Category: Christmas

Fun with Christmas Cake!

It’s one of our favourite times of the year….when we get to decorate the Christmas cake! Our cake (made from a very old family recipe going back three generations) has been resting happily under the bed all wrapped up in parchment for the last few months, only coming out every now and again for a feed of brandy, sometimes whiskey and occasionally rum (and to be honest any alcoholic spirit we can find……eeek it’s going to be more like a Christmas cake cocktail!) and now it’s time to decorate it – before the fumes knock us out. We thought we’d share the process with you – we are no Nigella’s here at Vintage Dorset so bear with us, we like things simple and uncomplicated and we’re not looking for perfection!

So to begin – most importantly we always have a small glass of something gorgeous on the side to help the decorating process go smoothly (this year a lovely Pedro Ximenez sherry) and put the fab old Christmas tunes CD on to really get in the festive spirit, then we can get started.

Our lovely vintage Christmas cake stand


We’ve chosen a lovely old single tier cake stand for our cake this year.








And here’s the monster itself in all its naked glory! We’ve turned it upside down to give a nice flat (ish) decorating surface.

Christmas cake awaiting decoration

We used clingfilm on the board when we rolled out the marzipan as it’s so much easier and you don’t end up with a sticky mess to clear up. We’ve gone for white marzipan as we like icing to be fairly thin and we don’t want the yellow marzipan showing through. You can use brandy marzipan but we thought there was already enough booze going on! We spread apricot jam over the cake before applying the marzipan – or you could use marmalade but not the lumpy kind – not conducive to a nice flat surface!

Rolling out the marzipan on Vintage Dorset cakePutting jam on the cake

Here’s the marzipaned effort and then the iced cake. We used fondant icing – mainly for ease but Royal icing is fine – and definitely better if you want a good old fashioned snow scene. Ok so our iced cake may be a bit wonky but as we said – we’re not after perfection here – and by now we’ve had a glass or two of sherry!

Finished marzpanned cake at Vintage DorsetThe cake icing

And so to the decorating! We found some lovely reproduction vintage Christmas cards and cut out the scenes we liked to make a 3D effect. Just make sure you allow some card below the picture to make a little stand. We used sterilised pins to pin the cutouts to the cake but you could use a bit of icing instead.

Close up of Vintage Dorset Christmas cake

Then we added a lovely ribbon with a cutout label (again from a Christmas card) and finished off with a little vintage inspired wreath at the front with another ribbon round the cake (mainly to disguise the lumps and bumps!). Very simple but very pretty. Here’s the finished article – we like it, hope you do too!

Finished Christmas cake at Vintage Dorset

Vintage Dorset Christmas cake


Published by annie, on 16th December 2012 at 1:22 pm. Filled under: Christmas,Vintage Activities,Vintage Events,Vintage Food Tags: , , , , , , Comments Off on Fun with Christmas Cake!

It’s Christmas Card Time!

People have been giving and receiving Christmas greetings in some form or another for hundreds of years but when did giving Christmas cards become so popular?. Well it seems it all began in 1843 with art patron Sir Henry Cole (1808-1882), founder of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (and also designer of “Summerly’s” tea service made by Minton). This caricature of Sir Henry by James Tissot appeared in Vanity Fair in 1871.

Sir Henry Cole

Sir Henry used to hand write greetings to his family and friends on sheets of paper decorated with Christmas themes but decided he had too many to do so he commissioned 1,000 hand-coloured cards to be printed by London artist John Calcott Horsley. Sir Henry wanted something that would be suitable for everyone so Horsley designed a triptych with scenes on each of the side panels depicting the charitable essence of Christmas: feeding the poor and clothing the homeless. In the centre was the message “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year To You” (the message that is still today the standard Christmas card sentiment) under a beautiful drawing of a family toasting the season. And remember – Horsley hand coloured each one!


Henry Cole Christmas Card

Sir Henry sent half the cards personally and 500 were sold for the then huge price of one shilling each (probably a week’s wage for the average person). Only about nine have survived and today they can sell for thousands of pounds at auction. Due to the cost involved exchanging cards started out as something only the wealthy could afford to do.

Later, during the Victorian period cards were illustrated with gorgeous intricate designs and vivid colours, often hand-painted and from around the 1860’s a process known as chromolithography produced cards with colours so intense they rival anything produced today. By the 1880’s Christmas cards had verses inside and started to show more seasonal images.

The practice of sending cards caught on in England aided by the Postal Act of 1840, which allowed a piece of mail to be sent anywhere in the United Kingdom for just one penny. Strangely enough Sir Henry himself was involved in establishing this better postal system and creating the first self-adhesive postage stamp, the Penny Black (he provided the sketch of Queen Victoria used on the stamp).

The start of a cheaper postal service in 1870 made it affordable for almost everyone to send cards and it became a true Christmas tradition.

The Edwardian era brought with it more Santa Claus-themed cards with robes of many different colours but it wasn’t until the 1930’s when the Coca-Cola Company adopted St.Nicholas (and fattened him up a bit!) to promote it’s drinks that he became synonymous with the red and white we know and love today!

If you love vintage Christmas cards do have a look at some of the images from Raphael Tuck & Sons, De La-Rue and Marcus Ward & Co. Here’s just a very few of our favourites!



Published by annie, on 11th December 2012 at 6:36 pm. Filled under: Christmas,Vintage Activities,Vintage Arts,Vintage Events,Vintage Local History Tags: , , Comments Off on It’s Christmas Card Time!