Way back in 2007 I wrote about my families Italian celebration of this feast day but this year I thought I'd delve into the English tradition.
The twelfth night is actually January 5th, the celebration of which rivalled Christmas and traditionally a spiced fruit cake would be made. Unfortunately, it was Queen Victoria that finally ended this celebration and the twelfth night cake morphed to become what we know today as Christmas cake.
The twelfth night cake would be topped with a crown and inside the cake, some type of favour would have been baked into it - typically dried peas or beans, whoever ended up with the slice of cake with the favour was crowned king or queen for the rest of the day. Similar customs are found in France and their Galette des Rois, Spain and the Roscón de Reyes, Mexico and the Rosca de Reyes and New Orleans and the King Cake.
Looking for an appropriate recipe proved a little difficult - I did find an excellent 1845 recipe at the Old Foodie but finally settled on the Twelfth Night cake from Cakebaker. Instead of making a large cake, I decided to use these pork pie tins and make smaller cakes.
I think it's more fitting given the whole historical element - it's the perfect size for gift giving and without sounding too sacrilegious, I think the baby Jesus would agree.
Twelfth Night Cake[Makes 2 small cakes - 10cm wide x 8cm high]
115 grams softened butter
115 grams raw sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
115 grams dried cherries
115 grams currants
115 grams sultanas
3 tablespoons rum
40 grams whole blanched almonds
115 grams self-raising flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
Sift the flour and spices together into a bowl and set to one side.
Place the dried cherries, currants and sultans in a bowl and pour over the rum - stir and allow to macerate for about 15 minutes.
Beat the softened butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the eggs, a little at a time, only adding more once it has been absorbed.
Tip in the macerated fruits and any liquid along with the nuts and stir briefly. Tip in the spiced flour and fold through until just mixed.
Pour the batter into two buttered moulds - it should ¾ fill each tin - smooth the surface with the back of a spoon.
Encase the cake tins in double lined brown paper and place on a baking tray. Bake in a 160°C oven for about 2 hours or until it has cooked through - if the top looks like it's browning too quickly, cover it with foil.
Let the cakes cool slightly before removing from the tins - leave on a wire rack to cool completely.
To finish the cakes, dust with icing sugar and top with a crown.
It's a pity you can't smell it, lovely aromas of spice and sweet fruit. It's also surprising light for a fruit cake, there's no stodginess here and seriously, I think it's good enough to be served all year round.