Monday, January 3, 2022

Twelfth Night Cake by Maya Corrigan - Potluck Monday

For centuries January 6th had happy connotations, as the twelfth day of Christmas and the last big holiday bash of the season—Twelfth Night. In the Christian tradition, the day celebrates the visit of the three kings from the East who brought gifts to the baby Jesus. Gifts, kings, and a special treat called the Twelfth Night cake have been associated with January 6th from medieval to modern times. 



Made with butter, eggs, sugar, fruit, nuts, spices, the Twelfth Night cake had a unique ingredient—a dried bean. The person with the cake slice containing the bean was crowned king of the revels or Bean King and had the power to command the other guests to do his bidding. Role reversals could occur and, for one night a year, servants could order their employers around. The evening's festivities often included singing, dancing, drinking, disguises, and role playing. 

 

Peasants Celebrating Twelfth Night 1635
David Teniers the Younger

Over the centuries, the cake served on January 6th became more elaborate, garlanded with icing, decorated with figures, topped with a crown. The well-to-do bought their cakes from confectioners, who displayed them in their shop windows lit up with small oil lamps at night. People would go from shop to shop admiring the displays of the bakers’ art. 

The diarist Samuel Pepys wrote about the great expense of his Twelfth Night cake—20 shillings in 1668, the equivalent of two weeks’ wages for a skilled tradesman. Pepys cake didn’t contain a bean. The king and queen of the revels and other roles were selected after guests picked slips of paper with character names from a hat.


Print by Isaac Cruikshank with verse 1794

The traditions associated with the day, including the special cake, migrated from Europe to the colonies. Recipes for it have appeared on Mystery Lovers' Kitchen. Guest Joanna Campbell Slan shared a recipe for Martha Washington’s Great Cake, served at Mount Vernon on Twelfth Night, which was also Martha and George’s wedding anniversary.


Peg Cochran demonstrated how to make a New Orleans King Cake, traditionally served on Twelfth Night and associated with the Mardi Gras season. The cake mimics the shape of a king’s crown and, instead of a bean, a trinket such as a plastic baby is hidden in the cake. The trinket finder is “king” for the day.


Peg Cochran's New Orleans King Cake



Happy Twelfth Night!
May you enjoy a special cake this week!

👑

Five-Ingredient Mystery #4

It’s a cold January in the Chesapeake Bay area, but Cool Down Café manager Val Deniston has plenty to sweat over—like catering a book club event, testing recipes for her Granddad’s cookbook, and catching the author of a deadly tale of murder . . .

The last thing Val needs in her life is an unsolved murder, especially when the victim, an actor famed for impersonating Edgar Allan Poe, happens to be dressed exactly like her Granddad. To keep an eye on Granddad, whose latest job takes him to the home of Rick Usher, a local author inspired by Poe, Val gets herself hired as a cook in Rick’s House of Usher. When she discovers the actor wasn’t the only one doing an impersonation, separating the innocent from the murderous becomes a real-life horror story. But Val must decipher a killer’s M.O . . . or she can forget about finding POE-etic justice.



Maya Corrigan writes the Five-Ingredient Mysteries featuring café manger Val and her live-wire grandfather solving murders in a Chesapeake Bay town. Maya lives in a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C. Before writing crime fiction, she taught American literature, writing, and detective fiction at Northern Virginia Community College and Georgetown University. When not reading and writing, she enjoys theater, travel, trivia, cooking, and crosswords.

Visit her website to sign up for her newsletter. One subscriber wins a book each time a newsletter goes out. Check out the easy recipes, mystery history and trivia, and a free culinary mystery story on the website.




What's the most elaborate cake you've ever made or eaten?


14 comments:

  1. I love your food history posts, Maya!

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  2. I'll have to make this for Ziggy, our Jack Russell mix who celebrates her birthday on Epiphany!

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  3. My niece's Disney Princesses birthday cake.

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    1. That must have been a pretty cake suitable for a princess.
      ~Maya

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  4. Hi Maya! Armenians and Greeks celebrate Christmas on January 6th. Our kids like it because we exchange gifts on December 25 and again on January 6th for both sides of the family. Your cake looks delicious!

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    1. Thanks, Tina. Your kids are lucky to have both traditions celebrated!

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  5. I don't bake it's just me. So I pick something up at a bakery. cheetahthecat1986ATgmailDOTcom

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    1. That works! Many Twelfth Night cakes over the years came from a backery.

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  6. Whose made the cake in the first picture?
    Can you imagine dealing with a cake with the ingredients like Martha's? The quantities!!!
    We had a Mardi Gras cake last year and my then 4 year old granddaughter got the little baby. She was thrilled!

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    1. My daughter-in-law made the cake for my grandson's birthday. It not only looked beautiful, it was the best cake I've ever tasted! How lovely that your granddaughter got the cake baby. Happy New Year!

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    2. I am truly impressed by your DIL's cake!

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  7. The most decadent cake I have eaten was made by my coworker for my birthday-Triple Chocolate! It was so rich that it lasted a long time since you could only eat a tiny piece at a sitting! Delicious!

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