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


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas to All! Gin Punch with Cherries and a Holiday Request

I wanted to wish you all a very merry Christmas and will give you wonderful drink recipes for my gift to you… but I want to take this opportunity to ask that all of you with a bit of extra cash on this holiday would take a moment and consider creatures less fortunate.  I was horrified to read an article in the NYTs  this week about the plight of horses in Dublin ( see the article HERE )  . 

Andrew Testa for The New York Times

These magnificent beasts were pets when the economy was rolling along but are now being abandoned at an alarming rate as their owners cannot afford the feed bills and have their own troubles.  Please contact the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals HERE and give what you can to help these poor suffering animals.  SO far, the outpouring of donations from the USA following this article has been nothing short of a Christmas Miracle.  I know there are people suffering but let us not forget the creatures that depend on us.  Give a little to the Dublin horses or if you prefer to stay local, give to a local ASPCA to help them this holiday season.  Thanks so much for anything you can do.

Your reward, one of the best drinks I’ve tried.  I’ve been saving this beauty for Christmas as my present to all of you.  The drink, from my favorite cocktail book, Dainty Drinks and Cooling Cups, is another mid-19th century gem with a modern addition of Aftelier’s Fir essence.  It is like drinking the holidays with the hint of evergreen in every cherry-red sip.  It is a brilliant cocktail.  As for The Splitting Headache... well, with a name like that... I had to try it.  If you like spiced ale...this is your drink!

Gin Punch a la Fuller (with cherry juice)

2 cups sour cherry juice (cranberry or pomegranate juice can be substituted but Whole Foods carry it - I made mine with frozen sour cherries and a little sugar and water for one batch and it was delicious)
1 drop bitter almond or almond extract to taste
4 cups gin (use a good, artisanal gin like one from St George with lots of botanicals)
1 drop Aftelier Fir essence that you can get HERE 
sugar to taste (my juice was plenty sweet… do what you will)

Put all the ingredients together and taste to see if you need sugar.  Add shaved ice and shake or put it in a blender and give it a whirl.  Pour into glasses and serve (the fir absolute is tar-like but has a beautiful dark flavor -- you need to put a drop in gin to dissolve it -- but it's worth it). 

Splitting Headache

½ cup Rum
6 cloves
pinch of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg
½ cup limejuice
1 quart ale
sugar to taste
Put the rum and spices in a glass for an hour.  Strain and add the limejuice.  Combine with the ale and taste … you may or may not want sugar depending on the ale.  Can be had cold or warmed.


Heartwarming Budweiser Clydesdale videos HERE and HERE and HERE to help loosen your pursestrings (I am shameless for a good cause!!!).

Thanks to Gourmet Live for recommending my Cherry-Gin Cocktail

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas with Queen Victoria & Plum Pudding with Scotch

No matter where I (virtually) turned, everyone wrote Queen Victoria popularized the Christmas tree.  But you see, the dear lady did something much more important, she revitalized the warm spirit of Christmas.  The Weihnachtsbaum  (Christmas tree) had been part of German holiday celebrations for centuries and although the myth is that Albert brought the tree with him, Victoria’s Hanoverian heritage had put table trees in her childhood memories long before her marriage to her beloved German Prince Albert.  When Godey’s Ladies Book published their American version of the 1848 London Illustrated News  engraving of the royal family around the Christmas tree in 1850 … well suddenly everyone wanted a Christmas tree!

Victoria loved to celebrate Christmas at Osborne.  It was a magnificent Italianate palace designed by Prince Albert, and built by Robert Cubitt from 1845 to 1851 and the family spent many Christmases there, tucked away from Court life at Windsor.  It was the young couple’s style of family warmth (there were to be 9 children from their 20 year marriage, after all) and caring that changed the face of Christmas.  Before them, Christmas was only celebrated by the well-to-do.  Everyone else worked that day, as always.

1843 A Christmas Carol

With their influence, many of their subjects broke the shackles of the old Cromwellian Bah! Humbug! holiday and once again honored the spirit of Christmas as immortalized in Charles Dicken’s 1843 A Christmas Carol with family parties and gifts.

 I read all about the Osborne House Christmas at Edwardian Promenade. The largest tree went at the foot of the grand staircase at Osborne House but the household tree went into the Durbar room  (after it was constructed in 1891--you can read more about Durbar HERE at Art and Architecture Mostly ) where it was decorated with candles, tinsel, ornaments and spices. Large tables were laden with confectionary delights and presents for staff and individual tables were set with gifts for each family member so Queen Victoria could inspect them easily. 

 Christmas dinner started at 9pm and for that “50 turkeys, a 140-pound baron of beef [both sides of the rump with the back part of the sirloin] that took ten hours to roast over a spit, hundreds of pounds of lamb, dozens of geese, and crate after crate of vegetables, all shipped by train from Windsor. The confectionery chef and his staff spent days crafting 82 pounds of raisins, 60 pounds of orange and lemon peel, 2 pounds of cinnamon, 330 pounds of sugar, 24 bottles of brandy into the Christmas mincemeat.”  I would imagine that the Plum Pudding had been stashed away earlier (they were traditionally made on Stir-up Sunday, the last Sunday before Advent – Nov 21 this year) so that they would be perfect for the festivities.  Some people make the pudding the year before and continue to splash it with liquor from time to time.  Nigella Lawson makes hers the day of the celebration so… your choice.

For the royal sweets display, staff might have used pieces from the Minton dessert service, personally chosen by Queen Victoria at the Great Exhibition in 1851 and called The Victoria Dessert Service.  Although it was originally 116 pieces (and cost 1,000 guineas), the Queen gave 69 pieces to the Austrian Emperor (delivered by Herbert Minton himself) but kept the rest for herself.  She later added plates to the service (she had given the originals to the Emperor!). It is on display in the State Dining Room at Windsor till Jan 1.

1851 Victoria Minton Dessert Set

The amazing Ivan Day did an intimate dessert service at Osborne House using similar Minton pieces with an elegant sterling epergne and gorgeous molded desserts (including a Nesselrode pudding fashioned after a beehive) and colorful jellies that must have made the assembly giddy with delight (you can take classes with him to learn to make these beauties)!

When I looked at good Queen Victoria’s 1896 menu I was torn between "Les Dindes rôties à la Chipolata" (turkey with sausages and chestnuts -- how good does that sound?) or the plum pudding.  The pudding won out since I hadn’t made it in ages and I just had a week’s worth of turkey after Thanksgiving.  I made this baby 2 weeks before Christmas and it will sit until Xmas day when its’ boozy Scotchy goodness is ready to be devoured after dinner just like Victoria might have done… or Dickens or… well anyone English or English at heart! 

Plum pudding or something like it goes back at least to the Middle Ages in England.  Lovely Elinor Fettiplace had a recipe that is nearly the same from 1604 save that it was cooked with a technique the Romans used… in a sheep’s stomach instead of a cloth or bowl (it had eggs, flour, suet and the ubiquitous currants and raisins like its modern cousin).  I believe that it was during the 18th century that the stomach was replaced by a cloth (sadly, I can’t nail down the exact time) that enclosed the pudding and then was boiled in a large pot, suspended on a pole stretched across the top of the pot.  The bowl came in toward the end of the 19th century and is what is most commonly used today… although a few diehards do still use the pudding cloth!

This is a combination of many recipes that I’ve done over the years… the scotch makes it a little earthier.   Using it was a happy accident. I had run out of brandy when I was all ready to make it once upon a time, and substituted scotch… and scotch it has remained.   I recommend the peaty goodness of an Islay scotch (Lagavulin is my favorite!).  It makes the dried fruit really dark and delicious and does spectacular things to the orange marmalade.  May I suggest a genius ancient idea for leftover pudding?  Slice it and stick it under your spit to catch meat drippings (or save them to soak up meat juices) as they did in the old days… what a flavorful treat that would be (I can’t wait to try it!!). Use the final alcohol warmed and set aflame for the special presentation of the pudding.  Often, people turn out the lights to better see the flaming dessert… quite a bit of Christmas drama. Oh, and if I may say... I spent years avoiding suet in my pudding (called it bird food).... now that I have a grass-fed supplier in Grazin Angus Acres... well it makes all the difference... what I was missing!

Plum Pudding with Lagavulin Scotch

6 oz shredded suet from  Grazin Angus Acres 
6 oz raisins
8 oz currants
1/3 c Scotch (Lagavulin or any peaty Scotch will work well)
1 c cider
1 quince, peeled seeded and grated
3-4  c breadcrumbs
1 c flour
4 eggs from Grazin Angus Acres in Union Square NYC
1 t grated nutmeg.
½ t ground mace
½ t ground cinnamon
½ t salt ( I used a smoked salt)
1 c.milk (or a little more)
1 ½ c light brown sugar (demerara)
½ c Candied lemon peel, chopped (I took the peel of 2 lemons and cooked it in sugar syrup [1 c sugar to ½ c water] for 1 hour over a slow flame until peel is soft and translucent, drain, sprinkle with sugar and let dry)
1/3 c bitter orange marmalade
½ c Citron peel (this is available at Market Hall Foods made without corn syrup) 

You will need a 6c pudding bowl/basin or mold, lightly buttered.


4 egg yolks, beaten well
1/3 c brown sugar (demerara)
¼ c scotch
1/2 lemon (zest only)
½ c cream
grated nutmeg

50ml  2 oz scotch
holly with berries.

Marinate the raisins and currents in the scotch and cider for at least a day.

In a large mixing bowl beat the eggs and spice well together, mix in the milk a little at a time, then add the rest of the ingredients including the liquid from the raisins and currants, stir thoroughly. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and leave for two hours (or overnight). Uncover the bowl, mix thoroughly once more, if the pudding mixture is a little wet add in some more plain flour and stir.

Butter a pudding bowl or mold, pack within 1½” and cover it with a center-pleated piece of parchment, cover that with a pleated piece of foil and tie both securely.  The pleats will allow for expansion… there will be a little.   You will have enough left over for 1 or 2 small custard cup size puddings.  They are cooked in about 3 hours instead of 6

Put the pudding in a steamer with a rack on the bottom (or an upturned plate or crumpled foil) so the pudding doesn’t sit on the bottom of the pot.

Pour boiling water ½ way up the pudding and steam slowly at a low simmer for 6 hours… taking care to check that the water level stays constant.  Add boiling water when needed.  Remove from water, cover with new paper and refrigerate till ready to use.   When ready, repeat the process and warm for 2-3 hours till heated through.  If you are making it the day of, steam for 7 hours.  

To make the sauce:  warm the cream, sugar, lemon zest and scotch till the sugar melts.  Add the yolks and under low heat, stir constantly until thickened... taking care not to curdle the eggs.  

Then soak the pudding with some scotch and store.  Put holly in the top of the pudding, warm the last scotch and light for a little Christmas drama!

This is another lovely drink from 1869's  Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks  and it's a great one for holiday celebrations.

Trinidad Punch

2 c rum (I used Haitian Barbancourt)
3-4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
½ vanilla bean or 1 t vanilla
4 c coconut milk
½ c sugar
lime for garnish

Warm and combine coconut milk and chocolate and sugar till melted.  Add the vanilla and rum.  I did add more chocolate… the original is 1 ounce.

May be served warm or cold and is delicious both ways.

Thanks to Gollum for hosting Foodie Friday!

* If I may recommend, a great foodie gift for the holidays (or a treat for you!)  would be a selection of chef's essences from Aftelier. The fir has just come out and it is TO DIE FOR!  I had it in a gin drink at Astor Center and felt faint from pleasure... 

**Tis the season to give… to WIKIPEDIA!!  It’s a great service that most everyone uses and it is done out of the goodness of many hearts.  Fill their holiday coffers, won’t you??
Donate a few bucks to keep them going.