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**
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)
**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.
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