Some of you may know, others not, that I worked as a Food Editor of various magazines and newspapers in New Zealand for more than 33 years. I did a 13-year stint at a magazine called MORE and 17 years at Cuisine magazine among other roles, and I was Food Editor of Viva NZ Herald for 5 years and loved it. Writing for a newspaper is different to writing for a magazine. There’s an urgency about it, you can stay topical, and as you don’t have the luxury of time that a magazine offers, you’ve got to be fast and accurate. I continued writing for Cuisine magazine, wrote books, and did weekly Breakfast TV and radio while I did the Viva stint. It was manic, but I thrived. That was when I had ‘littlies’, two children who grew to appreciate good food and in turn have become great cooks. One feature we did included our family ritual of gathering together to stir the Christmas cake ingredients before putting the mixture in the tin. We all made wishes. My wish in all these years has never changed: to keep my family safe and a wish for world peace. I wonder what Ilaria was wishing for in the picture? Probably a new bike from Santa! Remo and Luca are also in the picture (great stirrers!) – Luca in his Ponsonby Intermediate School tee shirt, so I must have nabbed the kids once they came home from school to pose for the photo. I was reminded of all of this last week when I was contacted by a woman called Kate begging for the Christmas cake recipe featured here. She’s made it for years – the article was published in 1999 – but thanks to Covid she couldn’t access the recipe. She told me that for many years she has been making at least a dozen of these Christmas cakes ‘to the delight of even the most cantankerous of old English relatives who have come to love yours and place ‘orders’ as soon as the last morsel is devoured for the next vintage’. She was desperate. I went on a hunt and luckily I had kept the Viva food features so dug those out and found it there. And, yes, there’s nothing like yellowing newsprint to take you down memory lane!
What I like about this story is how a recipe lives on, moving from one family to another as it goes on its journey, making new traditions along the way. And, I thought, what a great idea to make a Christmas cake during Lockdown. We may not all be as generous as Kate who makes dozens of cakes, but one cake to share with family and friends will be most welcome come Christmas. Now’s the time!
PS Kate did remind me that you’ll use every bowl you’ve got in your kitchen to make this cake. Oh well, more for the kids to lick I guess! AND, I know I have not written up the recipe in the usual Shared Kitchen way … hopefully I’ll get that done during the week.