In Britain over the Christmas period we traditionally eat a rich dense fruit cake, doused in alcohol and covered in marzipan and icing. Love it or hate it, it has been around for a long time and is here to stay. Personally, I love it and this recipe is my favorite, easy, full of Bourbon and not too heavy.
The origin of Christmas Cake is slightly sketchy. However, it does seem it originated from the Twelfth Night Cake which has been baked and eaten since Medieval times. By 1900 the Twelfth Night Cake was pretty much extinct and a marzipan and icing topped fruit cake was being eaten at Christmas.
In Medieval Britain a leavened bread with dried fruits and spices was eaten at a big feast on the evening of 5th January, the Twelfth Night. By the eighteenth century eggs were being used in the Twelfth Night Cake instead of yeast and it now resembled a plum cake rather than the fruit bread of Medieval and Tudor times. It was covered in almond paste and was iced, sometimes very elaborately.
The feast on the Twelfth night was a huge occasion. The fun and festivities were organized by an appointed Lord of Misrule. To select this coveted position, a dried bean was baked in the Twelfth Night Cake and whoever got the slice with the bean in it was appointed Lord of Misrule (or Abbott of Unreason if you lived in the Early Tudor times).
In the early and mid 19th Century the Twelfth Night celebrations still culminated in a ceremonial cutting of the cake and a King was appointed as festivity co-ordinator. However, a dried bean was not such a common way of appointing him. Instead, people selected a card which contained an illustration of a certain character (including the King) which they had to adopt for the evening. These characters were often caricatures of newsworthy people from that year. Popular characters had names such as Sir Tun Belly Wash, Samuel Strutt, Sir Oliver Ogle and Counselor Double Fee.
This year I am going to have Twelfth Night feast with this Easy Christmas Cake. I am going to appoint myself as Abbott of Unreason and will surround myself with President Chumps, Theresa MayDoIts, Hilary HeaveHos, Boris Bike Brexits and Sir Condor Nevergoes. It will be fun!