From the mid-18th century to the end of the 19th century, Twelfth cakes were very popular, but they had been mentioned in poems and other literature more than a century earlier. The cake was traditionally baked on 5 January for the celebration of Revelation or – as the name suggests – the twelfth night after Christmas.
The cake was decadently decorated with elaborate scenes of feasting, with little people and filigree made of a white glaze, which was shaped into intricately carved wooden moulds. Crowns seem to have been the most popular decoration and are rarely missing from illustrations of the cake. In the British Museum, you can find pictures of gigantic Twelfth cakes that had to be carried by several footmen. In the Illustrated London News of January 1849, an engraving of the Twelfth cake from Queen
Towards the end of the 19th century, Twelfth cakes finally merged with the Christmas cake. Nowadays, Twelfth cake is not commercially made and few people remember it.
This recipe is based on the first published recipe for Twelfth cake from
Add the yeast to the lukewarm milk to activate it. Put the flour, sugar and spices in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix to combine, then put the butter on top. Pour half of the yeast mixture over the butter and start mixing. When the mixture is completely combined, add the remaining yeast mixture, along with the egg, and knead for 10 minutes until the mixture has come together in a smooth dough that isn’t too dry. Occasionally scrape the dough off the dough hook and the side of the bowl.
Cover the dough and leave it to rise for 1 hour or until it has doubled in size. Prepare the baking tin.
Add the currants to the dough and briefly knead. Place the dough in the tin and let it rise again, covered, for 1 hour.
Brush the entire cake with apricot jam and apply a layer of marzipan, smoothing the surface and covering any holes. Roll out the fondant. Cover the marzipan with another layer of jam, then carefully place the fondant over the cake and use your hands or a fondant scraper to smooth it out. Decorate the cake as you wish.
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