Do you recollect whether the Manydown family sent about their wedding cake? Mrs. Dundas has set her heart 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.
Jane Austen to Cassandra
October 13, 1808
Plum cake, (a misnomer, since no actual plums were used) was the highlight of special occasions during the Georgian and Regency Eras. Often served at weddings, it was also the traditional cake served during the Christmas season. This cake, though, was not a Christmas Cake, but a Twelfth Night Cake, and differed from its matrimonial cousin by the inclusion of a dried bean and sometimes a dried pea baked into the batter.
The Twelfth Night cake was made with dried fruits in season and spices. According to Maria Hubert, author of Jane Austen’s Christmas, “These represented the exotic spices of the East, and the gifts of the Wise Men . Such things were first brought to Europe and Britain particularly, by the Crusaders coming back from the wars in the Holy Land in the 12th century…Twelfth night is on the 5th January, and has been for centuries the traditional last day of the Christmas season. It was a time for having a great feast, and the cake was an essential part of the festivities.
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