12 days of Christmas in cakes

For the past twelve years I’ve been making a Christmas Cake. they don’t really follow a recipe except that they are heavy and dark with fruit and nuts bound together with a bit of cake mixture and soaked in whatever alcohol that comes to hand. The cake is so good, rich and well-preserved that we nibble through it slowly having tiny slithers at a time.  We can go on treating ourselves to the occasional slice of Christmas cake right into summer time.

Partridge in a pear tree copy

2001 – A Partridge in a Pear Tree.

This year my cake was mostly made of fruit and nuts that passed the sell by date six years before. After my mother died we discovered a stash that she must have bought when she’d still been able to make cakes. However with her dementia and my father’s reluctance to explore the back of his kitchen cupboards, it had gone unopened and undetected.  I was on the verge of committing it all to the bin, had it not been the instinct of  my mum’s wartime frugality that stopped me. I’d chuck it out, I decided,  if, after investigating, it wasn’t fit to eat.  Walnuts don’t age well so they went into the compost bin; the hazelnuts were a little stale but edible; the fruit more shrivelled and dry. All were treated to a 24 hour soak in orange juice, port and brandy and emerged fat, plump and very sozzled. Ultimately a head start.

Each cake’s decoration has followed the 12 Days of Christmas as a theme….but now I’ve just finished with the “12 Drummers Drumming” one, what’s next?

Here’s the full set of my 12 cakes. Never before all seen together (how could they since they’ve all been eaten!) My first, the Partridge one was always my favourite.

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” is a cumulative song meaning that each verse is built on top of the previous verses. There are twelve verses, each describing a gift given by “my true love” on one of the twelve days of Christmas.

…and so forth, until the last verse:

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

12 Drummers Drumming

11 Pipers Piping

10 Lords-a-Leaping

9 Ladies Dancing

8 Maids-a-Milking

7 Swans-a-Swimming

6  Geese-a-Laying

5 Gold Rings

4 Calling Birds

3  French Hens

2 Turtle Doves

…And a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

Two turtle doves

2002 – 2 Turtle Doves


2003 – 3 French Hens


2004 – 4 Calling Birds


2005 – 5 Gold Rings

December 2006 - March 2007 028

2006 – 6 Geese-a-Laying


2007 – 7 Swans-a-Swimming


2008 – 8 Maids-a-Milking


2009 – 9 Ladies Dancing


2010 – 10 Lords-a-Leaping


2011 – 11 Pipers Piping


2012 – 12 Drummers Drumming

4 thoughts on “12 days of Christmas in cakes

  1. Did you really ice these yourself? I’m in awe. I made my first this year, and kept it simple, but now I feel inspired!

    • I started painting on cakes with food colouring, Kirstie, because I don’t possess a steady enough hand to do fancy icing. The first was my youngest son’s Christening cake which got me inspired.It was an experiment that worked. My parents’ Gold Wedding Cakes have been among my favourites…but sadly I don’t have time to do them properly anymore.

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