Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Hark The Herald Angels Singe

It has come to my attention that making a Christmas cake is about as much fun as you can have on your own. Within the lowly four walls of your kitchen, something magnificent is born from the humblest of beginnings. It's basically the Nativity story of the cake world. This must be why Christmas cakes are made at Christmas.

One of the great things about baking a Christmas cake is that it makes your house smell amazing. I'm not quite sure which part of the Nativity story this represents.

But anyway, I followed a star (I actually followed the recipe in the excellent Lost Gardens Of Heligan café cookbook, but there's nothing I like more than a metaphor stretched to the point of collapse, cf the incredible legal wordplay in Blue's All Rise. All together now: 'Objection overruled') and I turned these:

into this:

The astute among you will notice that it is – and this is a technical term – slightly burnt. However, I'm counting on the people I'm serving it to being too drunk to notice. If not, well, I think our Lord was no stranger to criticism either.

Next stop: marzipan.


Jane said...

Surely the wonderful smells remind one of the frankincense brought by the Magi to the birth of the Baby J signifying his dual kingly and priestly destiny?

You could even excuse the odd burnt edge as reminiscent of the bitter myrrh... bung it on a gold plate and you'll score the Biblical hat trick?

Or douse it all in alcohol and save me a slice!

Chris said...

Not to be a stickler or owt, but are you not jumping the gun, Miss Jones? If my WI Almanac is to be believed (and it's never steered me wrong on how to fold two pieces of silver card into a delightful gift box or the correct method for wrangling a rosette, so I see no reason to doubt it) this coming weekend sees Stir-Up Sunday, the day on which we are supposed to repair to our kitchens and emerge hours later with the kind of confectionery pictured. Not only is this a reckless flying in the face of ages old, albeit little known, tradition, but it runs the distinct risk that your cake will be as much as five days stale at the moment of serving.

Tsk and, at the risk of repeating myself, tsk.

On a related note, why does no-one ever make parkin anymore?

Mr. A

Miss Jones said...

Jane, Baby J would be a great name for a Christian rock band.

Mr A, I must tell you that I have torn up the calendar completely as I'll be serving the cake on December 5th, not the 25th. What do the stiffs at the WI have to say about that, hmmm? HMMM?

Far from being stale, I am in fact anxious that the cake will not have matured enough. Nigella is intimidatingly forceful on the four-week lead-in time, as, apparently, are the WI. It's emotionally draining.

I used to buy parkin from Ainsley's bakery in Leeds when I was a student. It is surely a) the perfect way to use up the tin of black treacle you have to buy in order to make a Christmas cake, rather than having it weld itself ever harder to your cupboard shelf for the next 12 months and b) a lot less stressful than making a Christmas cake.

Anonymous said...

Just the other day I was singing the praises of parkin to a young lady at work and SHE HAD NEVER HEARD OF IT.

Because of this gaping hole in my colleague's cake knowledge she couldn't fully grasp the disappointment I felt when once, in the 80's, my Grandma went 'off piste' with her cake baking and put raisins into the parkin. It didn't need dried fruit. Plus I was in hospital at the time and therefore too weak to put up a proper fight.

Jonesy, I miss Ainsleys.

Miss R

Miss Jones said...

RAISINS? In PARKIN? This is almost as depraved as putting jelly in trifle.

Chris said...

Extensive research has revealed that parkin, being a hardy, northern confectionery, is little heard of in the South. (Although I believe Fortnum's import loaves of it from Betty's Tea Shop in Harrogate. Seriously.) Perhaps it doesn't flourish in the balmy heat, or maybe the folk round here aren't made of stern enough stuff to be able to summon the physical wherewithal to suck back the post-masticatory gloop that accretes to the roof of your mouth. Whatever the reason, it has meant years of experimentation in our house to find a parkin recipe that will suffice. This has, alas, met with little success, although we have learnt a number of valuable lessons from the process. This year's lesson, which I pass on in the spirit of advancing the sum of human knowledge: Ready Brek is not the same as oatmeal. It just isn't. You're welcome.

Mr. A

Anonymous said...

My mum makes parkin still and she's Southern. Mind you it's totally different from the parkin they sold in Ainsley's which was more spongey whereas my Mum'c is more oaty.


Anonymous said...

CDUK I was thinking of your mum's parkin whilst following this thread. Yummmmmm. In fact I think of your mum's parkin (and more specifically, her recipe) every bonfire night and completely fail to get in touch to ask for it. Is it bad to say I prefer it to Ainsley's?

Miss Jones said...

I think oats are the essential ingredient which separate Genuine Parkin from paler, softer imitations. But not Ready Brek, as we've established.

CDUK, is your mum's recipe a closely guarded secret? I would be grateful if you could share.

I am resolved to make some parkin for the Strictly final celebrations. I will, of course, report back with my findings.