Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Twelfth Night

Having read Ruth's so-interesting post yesterday about Polish traditions for the Feast of the Three Kings, I decided to make a cake - although I didn't have 8 eggs, so I had to make something less celebratory than the one Ruth wrote about.

Actually, here in the UK we also used to have a tradition of Twelfth Night Cake, which tradition has now sadly fallen into disuse. I first learned about it when I read The Thirteen Days of Christmas by Jenny Overton, in which the final scenes are set on January 6th and "there was a great deal of left-over twelfth night cake dressed up as trifle". (By the way, that book is an excellent introduction to old English christmas customs altogether.)

English Twelfth Night cake is a dense, spiced fruit cake - you can find a recipe for it here. The inclusion of spices recalled the three kings, who came from the East. Traditionally, a bean was included in the cake, and the finder of the bean became lord of misrule for the evening. This is the recurring bean allusion in Terry Pratchett's Hogfather (gosh, this is turning into quite a literary post!)

As I've already eaten quite a lot of christmas cake, I didn't fancy any more like that, so instead I made Nigella's winter plum cake, which is basically an almond cake, with added chopped tinned plums. I've made it before, but never iced it. This time, I added a glace icing using unrefined icing sugar, as a sop to the Twelfth Night / Feast of the Three Kings occasion.

In the photo below, you can see my cake next to our crib, with the three kings added to it to mark epiphany.

I have to go back to work tomorrow, so this really is the end of the holidays.


  1. I have to say it looks delicious! I know that a lot of countries also use a cake to celebrate twelfth night (many also call it King Cake too). I think it's very sad that traditions seem to be dying out as a lot of them have truly wonderful sentiment and meaning to them (even if I don't appreciate the religiousness of them as my view of how we arrived on the planet is a little more scientifically based rather than religiously based) but I do enjoy the sentiment of it all.

  2. Happy New Year!! I hope you and your family had a fantastic holiday....

    "The Thirteen Days of Christmas" sounds interesting, I might have to check it out for myself, I love old seasonal customs.

    Looking at your scrummy cake, I might have to get one of Nigella's books too....

    Have a wonderful weekend!