A Traditional English Christmas Cake story – sustaining life and enhancing international relations…….

The following is a true story about my Mother’s traditional English Christmas Cake…and how it saved my life and helped to sustain others….:and at the same time enhanced international relations………:)

In 1960 when I was 16 years old, my parents sent me to Holland for the summer.    Travelling by ferry and train,  I was to stay with friends who lived in the countryside outside of Eindhoven.

Before leaving my Mother made sure to pack some of her traditional Christmas Cake into my suitcase.     No matter where I went this always happened.   It was my Mother’s theory that if I got lost, or ran out of food, her cake would sustain me.

A traditional English Christmas Cake xmas cakeFor those who are not familiar with traditional English Christmas Cake – a little more information.

My Mother made the cake months before Christmas every year.    All manner of fruits and spices were mixed and liberally doused with brandy in order to preserve the cake.

During the several month standing process the cake would be fed with more alcohol during two week intervals…..then wrapped in a cheese cloth and put into a north facing pantry to settle.    Christmas-Cake-easyAbout two weeks before Christmas the cake would be covered in marzipan along with a  thick white icing resembling snow….and then Christmas decorations added.

Given that the cake was very rich….there was always quite a lot left over….plus my Mother would make two cakes at a time….leaving one un-iced, filled with booze, waiting for any natural or man made disasters to occur!5245504474_028169b808_zAfter a wonderful summer in Holland…swimming in canals with local children, riding bicycles around the countryside – stopping at farms where we were given the most delicious fresh cheese and milk straight from the cow, and of course sketching…..even back then I carried a sketch book with me.        Alas, it was time to return home.

This was the sort of canal we swam in…boys-in-canalI was put on a train heading towards the Ferry port at Calais France.       

I am not sure when I realised that something was wrong…..I suppose when I arrived in Germany!!

In those days it was quite normal for trains to split – one end going to one country and the other to another, and this is what had happened.    I got on the wrong end of the train.

This meant getting back on the right train, and then arriving at the Calais Ferry Terminal far too late to catch the ferry that my parents would be meeting me from at the Dover Ferry Terminal – which in turn meant a long wait.

And this is where Mother’s Traditional English Christmas Cake came into its own.

Calais France Ferry Terminal – just 29.4 miles from Dover UK. car-ferry-terminal-at-calais-france-BM6WAKWhen I arrived at the Calais Terminal I joined many other young people from all around Europe sitting on the floor waiting for ferries.

Remember this was many years before fast food, mobile phones, and of course the Euro Star train – everything was simple and basic.

I was hungry as were many of my fellow travellers.      I removed the tin containing Mother’s English Christmas Cake from my suit case and shared it with young people from around Europe.      The Christmas cake brought us together. 

Ferry docking at Dover Ferry Terminal   2464338180_d3b492f903_b    After docking at the Dover Ferry Terminal, I found a policeman waiting for me.      Clearly alerts had been sent out…..

The policeman took me and a young German boy I had befriended to the Dover Police Station.     There we were given a slap up breakfast while we waited for my parents to arrive.      I had assured the German boy that my parents would give him a lift to Canterbury and then he could hitch hike on to London.       The German boy and I kept in touch for many years.

So what’s the moral of this story?

Be Prepared and always carry extra food – especially traditional English Christmas Cake. 

(I was reminded of my story when recently a 100 year old fruit cake was found in Antarctica – perfectly preserved.     I rest my case. )

watercolour/gouache20-11-15 - 1 (358)

I wish everyone a beautiful holiday season filled with peace and love…..and of course magical hummingbirds.    Janet

http://www.zazzle.com/janet+weight+reed+gifts      http://www.janetweightreed.co.uk









47 thoughts on “A Traditional English Christmas Cake story – sustaining life and enhancing international relations…….

  1. Jose D.

    Such a beautiful story of innocent adventure, survival with a romantic twist too and of course
    the infamous English Cake.

  2. Bushka

    What a delightful, ‘cakey’ Christmas story. One to remember for years…even beyond! Enjoy your ‘tipsy Christmas Cake’ when the time comes this year. Love and Christmas Hugs! 🎆🎆🎉💕😘

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Thank you dear Bushka….I am sure I will be eating lots of goodies…and I am sure you willl in Germany. My goodness do they do it well there. Have a wonderful holiday season. Janet 🙂 xxx

  3. Writing to Freedom

    What a wonderful story Janet! I don’t like most fruitcakes, but this version sounds yummy. It’s nice to have family traditions that nurture our body and spirit. Have a wonderful holiday season filled with friends, family, food, and hummingbirds! 🙂

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Thank you Brad. I sort of grew into my Mother’s Christmas fruit cakes. As a child I preferred the icing….as an adult – I love the whole thing 🙂 I have a lovely holiday season lined up with very dear friends…do hope you have a lovely time. Janet 🙂 x

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Thank you so much for reading. Sad to say that I am not making the cake anymore….however, I do love to eat some of this cake if somebody else is doing the honours:) Hope you enjoy a lovely holiday. Janet 🙂

  4. ShimonZ

    This is a wonderful story, and I loved reading about how the cake is made. 1960 was a very good year for me as well, though the circumstances were altogether different. I’ve heard about Christmas cake, but didn’t realize that it can last a long time without being refrigerated… Wishing you and all my fellow readers here a very joyous Christmas.

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      So pleased you enjoyed this….It’s interesting because as a child I didn’t like the taste of Christmas Cake – except the wonderful white icing on top. As an adult I do enjoy a slice or two…..This Christmas I will be staying with my friends Gail and Mick who I have known since I was five years old. Gail makes a wonderful Christmas cake and so I will definitely save a piece for you. Janet x

  5. Andrea Stephenson

    What a great story Janet. I was almost caught out by the splitting train when some friends and I travelled around Europe. We were travelling to Denmark but were on the wrong end of the train (I don’t recall where it was going) – fortunately we found out in time and were duly warned to make sure we always got on the right end of the train thereafter!

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Good morning Andrea, To this day I always check that I am on the right end of the train, including in the UK where some services do split! Hope you enjoy a wonderful holiday season and a very special, loving, peaceful and creative new year. Janet x

  6. olganm

    Mothers are always right. I can’t say I’m a big fan of the Christmas cake but there’s no doubt it is built (or cooked) to last and survive. Have a lovely break, Janet!

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Your comment made me smile. As a child I couldn’t stand Christmas cake – and was always embarrassed when my Mother packed it in the suit case….however, as an adult I do enjoy a slice or two. Janet 🙂

  7. Heulwen

    Wonderful story Janet. My mother too and now I, following in her footsteps, make such a cake. The cake and pudding making has slipped the last 3 years due to unforseen circumstances…however in October the cake and 2 or 3 Christmas puds will be made. The recipe for the puds is her grandmother’s..changed a little or should I say adapted as ingredients availability demand. Have a lovely Christmas with your friends and we’ll get together again in the spring. Loads of love xxx

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Hi Dear Heulwen….lovely to see you here. I think I have had the great joy of tasting your Mother’s Christmas Cake and puddings….she was a marvellous cook. You are better than me, because I haven’t made my own, but rather will enjoy that of other people’s. Lovely to see you and the Monster Child 🙂 recently and look forward to more in 2018. Have a wonderful holiday. Janet xxx

  8. snowbird

    What a wonderful tale! You have lived, and continue to live such an interesting life, a girl after my own heart!!! Love your mums cake, fabulous! All the very best friend of mine.xxx

  9. First Night Design

    You’ve just reminded me that while I didn’t buy cakes or mince pies this year because of hospital ‘an all, I’ve still got a couple of cakes from last year and I now have brandy butter bought since Christmas. And talking of festive provender, I brought out some sultanas that had not been air-tight in their jar and poured in some cognac I just happened to have! A teaspoon of this mixture every so often has livened me up this evening. Having said that, I’ve felt rather better anyway in the last few days. xxx 🙂

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Good morning – first things first…wonderful that you are feeling rather better….long may it last. Sultanas and cognac sound like a wonderful cure all. Hang onto those cakes from last year – one never knows when there might be a natural disaster and the cakes save your life !:) Have a lovely weekend…relax and enjoy. Janet xxx

      1. First Night Design

        I’m continued to sneak spoonfuls of the sultanas and cognac into my mouth – such a wonderful kick. Please can I eat one of the cakes and leave one for natural disasters?!!

      2. janetweightreed10 Post author

        Good morning Sarah. yes do eat one of the cakes, but do keep one for natural and man made disasters. My Mother would send me off to school, holidays, and anywhere else with a tin of her cake, – all with the idea that it would save me in the event of ?? I would say typical post war behaviour 🙂 It used to embarrass me until the incident at Calais Ferry Terminal and then I recognised her wisdom , Enjoy and do keep warm to day…..the cognac will help with that. x

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