Posted in Kafevend Blog

At the end of last week we had a look at a couple of traditional Christmas treats which have been with us for quite some time- Christmas puddings and mince pies. These aren't the only sweet things on offer though, so today we are going to talk about the cakes we enjoy come the season!

First up is a cake that derives its name from the festivities itself- Christmas cake. At its most basic it is a type of fruit cake, but it can show up in a myriad of forms. Qualities such as the moistness, denseness and alcoholic kick all vary between producers and different families' preferred home recipes.

The cake itself derives from the history of Christmas puddings and the plum pottage- do check our link above- but went its separate way at some point. It appears to have been something richer folk would have made, or had made for them, as they would have had the facilities available to bake the mixture into cakes. We have the Victorians to thank yet again for the extravagant decorations found on Christmas cakes. Utilising ingredients such as the hard setting royal icing, they were fond of creating Christmas scenes on top of their cakes, a tradition that continues to this day.

Whilst the Christmas cakes we have here in England are often a more stodgy affair, across the border to the north in Scotland a popular variation known as Dundee cake goes for a lighter touch. It eschews a thick layer of marzipan and icing for a layer of decorative blanched almonds on top of the cake, placed in concentric rings. The cake itself is less stodgy, but it still includes a little bit of whisky. It also contains marmalade, which you might find odd were it not for the cake's history.

Dundee cake was first commercialised by a company called Keiller which was established in the late 19th century in the city of Dundee. Their first big success was their foray into marmalade. By adding the rind of the Seville oranges they used into the mix, they created a unique and popular brand. It comes as no surprise then that a few years later, they added their famous marmalade to the mix of their Dundee cake.

Now, Christmas and Dundee cake is all well and good for those who are partial to a bit (or in some cases, a lot) of fruit, but what about those people who prefer chocolate? Thankfully they are covered too courtesy of the Yule log, or bûche de Noël as it is called in France where it is widely popular. It is made up of a thin layer of sponge rolled up and slathered in chocolate icing. The end of the log is often cut off and fashiond into branches along the cake, and the icing is sculpted to give the impression of bark. Add a sprinkling of icing sugar and you have a brilliantly festive chocolate cake that will give the pair above a run for their money!

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