tidings of comfort & joy!

This week is extremely busy. The oven seems to be on most of every day, and the cakes and pastries are tumbling out of their pans. All my deliveries will have been made by Friday afternoon and by Friday evening I’m ready to put my feet up and fortify myself for the tasks on Christmas Eve which include decorating our Christmas cake. It is in these quiet moments, when the house is still and the neighbourhood hushed that my mind skims over the number of Christmas cakes I have eaten (and baked) in my life.

I am particularly fond of baking Christmas cakes because it brings back memories of being up late with my mum in the kitchen decorating our family Christmas cake. The house would be quiet at last (just like the Clement Clarke Moore poem) and we would  speak to each other in whispers  so as not to wake my younger siblings who could stir at any moment. All the lights would be off except for those in the kitchen which made our activity seem more intimate and magical.

The same decorations were used on the cake year after year. Mum would pull up a stool to reach the highest cupboard and retrieve the old biscuit tin which held them. There was a little old house with a red roof (who could have lived there?), a green bottle brush tree dusted with white to suggest recent snowfall and a small chalk figurine whose painted features had worn away with time. Royal icing was made with egg whites and sugar, whipped by hand  and then spread over the cake like snow drifts. My job was to help place the decorations on the cake and make ‘footprints’ in the snow leading to the front door. That the scale was all wrong between the house, the tree and the small figurine meant nothing to me. I wanted these nights in the kitchen with my mum, warm from the fire and the smell of Christmas cake, to go on forever.

The tree, the house and the figurine are long gone. And so has my mum. But every Christmas Eve, when I’m decorating my cake and the lights are low and the house is quiet, my memories of her and Christmas cake bring me great tidings of comfort and joy.

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