Twelfth Night Celebrations
For many years Twelfth Night (normally the night of January 5th) marked the end of the Christmas festivities (as it represented the night when the three kings would finally arrive in Bethlehem). Many people, especially those working in rural areas, saw Twelfth Night as important as Christmas Day itself. It was the last night of the Christmas holidays and everybody had to return to work the next day. It was therefore a raucous affair with plenty of alcohol and general merriment. Twelfth Night also saw the last appearance of the "Lord of Misrule" when normal social conventions and status where turned their heads.
The celebration of Twelfth Night diminished as people moved out of the countryside into the cities and as the Victorians began to transform the Christmas period into a quieter, more respectable and family-orientated celebration. However, there is still a slight hang-over left as many people now wait until Twelfth Night to take down their Christmas decorations. To leave them up for any longer (when Christmas has 'officially' ended) is to invite bad luck.
Twelfth Night Cake
At the centre of any Twelfth Night celebrations is the Twelfth Night Cake. This is normally a simple fruit cake wrapped into a gold paper crown. Baked into the cake was one dried pea and one dried bean. As the cake was eaten whoever found them would be crowned the king and queen of the night and would direct proceedings until midnight. As the celebration of Twelfth Night diminished so did the cake. However, the Twelfth Night Cake simply transformed into Christmas Cake and the pea and bean was substituted with a silver coin.
Twelfth Night Cake Recipe
The recipe that I use to make my Twelfth Night Cake comes from Sara Paston-Williams' The National Trust Book of Christmas and Festive Day Recipes.
It's a really simple and rich fruit cake to create. All you need to do is add a dried pea and bean to the mixture and you're ready for your Twelfth Night celebrations.
225g unsalted butter
225g caster sugar
3 tablespoons of brandy or rum
1/2 teaspoon of allspice (or 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg and cinnamon each)
75g flaked almonds
1. Pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees C. Grease and line a 25cm/10in cake tin with buttered greaseproof paper.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, Whisk the eggs with brandy/rum and beat gradually into the creamed mixture. Sift the flour and spices and add a little of the time to the mixture. Add the fruit and nuts and mix thoroughly.
3. Put the mixture into the cake tin, smooth the top and make s slight hollow in the centre. Now add the pea and bean.
4. Bake for 3-3.5 hours. If the top of the cake looks like it is getting too brown then cover with a sheet of greaseproof paper. The cake is cooked when a skewer inserted into the middle come out clean.
5. Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes and then complete cooling on a wire rack.
Serve the cake wrapped into a paper gold crown (to represent the three kings) and don't forget to warn your guests about the pea and bean.