Yesterday I baked my Christmas cake; a dark, rich cake full of rum-soaked dried fruits. A traditional type of cake. Today I poked a few holes in it, and fed it some more rum, then covered it in a thick layer of marzipan. Tomorrow I’ll ice and decorate it. I haven’t really considered decorating ideas yet, but it will not be a complicated design. I might have to browse through Pinterest for some inspiration first.
Making special cakes, pastries, cookies and breads is a Christmas tradition shared by many cultures. Well-known treats include panettone from Italy, lebkuchen and stollen from Germany, Yule logs (bûche de Noël) from France and St. Lucia buns from Sweden. But I’ve also discovered that Japan has it’s own version of a Christmas cake, using very different ingredients to the traditional fruit and spice flavours common in European baking.
Japanese Christmas cake (Kurisumasu keki) is a light vanilla flavoured sponge cake smothered in fresh, whipped cream and decorated with fresh strawberries. Traditionally these are bought and eaten on Christmas Eve. It sounds delicious, however for us here in the UK, strawberries and cream are flavours that will always be associated with the summer (in particular, watching the tennis at Wimbledon).
Christmas cake also has another meaning for the Japanese. The freshness of the cake’s ingredients means that they don’t keep very well, and are no good after the 25th. Leftover cakes are unwanted, and this analogy has often been applied to women that remain unmarried after their 25th birthday. Basically, the Japanese term “Christmas cake” means spinster or old maid!