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. )

In this watercolour image, Christie the Cat looks down onto the Magical Town of Crickadoon (AKA Crickhowell Wales) hoping to find a home of her own.  

I hope everyone enjoys a lovely holiday season and that we can all help one another during these difficult times.     Janet 🙂

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

  1. Eunice Miller

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful story my mom loved what she called fruit cake during the holidays she was a cake decorator and we were so spoiled never having store bought like you said times were different even in 1960 for us here in the states.

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Thank you Eunice for this lovely response. How wonderful to have a cake decorator in the family. I have always found that art form very beautiful – to look at and to eat:). Yes, times were very different on both sides of the Atlantic in the 60s. We need to remind ourselves of how different and good life can be without all the gadgets. Hope you enjoy a lovely day. Janet X

  2. Hasich

    I am impressed by the fact that eating sweets on holidays is so common in many human cultures. Sweetness is a sign of how can I say “goodness” without saying goodness but feeling it by eating a thing we call cake. Your story also reminds me of Proust novel when he ate that famous French Madeline cake with tea one morning than the taste suddenly takes him back to nostalgia of his mother who used to make it for him some times in his childhood after that we penned sweetness connected with sweet memories as proustian effect.

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      ‘Nothing brings people together like good food’. Thank you so much for your lovely comment. Proust and so many others have been taken back to beautiful times by the taste and smell of food. Maybe this is the key to peace on earth….setting up trestle tables around the world for everyone to join together – sampling different foods from different cultures….and it would all be free of course:). I hope you enjoy a lovely day and enjoy something deliciously sweet. Janet X

  3. Jet Eliot

    This story is a complete delight on so many levels, Janet. Wonderfully told, and one I will not forget for its English beauty. That first photo, a beautiful photo of cake and tea in the style that only the English can boast, is a great enticement. I loved hearing about your adventure to Holland, how you got there, and the photo of what the canal looked like. Your mother’s theory of stocking you up with the cake before travel astounded me, no traveling light in her world. The long process of periodically soaking brandy into the cake was fascinating; I knew about this traditional cake, but had no idea the cakes were baked m o n t h s before Christmas. On the return, a train going to two different places is quirky, and your unscheduled adventure, your new friends and the cake, and the ferries capped off this great tale. Fantastic accompanying graphics and your masterful watercolor were a great treat.

  4. Andrea Stephenson

    I remember the story of your Christmas cake Janet! I remembered being on a train to Copenhagen and nearly ending up somewhere else but fortunately the guard told us the train was about to split! It’s always good to be prepared…

  5. Writing to Freedom

    Thanks for the fun story Janet. I’m not much of a cake fan, but your mother’s cake sounds pretty interesting, especially the power to feed and bring people together. We all need an extra helping of love this holiday season. Take good care and pass the cake please! 🍰

  6. Emma Cownie

    What a great story! I remember travelling (back in 1988 before mobile phones) with a girlfriend around Europe and you could make friends very easily with other young travellers. It was an adventure.

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      You have reminded me Emma that without mobile phones people met one another so much more. I always met such lovely and interesting people on my travels …..I have to admit that I miss that world. Hope all’s well with you. Janet 🙂

  7. Vera Komnig

    What a lovely story. Your mother’s Christmas cake reminds me of the Liegnitz bombs that my mother bakes every year at Christmas time. Here, too, months in advance, a kind of gingerbread based on an old family recipe, but without alcohol.
    After a piece of cake from your mother it was certainly a lively round, right ?!
    Thank you for this wonderful Story, my sweet dear sister in art. ❤

  8. davidjrogersftw

    Wonderful story Janet. My mouth was watering all through your story, cake being my favorite food–by far. Your story reminds me of the time I was on a flight that was delayed many hours. Two hundred surly, bitter Americans were stuck in a Canadian teminal. Spirits were low so I stood and started teling every joke and funny story I knew and people statred getting happy. After an hour and a half our plane came. When I got home I handed my wife a large bottle of chamagne. In a cute ceremony the crew had awarded me “the passenger of the flight award” for keepinng emotions under control, and international tensions were eased, as in your story.

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      I love your story David….absolutely wonderful. it has put a big smile on my face. I hope you get to eat lots of delicious cake during this holiday season and that you and Diana share one or two bottles of champagne:). Stay safe and well…and we will count our blessings.X


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