Christmas Cake Traditions
Some fascinating Traditional Christmas Cake from around the world
Ah the Christmas Cake – when we think about a traditional Christmas cake, we most likely think about a fruit cake with a marzipan layer covered in icing. It is one of those Christmas treats that can divide opinion, you either love it or you don’t. But there are actually more options than you think when it comes to Christmas cakes. If we take a tour around the world, a lot of countries have their own traditional Christmas Cakes.
In France (and Quebec, Canada) the traditional Christmas cake of choice is a Buche de Noel, or as we would most commonly know it by – the Yule Log. We all are likely to be familiar with the Yule log, the chocolate Swiss roll cake covered in a chocolate buttercream of sorts to create the illusion of a wooden log. Like many Christmas traditions, this actually comes from pagan traditions. On Christmas Eve, in medieval France, families would place a wooden log in the hearth – this was in the hope that it would bring in a robust harvest in the new year to come. They would then sprinkle things like holy water, salt, or wine on to the log before lighting it, and they would leave it to burn for at least three days.
More recently the wooden log was replaced with a cake that was decorated to look like such, and quite often extras were added to the log, such as meringue mushrooms and marzipan leaves to make it appear like it has come from a forest. And many more versions of the yule log cake have developed over time around the world.
Allahabadi Cake is the winter cake of choice in India. This cake actually shares some common history with a traditional English Christmas cake. Much like an English Christmas cake, it incorporates dried fruit soaked in alcohol (traditionally rum). However, there are some key differences, for instance instead of using butter as we know it, quite often home-made ghee (clarified butter - removing the water and milk) is used and spices such as ginger, nutmeg, fennel seeds, and mace are also added to create a flavourful fruit cake eaten around the Yuletide season. There is also a marmalade added to the cake, alongside candied fruit.
Stollen – it's becoming more available in the UK with many artisan bakers opting to offer this Christmas delight. This German Christmas cake is packed full of spices, almonds, currants and raisins, as well as candied citrus fruit peels. The dough is lovely and buttery and is brushed with butter and finished with a dusting of icing sugar. Some might say it is more like a fruit bread than a cake, but this indulgent delight full of richness puts a smile on many a face each year.
In Italy, the traditional desert of the festive period is a Panettone. A traditional Panettone is a fluffy bread pastry, filled with dried fruit, and it dates back to 1470, however it may date back even further. Although originally Panettone was actually a flattish bread, not the large structures we know it can be today. A lot of us like one of these yummy desserts around Christmas, with variations now available to suit everyone including plain and chocolate options now available.
Australia and New Zealand
Did you know, Christmas actually falls during Australian and New Zealand Summertime? That’s why quite often Christmas celebrations in the southern hemisphere involve BBQs and beach parties. Needless to say, they don’t particularly fancy a heavy, spiced fruit cake at this time of year. So, instead, they opt for a summer approach to Christmas day dessert, often celebrating with a fruit pavlova instead.
We found it very fascinating to explore all of the various traditional Christmas cakes from across the world. There are lots of others out there, so maybe you might want to try an alternative cake from somewhere else this year or next.