Friday, December 4, 2015

Countdown to Christmas 22 - Cake Banned!

It is difficult to imagine that the Christmas Cake, the rich fruit cake we love, could ever have been banned by law!  By the 18th century in Europe, fruit cakes contained nuts from the harvest for good luck  and they subsequently became very popular . It had become a common practice to save the cooked cakes  and eat them  before the harvest of the following year.  These cakes, then called plum cakes,  were considered "sinfully rich" and a law was passed outlawing  the consumption of fruit cake in Europe, except at Christmas and weddings and on  a few very special holidays.

In Jane Austen's novel, Emma, Mr Woodhouse was appalled that such rich food as fruit cake could be consumed, and in his own house! He did his utmost to ban the serving of the cake, and then when his efforts were in vain, attempted to dissuade anyone from eating it. However,we learn of the significance of  the rare fruit cake in English society from Jane Austen herself who wrote to Cassandra, from Castle Square on Friday October 7th, 1808:
"Do you recollect whether the Manydown family sent about their wedding cake? Mrs Dundas has her heart set upon having a piece from her friend Catherine, and Martha who knows what importance she attaches to this sort of thing , is anxious for the sake of both that there should not be a disappointment" from

 Fortunately, later in the 19th century, the  fruit cake was back in favour.   Between 1837 and 1901, the fruit cake reached its height of  popularity.  A "Victorian" tea would not be complete without the inclusion of fruit cake to its spread. However, Queen Victoria is said to have waited a year to eat a fruit cake she received because she felt it showed restraint, moderation and good taste, so it appears that she was "not amused" but complied with the ban deeming fruit cake to be decadent and sinful.
More recently, there have been other bans on fruit cake... Earlier this year in England, the Women's Institute  (a bit like our CWA in Australia) was banned from serving their award winning recipe fruit cake in Albert Hall to their 5,000 members attending a major event.
It’s been a gargantuan undertaking, even by the formidable standards of the Women’s Institute. For days on end, two of its members slaved away baking enough cakes to feed 5,000 women attending the WI’s centenary celebrations at the Royal Albert Hall in June. But the WI has now been told it must pay the venue thousands of pounds to serve the cakes.
WI member preparing to cook fruit cake for 5,000 conference delegates 

 The Women's Institute was asked to pay 2,500 pounds because they named the donors of the ingredients on the cardboard boxes holding the slices of cake as Albert Hall has an additional fee for promoting a commercial product within the hall.They refused to pay, and the ban on the fruit cake was decreed.  Never underestimate the problem solving skills of women - all the delegates received a piece of fruit cake outside the hall on their way home.

 This ban by some airlines on including fruitcake in one's luggage disturbed me, especially as I often receive my Christmas cakes via visiting relatives. In the wake of terrorist attacks in 2001 in USA, the Canadian Air Transport Security authority added fruitcake to its list of banned items in luggage. I checked other airline websites, and there is a mention that cakes may require additional inspections and checks. The warning from the website of Transport Canada  suggests that the density of fruit cake makes them difficult to identify when they are scanned.
Holiday travellers packing one of the season's traditional fruitcakes had better hope their journey's short... festive confections are not welcome on the nation's airplanes. The ban is not , as one might suspect the punchline to a joke that old dried out fruit cakes make lethal weapons .... the otherwise innocent cake could prompt unnecessary security alerts and subsequent delays.

Who would have thought the Christmas fruit cake could be named a "banned substance"?

PS In tomorrow's post, I will enlighten you about a fruit cake sporting event. .

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