Sunday, 4 January 2009

Twelfth Night Cake

Twelfth Night not only marks the end of Christmas, when all decorations have to be taken down to avoid bad luck but is also one of the most important days in the Christian calendar, as it marks the Feast of the Epiphany, when the Three Wise Men, Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, arrived in Bethlehem to behold the Christ child.

The word 'epiphany' comes from the Greek word for manifestation, and was chosen because this was the night on which the Christ child, called 'the King of the Jews', was manifested to the Gentiles.

Twelfth Night also has origins in the Celtic festival of Samhain and the Roman Saturnalia where a Lord of Misrule was appointed. During this time the ordinary rules of life were turned upside down as masters served their slaves, and the offices of state were held by slaves. This tradition carried over down the centuries and in the 5th century the French and English celebrated The Feast of Fools and temporary Bishops and Archbishops of Fools play-acted, revelled, and created mischief. By the 15th century it was banned from church by the French government due to lewd behaviour. A new street festival was created and a temporary king for the season called a Prince des Sots was elected.

At the beginning of the Twelfth Night festival a cake which contained a bean was eaten. The person who found the bean would be King for the night. Midnight signalled the end of his rule and the world would return to normal. The common theme was that the normal order of things was reversed.

By the early 19th century, the cake itself had become very elaborate, with sugar frosting and gilded paper trimmings, often decorated with delicate figures made of plaster of Paris or sugar paste. It remained the centrepiece of the party, although the bean and pea of earlier times were usually omitted.

Twelfth Night Cake

Twelfth Night Cake can be shaped like a polo mint and decorated with gaudy icing and gold beads so feel free to let loose your creative side!

a bean!
350g butter
350g caster sugar
6 eggs, beaten
75ml brandy
350g plain flour
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cinnamon
700g mixed dried fruit
50g blanched almonds, chopped
45g apricot jam
900g marzipan
4 egg whites
900g icing sugar
3 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp glycerine
candied fruit to decorate

Cream the butter and sugar together and gradually add the beaten eggs, mixing well after each addition then add the brandy. Fold-in the flour, spices, fruit and nuts and your bean. Grease a deep cake tin and line the bottom and sides with greaseproof paper. Tip the cake mixture into this and place the cake in an pre heated oven Remove the cake from the oven when cooked (you can test this by sticking a skewer into the centre of the cake – if it has no residue on it when removed, the cake is cooked). Allow to cool in its tin for 30 minutes then tip onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Once cold cover the surface of the cake with the apricot jam. Roll out the marzipan and cut just enough of the paste to go around the side of the cake. Then roll the remainder of the marzipan out and use to cover the top of the cake. Prepare the icing by lightly beating the egg whites and incorporating the icing sugar into this to form a stiff paste. Add the lemon juice and glycerine and incorporate well. Then, using a palette knife spread the icing all the way around the sides and top of the cake. Decorate with the candied fruit.

Serve with Sauternes!

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