|The naked Christmas cake, 2011.|
It will be iced sometime between the 20th and the 24th, I imagine.
As a child, decorating the Christmas cake was one of my favourite activities of the festive season. There was a set manner in which the cake was decorated - the Royal Icing formed into low peaks (easier than trying to make it completely flat),and then piped with those funny little coloured flowery splodges around the base (I think they're called drop flowers?). Every year I encouraged my mother to more and more violent colours. I definitely convinced her to do the whole thing mint green one year (it'll be very big in fashion next season), and I think we may even have done a black one. Well, we used black icing; I think it came out a sort of sludgey grey in the end.
Now I am a grown-up, and I get to do my own Christmas cake. It's definitely a thing to be done sparingly - who really has the time to bake something in the oven for four and a half hours more than once a year?
|The Cake, 2010.|
But I like the time it takes. I like the preparation up to the point where you declare it Time To Do The Cake. I like the way I find myself announcing how I Must Feed The Cake, as if it is some ancient demonic presence in Tupperware that will wreak havoc if I do not mollify it with weekly supplications and brandy.
Getting married is another occasion when you get to eat The Cake. It's also one of those odd times when you are suddenly required to have opinions about things you don't care about. Providing swatches of bridesmaid's dresses so the flowers can match exactly, for example. Cake, however, we found we had Opinions on. My husband insisted that the cake should be round, and that no other shapes were acceptable.
"How about doing a sponge layer for the people who don't like fruit cake?" our cake bakey lady said.
"No!" I intoned, with all the tolerance of Jeremy Clarkson at a Greenpeace meeting. "If they don't like fruit cake then they don't have to have any."
|The Cake, 2008|
So yes. I love the foolish artistic endeavour of the Christmas cake. It is a lovely thing, and I look forward to icing it, accompanied by festive swearing at a) Delia Smith and b) the electric mixer when I am yet again trying to make the damn stuff form peaks. It's a tradition, after all.