What better time to stand beside a hot oven than during the cold winter? When it's chilly outside and you are wrapped in woolens, a freshly baked piece of cake gives you all the warmth you need. So it isn't surprising that bakes goodies are an integral part of Christmas traditions all over the world. Women in the family consult each other, browse through old recipe books and bring out the packed up baking trays in time for the season, to treat loved ones to traditional sweets. Though the basic preparations remain the same, each family has their own secret ingredient or unique method of doing things, which results in innumerable variations of the same recipe.
The centrepiece of most Christmas feasts is the Christmas Fruit cake. What defines a fruit cake is the use of dried raisins, currants, sultanas, orange peel, pine nuts and almonds. Usually these are candied or soaked in liquor for several weeks. The fruit cake can be as moist or dry as one desires. Traditionally the fruit cake was served without any frosting or decorations. Of course, there is no rule about this. Marsipan or fondant are often used to decorate the Christmas cake.
Mince Pies are another popular Christmas treat; little cups of pastry stuffed with rich, sweet, sticky fruit. Fruits like green apples, cherries, sultanas, raisins and currants are cut up and candied along with lemon rind, orange peal and spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. Brandy or rum are usually used in the mixture as well. However a alcohol-free version can be made using orange juice. Modern versions use fruits like strawberries, raspberries, peaches, plums, prunes and other fruits. They make a great bit sized treat, that are almost universal in appeal.
The Yule Log cake or Buche de Noel is an integral part of European Christmas traditions. The Yule log cake is a chocolate cake fashioned to look like a yule log, which is burned in the fireplace during Christmas time. A flat sheet of four-less chocolate cake is layered with chocolate frosting and rolled into a cylinder. It is then decorated with chocolate icing, and typically served with meringue that are crafted to look like mushrooms. Though created by the French, this whimsical Christmas cake has become a favourite world over.
Christmas cookies are a must during the season. They don't always make their way onto the Christmas lunch table, but at this time of the year pantry shelves must be stocked with jars of cookies to accompany warm cups of cocoa, milk or coffee. Cookies have been a part of Christmas celebrations since medieval times. They can be simple shortbread cookies or elaborately decorated ones filled with chocolate, nuts and fruit. In several parts of the world children keep a glass of milk and cookies near the Christmas tree for Santa to snack on when he sneaks in!
It's time to bring out those oven mitts and mixing bowls! Make sure you've stocked up on all the ingredients you need. If you plan on baking a traditional fruit cake, it's time to start soaking your fruits and nuts in brandy, rum or cointreau. Very soon we will bring you our own special Christmas cake recipe!