Grandma Abson's Traditional Baking is all about simple and tasty baking, a legacy from my Grandma's time as a cook-housekeeper in Edwardian times and a lifetime of baking.
As I was growing up, I watched her bake and cook, and acquired her expertise and passion for baking. Now I'm sharing Grandma Abson's traditional baking with baking devotees who remember it first time around and a whole generation new to baking. Enjoy!
Christmas celebrations in Georgian times featured Twelfth Night Cake, a rich
fruit cake which was eaten on the feast of the Epiphany on 6 January. Visitors to the
Georgian Christmas at Cusworth Hall Doncaster didn’t seem too keen to wait till
January to taste this scrumptious cake, so they had an early taste in the Great
Kitchen, along with other Georgian Christmas Baking treats. I’d adapted a recipe
from John Mollard’s 1803 edition of ‘The
Art of Cookery’ .
Twelfth Night Cake
225g/8oz dark muscovado sugar
1 tablespoon black treacle
1 teaspoon each of mixed spice, cinnamon and ground nutmeg
225g/8oz each of raisins, currants and sultanas
50g/2oz chopped mixed peel
50g/2oz glacé cherries
50g/2oz ground almonds
the oven to 160℃/325F/Gas 3. Line
a 20 cm/8 inch round cake tin. Cream the butter and sugar together until light
and fluffy and mix in the treacle.Whisk
the eggs lightly and then add them gently to the creamed mixture, followed by
the flour and spices. Stir in the dried fruit, mixed peel, cherries and ground
almonds and mix well. Then place the mixture into the cake tin.Bake in the centre of the oven for
about 1½ hours until the cake is firm and a cake skewer inserted into the
centre comes out clean.Leave the
cake in the tin until cool then turn out and cover with foil until ready to
decorate. The cake can be decorated with marzipan and royal icing or left plain
It looks and tastes a
lot like Christmas Cake but there’s an important difference. It was the custom to bake a dried bean and pea in each side of the
cake and serve the cake in two halves one for ladies and the other for the gentlemen.
Whoever found the bean and the pea became King and Queen for the night.
We had some
visitors from Spain who told us they had the same tradition with the bean in
their splendid ‘Roscon de Reyes’.
the magnificent ‘Galette des Rois’ which is an almond cake made with puff
pastry which also has a (ceramic) bean baked inside.
It was thumbs up all
round for the Georgian Twelfth Night Cake. I think the Georgians had the right
idea just like our Spanish and French friends to round off the Christmas celebrations
with this great tradition. Once the wrapping is recycled, the decorations taken
down, and the Christmas lights switched off, throw off the gloom of January with
a piece of Twelfth Night Cake. Good luck -you could be a King or Queen for the day!
Buns or Cakes are that curious relative of scones, similar in appearance and sharing
the key ingredient of dried fruit. Originally designed as a teatime treat, they
proved popular because the ingredients were fairly cheap. The ‘rock’
refers to their rough surface rather than the texture.
were loved by soldiers in World War 1 amongst
from the Home Front and promoted by
the Ministry of Food in World War 2 rationing, as they could be made
with reduced sugar and fewer eggs than other bakes.
Many families had their own recipe Rock Buns or Rock Cakes and
ours was no exception. It was my Grandma’s sister, Emma who provided the
trusted family recipe for Rock Buns. It was her signature bake!
Emma, Jim, cousin baby Elaine and me
My great aunt Emma, seen here with her husband, Jim in their garden had a recipe for Coconut Rock Buns where 4oz/110g desiccated coconut replaced the dried fruit. I remember eating these and Rock Buns during the 1950s when we stayed with at her home in Manchester every summer holiday.
12oz/340g plain flour
2 tsps baking powder
4oz/110g butter or lard
Pinch of salt
4oz/110g currants or raisins
1 teacupful of milk
Sieve the baking powder with the flour.
Rub the fat into flour and salt then add the sugar and the fruit. Beat the eggs
and add these to the mixture with the milk. Mix well. Put on a greased tin or
on greased baking sheets and shape into small rocky heaps with two forks. Bake
for 20 minutes in a fairly hot oven. (400F,
Mark 6, 200C)
Mrs Beeton's Everyday Cookeryand Housekeeping
The Best Way
Buns been around since at least Victorian times. They feature in Mrs Beeton’s Everyday Cookeryand Housekeeping book 1861 and The
Best Way cookery book 1907, not forgetting their starring role in the
station tearoom in the 1945 film 'Brief Encounter''.
Back in World War 1, Rock on, Tommy
- but is it a bun or a cake?