Thursday, January 7, 2016

12th Night - England's wildly popular cakes & a few naughty boys



Twelfth Night in London streets” from The Book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour 1836

By the early 19C, the Twelfth Night cake had evolved into a large & complicated display of cake, icing, & other embellishments. Bakeries displayed these models of the confectioner's art in their windows, & people gathered outside to admire them. The playful atmosphere of Twelfth Night may have encouraged schoolboys to carry out a Twelfth Night prank. Unnoticed among the throng of cake-admirers, they pinned the clothing of two adults together or nailed a gentleman's coattails to the windowsill. Then they stood back & enjoyed the confusion that arose when the pinned & nailed individuals attempted to leave the bakery window. 


George Cruikshanks Comic Almanac Exitement outside the pastry cook & confectioners shop window as people view the 12th night cakes

The tradition of cakes on Twelfth Night was so strong, that it became the busiest day of the year for bakers, as related in this 1827 extract from William Hone's Every-Day Book,
"In London, with every pastry-cook in the city, and at the west end of the town, it is 'high change' on Twelfth-Day.  From the taking down of the shutters in the morning, he, and his men, with additional assistants, male and female, are fully occupied by attending to the dressing out of the window, executing orders of the day before, receiving fresh ones, or supplying the wants of chance customers.  Before dusk the important arrangement of the window is completed.  Then the gas is turned on, with supernumerary argand-lamps and manifold wax lights to illuminate countless cakes of all prices and dimensions, that stand in rows and piles on the counters and sideboards, and in the windows.  The richest in flavour and the heaviest in weight and price are placed on large....salvers; ..... all are decorated with all imaginable images of things animate and inanimate.  Stars, castles, kings, cottages, dragons, trees, fish, palaces, cats, dogs, churches, lions, milkmaids, knights, serpents, and innumerable other forms, in snow-white confectionary, painted with varigated colours, glittering by 'excess of light' reflected from mirrors against the walls."


The Every-day Book, 1827, Naughty Boys


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