Friday, December 31, 2010

12th Night: Fun & Games and 12th Cake!

Happy New Years to you all!!!

For hundreds of years there was a delectable tradition surrounding 12th Night.  One would become a 12th Night Character for the evening’s celebrations, using archetypes drawn from popular culture of the day.

 Taking on a character’s personality for an evening must have been great fun.  With names like King Graceful, Solomon Stiff, Letitia Littlebrain, Priscilla Passion, Sir Oliver Ogle, Fanny Fine Ale and The Lord of Misrule… well, good times were had by all with much teasing and laughter after pulling your character from a hat or a deck of cards to get your assignment for the evening.  I can imagine the cards we might have today: Greta (Glenn?) Goldigger, Tad Trustfund, Bob Broker, Perry Personal-Assistant, Gary Geek, Suzy Homemaker, Mary Model, Ivan Intellectual, Grace Goth, Amy Airhead, Roger Rockstar… well you get the idea.

 The idea for this English game began with the Roman feast of Saturnalia -- where the Lord of Misrule (Saturnalicius princeps) and the flipping of master and slave roles were first created.  In the Middle Ages in England (and elsewhere in Europe), peasants and their Lords would change places for 12th Night on January 5th. The Roman holiday’s traditions were absorbed and translated into a Christian festival celebrating the Epiphany and 3 Kings Day.  The person that got a bean baked in their piece of cake would become the ruler for the night and the moniker Lord of Misrule (or Abbot of Unreason or Prince des Sots) was used as it had been in the Roman Festival of Saturnalia.  From here more characters were added to the fun, for great revelries were enjoyed on the holiday (perhaps excessive revelries, the crown outlawed them for a time).


 Often these characters were referenced as decorations on the 12th Cake as was the King’s crown.  The colorful King Cake or Gateau des Rois that we see in New Orleans in the USA comes from this rich vein of history and also has a bean baked inside.  

A slight mutation of the 12th cake tradition in loftier circles was to have a pea baked in one side of the cake and the bean in the other.  The female guests would eat from the pea side and the males from the bean side … whoever got the legumes would be the King and Queen of the evening’s festivities.

Julie Wakefield, creator of the masterfully researched site Austen Only  said that in 1668, Samuel Pepys would throw the character’s names into a hat and let his guests draw them (as pictured in the 1794 broadside).

1790's 12th Night Characters

 By Jane Austen’s time, stationers made up large paper sheets of 12th Night characters that the host could cut up into individual cards, then have their guests draw the cards out and scamper off into private rooms where they donned costumes and masks to play their part more successfully.   Later, the cards would be sent to guests ahead of time and they would arrive at the party already dressed as their character.

By later in the 19th Century, the cards came in ready-made decks and newspapers were publishing versions of the characters (including the 1858 bestiary version above). 

There was always a 12th cake at these festivities. The Illustrated London News of 1849 did a big ‘spread’ on Queen Victoria’s cake with a party on top, describing it in minute detail:

Queen Victoria's 12th Cake, 1849

“We give a representation of the Twelfth Cake prepared for her Majesty, which graced the Royal table at Windsor Castle on Saturday last (Twelfth Night).
This superb Cake was designed and carried out by her Majesty's confectioner, Mr. Mawditt. The Cake was of regal dimensions, being about 30 inches in diameter, and tall in proportion: round the side the decorations consisted of strips of gilded paper, bowing outwards near the top, issuing from an elegant gold bordering. The figures, of which there were sixteen, on the top of the Cake, represented a party of beaux and belles of the last century enjoying a repast al fresco, under some trees; whilst others, and some children, were dancing to minstrel strains.

The repast, spread on the ground, with its full complemens [sic] of comestibles, decanters, and wine-glasses (the latter, by the way, not sugar glasses, but real brittle ware), was admirably modelled, as were also the figures, servants being represented handing refreshments to some of the gentlemen and ladies, whilst some of the companions of the latter were dancing. The violinist and harpist seemed to be thoroughly impressed with the importance of their functions, and their characteristic attitudes were cleverly given. As a specimen of fancy workmanship, the ornaments to the cake do credit to the skill of Mr. Mawditt, the Royal confiseur.”

The cake is related to Christmas pudding in that it is also full of dried fruit and citrus peel (often the cake’s fruit had been decoration for Christmas and as fruit was pricey in winter it would never have been discarded but was recycled). The 12th cake is baked rather than boiled and also frosted -- often with almond powder in the mix and rather fancy pastillage. Although the cakes were originally risen by ale barm or yeast from brewing, later recipes were full of eggs to give them a rise.

 Samuel Pepys  (eminent 17th Century diarist that you can read HERE) despaired at the exorbitant 20 shilling cost of 12th cake in 1668… they were pricey luxuries in those days with all that fruit and peel and fancy sugar work and they were often purchased at a confectioners rather than made in the household in all but the wealthiest homes…or the poorest.  The confectioners were so proud of their creations that they would display them in their windows with small oil lamps to illuminate them in the evening. People would gather to ooh and ahh and be teased by naughty boys who nailed their clothes to the shop windows as they gawked, said Loretta and Susan at the delightful site, 2 Nerdy History Girls.

I am going for an 18th century version of the cake.  Be warned, I am not a pastry chef and really don’t make cakes very often, but the minute I tasted the batter for this baby… well, it tastes like eggnog (no fooling) -- I knew I was right to make it, even if it is not simple. It takes a few days to put it together but it’s worth it and fun to play with the pastillage (which I recommend doing a few days before so you can have fun and not go nuts… like I did!). The rich pound-like cake would be delicious with a cup of wassail (recipe and history HERE)  or a good warm West India Planter’s punch that comes after the cake recipe. 

This recipe comes from Elizabeth Raffald’s, Experienced English Housekeeper, 1769. She wrote the book for cooks for wealthy Manchester households but the book was a huge success and went through many printings -- even Queen Victoria copied a few of her recipes in her diaries!  Raffald sold the rights 9 years before her death for a princely £1400. 

This recipe is called Bride’s cake but it is much like recipes for 12th cakes and is quite large but not so much that you need a complement of servants to carry it!

12th Cake adapted from Elizabeth Raffald & The Jane Austen Center

 4 cups Flour
2 cups Butter
2 cups Sugar
1/2 tsp Mace
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
8 Eggs, divided
3 cups Currants
1 cup Slivered Almonds
 ½ cup Citron
½ cup Candied Lemon peel*
½ cup Candied Orange peel*
/ ½ Cup Brandy
1 dried bean

Whip the whites of 8 eggs to stiff peaks and set aside. With an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and beat for a few minutes, then add the egg yolks. Once they are combined, fold in the egg whites, brandy and spices. Add the flour a little at a time until it is incorporated. Stir in the almonds and currants. Preheat the oven to 300° F. Generously grease a 10” spring-form pan. Spoon ¼ of the batter into the pan and add the dried bean and top with 1/3 of the citron, orange peel and lemon peel. Repeat twice more and top with remaining batter.   Bake for 2 to 2 1/2 hours… check after 2 hours and if browning too much on top, add a piece of foil and check for doneness,  The origianl 3 hours was too much.  In Raffald's defense, she did make it with a wooden hoop and paper lining which is less conductive than a metal pan and her cake was 4 times bigger!!).  Check with a skewer and if clean, remove and cool in the pan.  Remove the pan when fully cool.

12th Cake Frosting adapted from  Historical Food:
1/3 c rose petal jelly (or apricot or what you will)
1 recipe marzipan**
Royal Icing***
Pastillage for making crown etc****

Cover the cake with a thin film of jelly, then frost the cake with the marzipan (mine was thin enough to spatula on… if yours isn’t, roll into sheets to cover sides and top) and allow it to harden overnight.  Next day, cover with royal icing and any decorations**** you choose and allow to harden.

*Take strips of the peel of 2 oranges and 2 lemons, chop into small pieces and boil for 5 minutes.  Drain.   Add 1 cup water and ½ cup sugar and simmer for 1 hour till tender.  Drain.  Lay on a plate and sprinkle with 1/3 c sugar and toss to coat.  Let dry overnight.

**Marzipan (adapted from Elizabeth LaBau)

    2 cups granulated sugar
    1/8 tsp cream of tartar
    4 cups ground almonds, a spice grinder works well for this (or almond meal)
    2 egg whites

Place the sugar and 2/3 of a cup of water in a large heavy saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves.
 Add the cream of tartar and turn up the heat. Bring to a boil and cover, boiling, for 3 minutes.
 Uncover and boil until the temperature reaches soft-ball stage, 240 degrees on a candy thermometer.
Place the bottom of the saucepan in a pot of cold water, stirring the sugar mixture constantly until it becomes thick and creamy.
Stir in the ground almonds and the egg whites, the place back over low heat and stir for 2 minutes more until the mixture is thick.
Put the mixture in a food processor for a few minutes.

12th Night Cake

***Royal Icing

4 egg whites
1 pound, 15 ½ oz powdered sugar
3 t lemon juice
2 t glycerine

**** Pastillage (adapted from Bridge and Tunnel Club)  

16 oz confectioner's sugar
1/2 c plus 1.5 tb of cornstarch,
¼ c of water (you may need a little more to make the dough)
1/4 tsp of cream of tartar
 2.25 tsp (one packet) of gelatin.

First, sift together the sugar, cornstarch, and cream of tartar.
Next stir the gelatin into the water, let it stand for 5 minutes, then heat until dissolved.
Get your dough hook fitted on your mixer* and pour the gelatin mix into the bowl. Turn it on at low speed and add the sugar mixture as fast as it can be absorbed.
This will take a few minutes, as you want to keep it going until you have a smooth, thick paste… you may need a little more water… see if it comes together with ¼ and add more if needs be, a tsp at a time.

Scoop out all the dough and shape it into a lump.  Place in plastic wrap.  Add food coloring and create whatever you choose… the crown was a hoot to make. Just beware... this dries out sooo fast... keep it moist and well covered when you are working on it!!

Raffald's original 1769 recipe

The drink is another gem from 1869's Dainty Drinks and Cooling Cups... it is really delicious and the guava jelly is a genius idea~~  Enjoy~~

West India Planter’s Punch

Quart of boiling water
2 c. of brewed green tea  (6 tea bag’s worth)
Grated peel and juice of lime
1 c Guava jelly
12 oz cognac
4 oz Madeira
3 c rum
Sugar to taste

pinch of nutmeg
lime slices for garnish

Warm all the ingredients to melt the guava jelly.  Taste for sugar (I added ¼ c) pour into glasses with lime slice.  Serve warm or cold

Thanks to Gollum for hosting Foodie Friday!

Thanks to Gourmet Live for recommending my Cherry-gin Cocktail



La Table De Nana said...

Your cake is outrageously beautiful! I hope you don't mind I saved a few images..

Happy New Year to the Queen of the Past~

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

I can imagine after making that gorgeous cake you may have needed a glass of punch :) It's just gorgeous, Deana! I can only imagine all of the effort you put into it. A delightful read of the twelfth night. It would be fun to pick one of the cards and play a part for the evening.

Excellent work!

BTW, the baked oysters can be made in gratin dishes too - you don't need ramekins.

andrew1860 said...

Wonderful post. King Cakes are very big among the Creoles! I did not know the English had them also. I don't know if I will make it as it seams a lot of work but I'm sure I will make the West India Planter’s Punch. I love the square bottom glass you serve the punch in.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I absolutely love this tradition! Perhaps we could give this a go for next year! :D The cake looks wonderful and I love how the theme is carried through. Happy New Year Deana and I hope that 2011 brings you much happiness and joy! I'm looking forward to reading more of your fantastic posts! :)

Chemin des Muguets said...

Thank you for introducing us to the tradition of the 12th cake. Happy New Year! I shall return for more.

The French Bear said...

Amazing, you really do know everything about cakes!!!!
Happy New Year!
Margaret B

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Deana dear, GOOD MORNING! AND HAPPY 2011.....thank you for coming by for some virtual pink champagne...ahhhhhhh....and dearest...these recipes and that DARLING CAKE!!! I have GOT to make one for myself for my birthday with that crown!

HAPPY JANUARY 1!!!! Bises, Anita

Sacha said...

Your cake is deliciously beautiful! it looks like a fairy tale cake! thank you
I wish you a beautiful and very happy new year 2011!

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Oh Sacha got it right....A FAIRYTALE CAKE! Now that is what I want to do...Take reality and spice it up with a fairytale theme.....Deana, you have served up some luscious recipes this year, and your skills and charm always make me ponder, dream and create. THANK YOU FOR ALWAYS BEING A FRIEND! And, my coq au vin last night was spectacular that I am making another one TONIGHT! Live it up....GROSSES BISES, Anita

Diane said...

You amaze me with all the research that you do and your cake sounds amazing. Think I am just lazy and may stick to the Planter's Punch :) Cheers, Hic, Happy New Year. Diane

Linda said...

I so love to visit you Deana...each time is magical...just like your cake!
Happy New Year my friend!

chow and chatter said...

wow amazing cake your blog always amazes me happy new year


Unknown said...

This 12th night game sounds like loads of fun. I want to be Letitia Littlebrain :D! I love the cake you made. It looks as beautiful as the flavours are delicious. I love these kind of old fashioned flavours, they definitely put me in the mood to celebrate.
*kisses* HH

Faith said...

Oh, what fun this sounds like Deana! The cake is truly magnificent too. Wishing you a very happy New Year!

El said...

You did an amazing job on the cake. Things were so much fun back then? What happened? I guess people lost their creativity when Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year came along. Speaking of the New Year, may yours be wonderful!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Very impressive! I'm rather sorry the 12th Night tradition is nearly extinct. And, I'm really sorry the 12th Night Cake is nearly extinct. I've made a couple of 12th Night Cakes over the years, but none were as glorious as yours! All the best for 2011, Deana!

Fresh Local and Best said...

I recall this traditional when I visited my cousin in Paris during the holidays. Unfortunately I did not get the pea, but it was still quite a fun tradition, and a good cake for that matter.

Happy New Year Deana!

Joyti said...

Wow, what an informative post. I've never had the cake, or even heard of it. However, yours looks amazingly, gorgeously decadent.

Barbara said...

Such a fun read, Deana!
And for someone who claims to not be a cake baker, I'd say you've outdone yourself...and most of us! It's a delectable confection. I adore your presentation.
I agree...wouldn't it make a marvelous party?
Happy New Year, my dear friend. Looking forward to another year of sharing, learning and laughing with you!

Anonymous said...

The 12th night sounds like a lot of fun, I'm loving that cake - so gorgeous and the flavors with the spices sound terrific! Happy New Year!!!

Zurin said...

Happy new year Deana! :)) hope you have lots of fun and joy in 2011 and in many more years.

Mary Bergfeld said...

Another fascinating post walking me through things I did not know before. The cake sounds and looks like a treasure. I hope you had a wonderful holiday and that the new year brings you all measure of good things. Blessings...Mary

Joanne said...

This sounds like such a fun tradition! I think my friends and I need to revamp our new year's celebration after reading this...

And what a delicious cake! You did a beautiful job with the frosting.

Tasty Trix said...

Um ... and ... oh my .. well ... and ooo wee ... you see? I am speechless!!! I mean really!! You have lost your mind, in a good way. That cake is ... well, words are escaping me. I am not good at cake, so I am doubly in awe of this effort. How COOL. It is just a shame about the heat in New Orleans, because if ever there was a person who could appreciate the history and mystery and romance of that place it is you!!

Sarah said...

I am also lagging in my reading through this reno. Looks lovely! There is no chance of finding guava here but if I do, I'll be making jelly. What a great idea.

Dina said...

your cake looks great and thanks so much for the history! i wish we had parties like this today too! what fun.

2 Stews said...

What a wonderful idea and beautiful cake. I love a good project and tradition.

Hope the holidays were wonderful for you. I thought about you during the blizzard, hoping it wasn't too bad. I figured it would be a good time for some fancy baking. Now we are looking at another storm today. OK...enough baking...enough storms...I'm already looking forward to spring!

Stella said...

That game is hilarious, Deana, and you're modern day names even more so:-) Quite appropriate they are too! Oh, and your cake is so lovely. I always admire taking the time to make a layer cake. I should do it more often and with that frosting in particular. Nice!

Needful Things said...

What a fun tradition! And I really love your cake: it looks perfect! I admire all the hard work that must have gone into making it. Bravo!
Happy New Year!

tasteofbeirut said...

This is a fun and beautiful cake! I love the history behind it and the effort you put into its execution is nothing short of incredible!