Since earliest times white has always been a sign of purity and cleanliness. So it was common for early brides to be adorned in white dresses and for the cooks to bake a cake and cover it with white frosting.
The tradition has continued in modern times.
The earliest known wedding cakes were called croquenbouche and introduced in France. The croquenbouche was shaped like a high cone and filled with cream, dipped in chocolate, caramel, nuts and decorated with flowers. The name comes from croque en bouche meaning “crunch in the mouth” and came in all colors including white.
What would Christmas holidays be without cakes? I was reminded about our grandparent’s Christmas fruitcake recently when I was sent a Harry & David one by a family member. It was the best I have eaten in many years. A difference between it and my grandparent’s homemade cake was that ours were usually spiced with bourbon, brandy or wine, common ingredients in most fruitcakes eaten in Acadiana.
Christmas fruitcake started as an English tradition that evolved from serving plum porridge. People ate the porridge on Christmas Eve after a day of fasting. In later years dried fruit, spices and honey were added to the porridge mixture, and eventually it turned into Christmas pudding.
In the sixteenth century the recipe was changed. Butter, wheat flour and eggs were added. These ingredients helped hold the mixture together in what resulted in a plum cake. For the Christmas season they made the cakes using seasonal dried fruit and spices from the Middle East. Since these spices were thought to have been brought by the Wise Men, who were associated with the birth of Jesus, the fruit and nut cake became known as “Christmas Cake.” So the true Christmas cake is what we know as fruitcake.
Very similar to the English Christmas Cake was the Scottish Christmas Cake, also known as the Whisky Dundee. It was a light crumbly cake with currants, raisins, cherries and an added ingredient - Scotch whisky. The fruitcake that is popular in America at Christmas time evolved from the English and Scottish cakes.
Christmas fruitcakes are seldom prepared at home nowadays. They are usually made in advance by commercial bakeries in November. These cakes need no refrigeration and have a long shelf life especially when spirits are “fed” into the cake until Christmas.
Les Vieux Temps wishes to take this opportunity to express our blessing to everyone during the Christmas holidays. Let us hope that our children and grandchildren enjoy the opportunities and freedoms most of us are fortunate enough to have. May tomorrow be as bright as yesterday. Merry Christmas to everyone!
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