Tuesday, 24 December 2013

#ShareAdvent Day 24: Family Traditions

I'm not necessarily one for lots of nostalgia, but there's something about Christmas, and there's something about Christmas food that throws that idea out of the window. Every family does it differently; every family has their own dishes they like to have on the table.

I love Christmas food √† la family Frances - the chocolate coins in shoes on 6 December and salami and plain crisps as a pre-Christmas-lunch snack  (both instigated from my father's German side and the latter carried on today as it's just too delicious a combination); the smell of homemade mince pies even though I won't eat them, and homemade cheese straws and sausage rolls, both of which I will eat plenty of.

The one dish I have never come across anywhere else, though, is Noel Cakes. Christmas Eve as a child was often spent in the kitchen, rolling red marzipan into vague berry shapes while my mother cut out holly leaves from green marzipan and 'Nine Lessons and Carols' played on the radio. I never realised other people don't have these cakes until one year at junior school when a class discussion on Christmas food resulted in a teacher telling me that she'd never heard of them and they couldn't be real. I was very confused - I'd eaten a LOT of these to date so they had to exist.

So, to put an end to that madness, here are Noel Cakes:

NOEL CAKES (makes approx 24)

  • 4 oz butter
  • 4 oz caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 oz plain flour
  • 4 oz ground almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • milk as necessary

  1. Preheat oven to around Gas Mark 4/ 180 C/ 350 F.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar until light and creamy.
  3. Beat in the egg a little at a time.
  4. Add the flour, ground almonds and baking powder.
  5. Add milk a little at a time until a 'dropping consistency' is obtained. The mixture should fall off the spoon fairly easily but not be runny.
  6.  Pour the mixture into muffin tins, half filling each cup.
  7. Bake for approx 10-15 minutes until the tops are slightly springy to the touch. Because of the ground almonds, the cakes don't really change colour or rise.
  8. Leave to cool on a cooling rack.
Ice with white glace icing (sieved icing sugar mixed with a little water for a thickish paste) and leave to set a little before adding coloured marzipan or sugarpaste holly leaves and berries.

Any spare undecorated cakes can be decorated with blue icing and a yellow marzipan/sugarpaste star for 6 January - voilà, Epiphany Cakes.

1 comment:

  1. Greetings from your Uncle (no, dear reader, not the one with the gazebo, the other one).

    Firstly, Merry Christmas (slightly belatedly) and Happy New Year to you both.

    Secondly, I only found out you were running this blog so I've had a good nose round. I like it!

    Lastly but not leastly, I think you're totally right to be extolling the virtues of the Noel Cake. I too remember doing the holly berries. This is going on for 50 years ago, with Aunt M, I think. I don't remember being allowed anywhere near the leaves though, I think that was reserved for your mother, who was older (and undoubtedly wiser).

    N xxx

    PS Lots of cake on this blog ...