Good Morning to you,
Miss Fogarty's Christmas Cake
'There were plums and prunes and cherries,
There were citrons and raisins and cinnamon, too
There was nutmeg, cloves and berries
and a crust that was nailed on with glue.
There were caraway seeds in abundance
Such that work up a fine stomach ache
That could kill a man twice after eating a slice
of Miss Fogarty's Christmas Cake.'
An Irish Christmas Song
Around this time of year, I can feel that little tingle.... the tingle, which heralds in, my favourite time of the year.... Christmas.
I start thinking about unpacking my Christmas decorations, and after a year of being stored in the loft, it is always a joy to be re-acquainted with them
.... and then comes the fun part, the unwrapping of each Christmas decoration.
The first thing we do, is check all the lights and I am always pleased when each string of lights, twinkle when plugged in. Although last year I had to say goodbye to a set of lights I have loved for a long time. They were beautiful Christmas tree, candle lights, which I had bought in Germany. At a distance they were often mistaken for lighted wax candles. I have to say, they had been 'going home' for a while and although George had done his best to keep them going, in the end, we had to say farewell. Sadly, I have never found anything similar, but I am keeping my fingers crossed, that I might one day.
Now, as you know, when our daughters come home for Christmas, I absolutely love making all our traditional Christmas foods.... but as they won't be with us this year, I will pare down my baking. If I didn't, we would be eating Christmas cake, Christmas pudding and Mince pies, well into the New Year... and as much as I love a little indulgence over the Christmas, I really don't want to carry it through to the New Year.
So although I will not be baking as much this year, I felt it would be nice to go back a couple of years, when we had the whole family for the Christmas festivities. To remember all the festive foods I enjoyed cooking for my family.... and you never know, you might find yourself incorporating one or two of the recipes into your Christmas celebrations.
The first thing on my list to make is always,
our Christmas Cake. Now although I am not making a Christmas Cake for ourselves, I am baking a Christmas cake this weekend, to send to a friend who absolutely adores Christmas cake. It is going to be delivered via the Royal Mail, so I am keeping my fingers crossed, that with a little padding, the Christmas cake will arrive in tact.
If you click on the link, above, you will find the recipe and step by step instructions on how to make my Christmas cake.
Once the cake has been baked, it is time for its weekly feed of brandy. Then a few days before Christmas, it is time to
cover the Christmas Cake with marzipan. I do love the flavour of almonds, so marzipan is certainly a hit with me, because there is always little bits and pieces left over for me to enjoy.
Once the marzipan had been left to dry for a couple of days,
it is time to move on to the icing and decoration of the Christmas Cake. You can let your mind run free as far as decorating the Christmas cake is concerned, but, I bet your mind does not run as free as my father's did, one Christmas, many years ago.
Let me tell you a little story.... well it wouldn't be Ivy, Phyllis and Me! if I did not have a little story to tell.
When we lived in Cyprus, my mother, Phyllis, would always keep our English traditions alive. Like me, the first thing on her list of things to do, was to bake our Christmas cake. When baked it would be covered with marzipan, but the one thing she was never too keen to do, was the decorating of the Christmas cake. Phyllis always hoped that one year she would be able to pipe the words 'Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year' on the cake, but this never happened, so she would always resort to a snow scene. This is where she used the flat of a knife to create little peaks of icing which looked like snow..... does this resonate with anyone?
My father, who was a very creative man, decided that it could not be that difficult to create the effect which Phyllis desired. So that year, it was agreed that he would take over the icing of the cake. The Christmas cake was baked by Phyllis, then she covered the cake with marzipan. The final thing on her list of things to do, before she handed over the reigns to my father, was to make the royal icing. A batch of royal icing to ice the cake, and another batch, of a much runnier consistency, to pipe the required words onto the Christmas cake.
The cake was duly handed over to my father, for him to complete the Christmas cake.
He spread the cake with Royal icing, which was a success... it was smooth. Flushed with that success, instead of waiting for the icing to dry before he wrote the words Merry Christmas, he decided to write the words whilst the Royal icing was wet. Now this would not have been a problem if the icing for the writing had been white, but no, he was adventurous and had decided to add cochineal to make the icing red. His steady hand was poised and he was doing well, he started writing 'H-A-P-P-Y and proceeded to write 'C-H-R-I when there was a gasp, there was a red blob. Yes the 'S' had turned into a blob. He tried to remove the red blob, but the blob would not be moved, it started bleeding into the white icing, turning the white icing pink. Phyllis tried to help by adding a little bit of white icing to the mix, but the icing just turned a lighter shade of pink. Not at all the look Phyllis wanted.... as if the pink blob was not disastrous enough, much to Phyllis' amazement, my father, proceeded to squirt the rest of the red icing, on top of the white icing and mixed the two colours together, thus producing a pink Christmas cake. He then decided, if the Christmas cake was going to be pink.... it should be a bright pink and not a pale, insignificant pink.... which if I am honest Phyllis would have preferred. So more cochineal was added, how on earth he managed to mix the icing I do not know. We were all trying not to laugh and he could see us smiling, but he just ignored us and carried on with the task in hand. Phyllis was not smiling though, she was doubled up with laughter, but my father ignored Phyllis. He continued trying to mix the red and white icing, which if I am honest took on a marbled effect. He then patted the icing to create a snow scene..... yes a marbled, bright pink snow scene.... and yes the very same snow scene, which Phyllis, was hoping to avoid that year. She said she didn't mind a white snow scene, but she never envisaged bright pink snow on the Christmas cake.
My father was not phased, he continued to ignore us all and placed the little Christmas decorations on top of the pink Christmas cake. He turned to us and said, 'Yes it's a little different, but it won't make any difference to the taste of the cake'.
Well, I have to tell you, this pink Christmas cake became famous, because Phyllis and my father had invited friends to spend Christmas with us. The Christmas cake, was and still is, the centrepiece of the Christmas tea.... so there it was, our bright pink Christmas cake, taking centre stage. When our friends saw the cake, there were hoots of laughter and thinking back, I don't think our friends ever let my father live it down.
Can you imagine.... a bright pink Christmas cake.
.... and the reason he never lived it down. My father was was a Sign Writer, which took a very steady hand.
Now, as with all things, when they go wrong, the more you try to explain, the funnier the story becomes.... and this story became funnier with each telling.
.... and did my father ever decorate our Christmas cake again.... well the answer to that question is no. He did not offer and Phyllis did not ask... after the pink icing debacle, Phyllis returned to her usual snow scene.... also returning to her traditional white icing..... without the words 'Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year'.
.... but as a family, we have lovely memories, of that very special pink Christmas cake.
....and isn't that one of the things we love about Christmas, the making of our family memories....like the time I served up cold carrots on Christmas Day.... but that's a whole other story.
Oh, just before I leave you, Miss Fogarty's Christmas Cake sung by The Irish Rovers is an Irish Christmas song, which is very funny... you can join in with the chorus, as I have written the words at the beginning of my post.
.... and no my Christmas cake is not 'nailed on with glue'..... well no one has said anything..... mmm I think I'd better find out what everyone really thinks about my Christmas cake.... just as Miss Fogarty did, I hope I am not labouring under false illusions.
Take care and I will see you next Thursday.