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Nov 22 / Caro

Christmas Cake Wishes

Christmas cake is a tradition in our family. An un-breakable, must-be-made-and-eaten-no-matter-what part of the festive season that features in even my earliest memories of Christmas. I still remember clearly perching on high stool as a child, helping my dad weigh and mix the ingredients, chopping glacĂ© cherries with precision and providing my finger to help tie the knot in the string around the brown-paper clad tin. And I’d remember the rich, spicy smell of it baking forever more, even if for some unimaginable reason we never made it again.

It’s the activity that defined the beginning of winter and every single November, until the year I was 24 and living in Devon, my dad and I liaised on a suitable date and I made a pilgrimage back home to help mix and stir and pour our annual family Christmas cake.

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We’ve always used the same recipe, without so much as a minor alteration in all the years we’ve done it. It comes from the Reader’s Digest Cookery Year. My parents’ battered and well worn copy was (and still is) pulled carefully from the shelf and dusted off for its annual moment of glory. Slipped between the pages to this day is a lined sheet of paper with my ten-or-so year old handwriting carefully listing the reduced quantities for a slightly smaller cake than that called for in the book, and translating the various cooking temperatures from Fahrenheit to Celsius.

It’s such a staple, and such a delicious part of all of my Christmases that obviously it was a tradition that I wanted to carry over to my own little family. To begin with, Ian and I worked from a photocopy of the Cookery Year recipe. Then, a few years ago, we stumbled across a copy of the exact same vintage as my parents on the book stall at a local fete. We snapped it up for fifty pence, and suddenly the experience seemed that much more complete. I added a similar piece of lined paper with the same quantity and temperature adjustments, stickler for tradition that I clearly am.

The Christmas cake has always been made in early November. The year that Thomas was born, I was determined to get it made despite his November due date. I knew it would be an impossible task once I had a newborn to get to know, so the day before I was admitted to hospital to begin the induction process, we made that year’s offering, with heavily pregnant me struggling to reach the bowl to mix. And that year, for the indispensable part of the ritual that sees family members stirring the mixture with their eyes closed as they cast a wish, my wish was obvious: a healthy, happy baby.

That one came true, although romantic as I can be, I acknowledge that it was pretty unlikely to be anything to do with the cake!

Three years have passed and three Christmas cakes made since then. And oddly enough, my wish for each of those years has been exactly the same.

I know it’s supposed to be bad luck to tell. Supposed to mean that it won’t come true. But in my heart of hearts, I know this one won’t come true anyway.

My wish, each year, has of course been for another baby. The first year I simply wished that we would have another happy, healthy baby, still believing then that we could, and would. The second year, already well down the road of infertility investigation, I wished that it would happen soon.

This year, I just wished with all my might that it may happen at all, despite all the wonders of medical science having not made it so.

If only my Christmas cake were as magical as it is delicious, how different things might be. I just wonder if I’ll ever be able to make another wish over the mixing bowl until such time as I reach the menopause.

If you wish hard enough, shouldn’t your dreams come true?

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