Christmas Cake is a very British tradition and dates back to the Middle Ages. People ate the porridge on Christmas Eve, using it to line their stomachs after a day of fasting. Originally it was a plum porridge but as exotic spices and dried fruits from the East were brought back from the Holy Land by the Crusaders in the 12th and 13th centuries it evolved into a fruit cake. Early versions of the rich fruit cake, such as Scottish Black Bun dating from the Middle Ages, were luxuries for special occasions. Christmas Cake as we know it today comes from two customs which became one around 1870 in Victorian England.
All Christmas cakes are made in advance. Many make them in November, keeping the cake upside down in an airtight container. A small amount of brandy, sherry or whisky is poured into holes in the cake every week until Christmas. This process is called “feeding” the cake.
I love eating mine with a slice of cheese – Single Gloucester, preferably, or sometimes a good cheddar and maybe a glass of port or sweet Sauternes. Sainte Hélène has a gorgeous tangerine tang along with the flavours of honeysuckle, apricots and cinnamon so its lovely with a slice!