaspoon salt
¼ level teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ level teaspoon ground mixed spice
8 oz (225 g) unsalted butter
8 oz (225 g) soft brown sugar
4 large eggs – we always go free-range – the ones on the side of the road at Hardy’s monument are fab
2 oz (50 g) almonds, chopped (the skins can be left on)
1 level dessertspoon black treacle (I do tend to go halves with golden syrup here)
grated zest 1 lemon
grated zest 1 orange

Mrs Beeton’s method: Make the butter sufficiently warm to melt it, but do not allow it to oil; put the flour into a basin; add to it the sugar, ginger, and raisins, which should be stoned and cut into small pieces. When these dry ingredients are thoroughly mixed, stir in the butter, cream, treacle, and well-whisked eggs, and beat the mixture for a few minutes. Dissolve the soda in the vinegar (Delia doesn’t bother with this bit), add it to the dough, and be particular that these latter ingredients are well incorporated with the others; put the cake into a buttered mold or tin, place it in a moderate oven immediately, and bake it from 2 – 4 hours (depending on size) in the bottom of the oven at gas mark 1, 275°F (140°C)

Our Quick instructions – mix together the dry ingredients. Separately in a very big bowl, mix together butter sugar and whisk in the eggs, fold in the flour and spices then fold the mixtures together before pouring and baking

I like to line my tin with greaseproof paper and cover the top with a double layer of greaseproof. On turning out I also like Mrs B’s hint of moistening a piece of cheesecloth, (large enough to wrap the cake), with 1 tablespoon rum to wrap the cake in. When cool, sprinkle the top and sides of the cake with a couple of teaspoons of rum (my mum used to always prick the base of the cake with a cocktail stick to encourage deep liquor infusion). Wrap the cake, pressing the cheesecloth closely to the surface of the cake cover with greaseproof paper (or cling-film) and place in an airtight tin to age. Douse regularly with additional rum for extra depth of flavour!

For variety you can cook portions of the mix in clean baked bean tins for mini-christmas cakes (but reduce the cooking time and add a tray of water to the bottom of the oven to increase the moisture content).

Oh yes …cake or Mr Darcy? Very difficult choice…am deliberating!

Published by annie, on 1st November 2010 at 11:05 am. Filled under: Christmas,Vintage Activities,Vintage Events,Vintage Food Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , Comments Off on Our Vintage Christmas