Regency Twelfth Cake!

Twelfth-Cake-with-feathersNicola here. It’s Twelfth Night today, marking the end of the Christmas festivities (assuming that you count the twelve days from Christmas Day. Some traditions start counting on 26th December meaning you can keep partying until the 6th!)

There are a number of different ways in which Twelfth Night has been celebrated through the centuries. In the Georgian period they were keen on baking a special cake to mark the occasion. The Historic Food website has some fascinating information on this.

The earliest printed recipe for an English Twelfth Cake appears to date from 1803 and was Queen for the nightrecorded by John Mollard in his cookery book of that date. Originally the Twelfth Cake contained a pea and a bean and whoever found these in their slice were elected as King and Queen of the Twelfth Night festivities. In the early Victorian period, this tradition developed into “Twelfth Night Cards.” All the guests at the party would be invited to choose a card from a special pack illustrating the different “characters” of Twelfth Night. Along with the King and Queen these might include Sir Bob Bergamot the fop, Fanny Farcical the actress, Priscilla Passion… Well, you can imagine her profession! You then had to act in character for whichever card you had picked until midnight. Allegedly, Queen Victoria eventually banned the Twelfth Night parties for fear they were getting out of hand!

Partying may be banned at present as well but at least we can still eat cake. So if you fancy baking up a slice of Twelfth Cake, the original 1803 recipe is below:

Twelthnight-cakeTake seven pounds of flour, make a cavity in the centre, set a sponge with a gill and a half of yeast and a little warm milk; then put round it one pound of fresh butter broke into small lumps, one pound and a quarter of sifted sugar, four pounds and a half of currants washed and picked, half an ounce of sifted cinnamon, a quarter of an ounce of pounded cloves, mace, and nutmeg mixed, sliced candied orange or lemon peel and citron. When the sponge is risen, mix all the ingredients together with a little warm milk; let the hoops be well papered and buttered, then fill them with the mixture and bake them, and when nearly cold ice them over with sugar prepared for that purpose as per receipt; or they may be plain.

From John Mollard, The Art of Cookery. (London 1803).

There is a more modern recipe on the National Trust website.

Alternatively, you may prefer a different sort of Twelfth Night feast? What would your choice of special sweet or savoury treat be to celebrate the last night of Christmas?

105 thoughts on “Regency Twelfth Cake!”

  1. Cake? Did someone say cake???? Fascinating, Nicola. That recipe sounds like it would make a cake that could sink a ship, or at least a dinghy!
    As to what kind of sweet—hmmm, a classic English trifle with lots of fresh berries and cream. Totally out of season for Twelfth night, of course. *G*

    Reply
  2. Cake? Did someone say cake???? Fascinating, Nicola. That recipe sounds like it would make a cake that could sink a ship, or at least a dinghy!
    As to what kind of sweet—hmmm, a classic English trifle with lots of fresh berries and cream. Totally out of season for Twelfth night, of course. *G*

    Reply
  3. Cake? Did someone say cake???? Fascinating, Nicola. That recipe sounds like it would make a cake that could sink a ship, or at least a dinghy!
    As to what kind of sweet—hmmm, a classic English trifle with lots of fresh berries and cream. Totally out of season for Twelfth night, of course. *G*

    Reply
  4. Cake? Did someone say cake???? Fascinating, Nicola. That recipe sounds like it would make a cake that could sink a ship, or at least a dinghy!
    As to what kind of sweet—hmmm, a classic English trifle with lots of fresh berries and cream. Totally out of season for Twelfth night, of course. *G*

    Reply
  5. Cake? Did someone say cake???? Fascinating, Nicola. That recipe sounds like it would make a cake that could sink a ship, or at least a dinghy!
    As to what kind of sweet—hmmm, a classic English trifle with lots of fresh berries and cream. Totally out of season for Twelfth night, of course. *G*

    Reply
  6. I do believe the cake recipe sounds interesting. I do wonder what is a gill that you put with the sponge. But, if I had a “druther”, I would take a coconut cake or a coconut pie. Do you see a pattern here?
    Or as Mary Jo suggested a trifle. Or ice cream. Or butterscotch pudding. As I have said before, I never met a grain of sugar I did not like.
    I hope everyone is staying well.

    Reply
  7. I do believe the cake recipe sounds interesting. I do wonder what is a gill that you put with the sponge. But, if I had a “druther”, I would take a coconut cake or a coconut pie. Do you see a pattern here?
    Or as Mary Jo suggested a trifle. Or ice cream. Or butterscotch pudding. As I have said before, I never met a grain of sugar I did not like.
    I hope everyone is staying well.

    Reply
  8. I do believe the cake recipe sounds interesting. I do wonder what is a gill that you put with the sponge. But, if I had a “druther”, I would take a coconut cake or a coconut pie. Do you see a pattern here?
    Or as Mary Jo suggested a trifle. Or ice cream. Or butterscotch pudding. As I have said before, I never met a grain of sugar I did not like.
    I hope everyone is staying well.

    Reply
  9. I do believe the cake recipe sounds interesting. I do wonder what is a gill that you put with the sponge. But, if I had a “druther”, I would take a coconut cake or a coconut pie. Do you see a pattern here?
    Or as Mary Jo suggested a trifle. Or ice cream. Or butterscotch pudding. As I have said before, I never met a grain of sugar I did not like.
    I hope everyone is staying well.

    Reply
  10. I do believe the cake recipe sounds interesting. I do wonder what is a gill that you put with the sponge. But, if I had a “druther”, I would take a coconut cake or a coconut pie. Do you see a pattern here?
    Or as Mary Jo suggested a trifle. Or ice cream. Or butterscotch pudding. As I have said before, I never met a grain of sugar I did not like.
    I hope everyone is staying well.

    Reply
  11. My favorite cake is coconut cake with marshmallow icing. One of my father’s first cousins would bring it to our reunions. It would be a fantastic Twelfth Night cake.

    Reply
  12. My favorite cake is coconut cake with marshmallow icing. One of my father’s first cousins would bring it to our reunions. It would be a fantastic Twelfth Night cake.

    Reply
  13. My favorite cake is coconut cake with marshmallow icing. One of my father’s first cousins would bring it to our reunions. It would be a fantastic Twelfth Night cake.

    Reply
  14. My favorite cake is coconut cake with marshmallow icing. One of my father’s first cousins would bring it to our reunions. It would be a fantastic Twelfth Night cake.

    Reply
  15. My favorite cake is coconut cake with marshmallow icing. One of my father’s first cousins would bring it to our reunions. It would be a fantastic Twelfth Night cake.

    Reply
  16. A fascinating post; but not my type of sweet.
    I would prefer an ice crean concoction (yes even in winter) or a fruit pie.

    Reply
  17. A fascinating post; but not my type of sweet.
    I would prefer an ice crean concoction (yes even in winter) or a fruit pie.

    Reply
  18. A fascinating post; but not my type of sweet.
    I would prefer an ice crean concoction (yes even in winter) or a fruit pie.

    Reply
  19. A fascinating post; but not my type of sweet.
    I would prefer an ice crean concoction (yes even in winter) or a fruit pie.

    Reply
  20. A fascinating post; but not my type of sweet.
    I would prefer an ice crean concoction (yes even in winter) or a fruit pie.

    Reply
  21. Well that cake wouldn’t be loaded with calories (says she sarcastically) and all that sweetness would give me a pain just looking at it!!
    I like trifle with non dairy custard and cream (I’m intolerant to dairy).
    Lovely post and love the idea of the card game.

    Reply
  22. Well that cake wouldn’t be loaded with calories (says she sarcastically) and all that sweetness would give me a pain just looking at it!!
    I like trifle with non dairy custard and cream (I’m intolerant to dairy).
    Lovely post and love the idea of the card game.

    Reply
  23. Well that cake wouldn’t be loaded with calories (says she sarcastically) and all that sweetness would give me a pain just looking at it!!
    I like trifle with non dairy custard and cream (I’m intolerant to dairy).
    Lovely post and love the idea of the card game.

    Reply
  24. Well that cake wouldn’t be loaded with calories (says she sarcastically) and all that sweetness would give me a pain just looking at it!!
    I like trifle with non dairy custard and cream (I’m intolerant to dairy).
    Lovely post and love the idea of the card game.

    Reply
  25. Well that cake wouldn’t be loaded with calories (says she sarcastically) and all that sweetness would give me a pain just looking at it!!
    I like trifle with non dairy custard and cream (I’m intolerant to dairy).
    Lovely post and love the idea of the card game.

    Reply
  26. That recipe sounds rather… hefty! Were it or any other treat to show up on my doorstep, I’d be happy to sample. Happy twelfth night!

    Reply
  27. That recipe sounds rather… hefty! Were it or any other treat to show up on my doorstep, I’d be happy to sample. Happy twelfth night!

    Reply
  28. That recipe sounds rather… hefty! Were it or any other treat to show up on my doorstep, I’d be happy to sample. Happy twelfth night!

    Reply
  29. That recipe sounds rather… hefty! Were it or any other treat to show up on my doorstep, I’d be happy to sample. Happy twelfth night!

    Reply
  30. That recipe sounds rather… hefty! Were it or any other treat to show up on my doorstep, I’d be happy to sample. Happy twelfth night!

    Reply
  31. I keep saying I’m going to try baking a yeasted cake, but probably not one this big. Seven pounds of flour is a lot!
    We’re having Twelfth Night Christmas pudding, because we haven’t managed to polish it off yet.

    Reply
  32. I keep saying I’m going to try baking a yeasted cake, but probably not one this big. Seven pounds of flour is a lot!
    We’re having Twelfth Night Christmas pudding, because we haven’t managed to polish it off yet.

    Reply
  33. I keep saying I’m going to try baking a yeasted cake, but probably not one this big. Seven pounds of flour is a lot!
    We’re having Twelfth Night Christmas pudding, because we haven’t managed to polish it off yet.

    Reply
  34. I keep saying I’m going to try baking a yeasted cake, but probably not one this big. Seven pounds of flour is a lot!
    We’re having Twelfth Night Christmas pudding, because we haven’t managed to polish it off yet.

    Reply
  35. I keep saying I’m going to try baking a yeasted cake, but probably not one this big. Seven pounds of flour is a lot!
    We’re having Twelfth Night Christmas pudding, because we haven’t managed to polish it off yet.

    Reply
  36. Annette, a gill is an older unit of measurement. According to Wikipedia, equivalent to about a quarter of a pint. The mega recipe Nicola quotes was probabl a cake for a grand Twelfth Night banquet.

    Reply
  37. Annette, a gill is an older unit of measurement. According to Wikipedia, equivalent to about a quarter of a pint. The mega recipe Nicola quotes was probabl a cake for a grand Twelfth Night banquet.

    Reply
  38. Annette, a gill is an older unit of measurement. According to Wikipedia, equivalent to about a quarter of a pint. The mega recipe Nicola quotes was probabl a cake for a grand Twelfth Night banquet.

    Reply
  39. Annette, a gill is an older unit of measurement. According to Wikipedia, equivalent to about a quarter of a pint. The mega recipe Nicola quotes was probabl a cake for a grand Twelfth Night banquet.

    Reply
  40. Annette, a gill is an older unit of measurement. According to Wikipedia, equivalent to about a quarter of a pint. The mega recipe Nicola quotes was probabl a cake for a grand Twelfth Night banquet.

    Reply
  41. One of my collateral pleasures while communing with only my cat for longer than I care to think about has been ordering foods of the world from Amazon. For the Christmas season, I treated myself to individual mince pies from across the pond. They arrived in time to be spaced out for the whole 12 days of Christmas, and fortunately they’re rich enough that I didn’t glom the lot on the first day. I probably should have also gotten some hard sauce or other traditional embellishment—too late now, but (hopefully) I can do better next Christmas. Anyway, it’s been fun pretending my kitchen is a sailing ship for culinary adventures.

    Reply
  42. One of my collateral pleasures while communing with only my cat for longer than I care to think about has been ordering foods of the world from Amazon. For the Christmas season, I treated myself to individual mince pies from across the pond. They arrived in time to be spaced out for the whole 12 days of Christmas, and fortunately they’re rich enough that I didn’t glom the lot on the first day. I probably should have also gotten some hard sauce or other traditional embellishment—too late now, but (hopefully) I can do better next Christmas. Anyway, it’s been fun pretending my kitchen is a sailing ship for culinary adventures.

    Reply
  43. One of my collateral pleasures while communing with only my cat for longer than I care to think about has been ordering foods of the world from Amazon. For the Christmas season, I treated myself to individual mince pies from across the pond. They arrived in time to be spaced out for the whole 12 days of Christmas, and fortunately they’re rich enough that I didn’t glom the lot on the first day. I probably should have also gotten some hard sauce or other traditional embellishment—too late now, but (hopefully) I can do better next Christmas. Anyway, it’s been fun pretending my kitchen is a sailing ship for culinary adventures.

    Reply
  44. One of my collateral pleasures while communing with only my cat for longer than I care to think about has been ordering foods of the world from Amazon. For the Christmas season, I treated myself to individual mince pies from across the pond. They arrived in time to be spaced out for the whole 12 days of Christmas, and fortunately they’re rich enough that I didn’t glom the lot on the first day. I probably should have also gotten some hard sauce or other traditional embellishment—too late now, but (hopefully) I can do better next Christmas. Anyway, it’s been fun pretending my kitchen is a sailing ship for culinary adventures.

    Reply
  45. One of my collateral pleasures while communing with only my cat for longer than I care to think about has been ordering foods of the world from Amazon. For the Christmas season, I treated myself to individual mince pies from across the pond. They arrived in time to be spaced out for the whole 12 days of Christmas, and fortunately they’re rich enough that I didn’t glom the lot on the first day. I probably should have also gotten some hard sauce or other traditional embellishment—too late now, but (hopefully) I can do better next Christmas. Anyway, it’s been fun pretending my kitchen is a sailing ship for culinary adventures.

    Reply
  46. It does sound heavy going, doesn’t it, Mary Jo! I like the thought of a classic trifle at this time of year – something a bit lighter after all the over-eating at Christmas!

    Reply
  47. It does sound heavy going, doesn’t it, Mary Jo! I like the thought of a classic trifle at this time of year – something a bit lighter after all the over-eating at Christmas!

    Reply
  48. It does sound heavy going, doesn’t it, Mary Jo! I like the thought of a classic trifle at this time of year – something a bit lighter after all the over-eating at Christmas!

    Reply
  49. It does sound heavy going, doesn’t it, Mary Jo! I like the thought of a classic trifle at this time of year – something a bit lighter after all the over-eating at Christmas!

    Reply
  50. It does sound heavy going, doesn’t it, Mary Jo! I like the thought of a classic trifle at this time of year – something a bit lighter after all the over-eating at Christmas!

    Reply
  51. LOL, Annette! Butterscotch pudding sounds divine to me! I thought that a gill was a measurement of something. I vaguely remember it from my childhood when my grandparents still used very old measurements for everything.

    Reply
  52. LOL, Annette! Butterscotch pudding sounds divine to me! I thought that a gill was a measurement of something. I vaguely remember it from my childhood when my grandparents still used very old measurements for everything.

    Reply
  53. LOL, Annette! Butterscotch pudding sounds divine to me! I thought that a gill was a measurement of something. I vaguely remember it from my childhood when my grandparents still used very old measurements for everything.

    Reply
  54. LOL, Annette! Butterscotch pudding sounds divine to me! I thought that a gill was a measurement of something. I vaguely remember it from my childhood when my grandparents still used very old measurements for everything.

    Reply
  55. LOL, Annette! Butterscotch pudding sounds divine to me! I thought that a gill was a measurement of something. I vaguely remember it from my childhood when my grandparents still used very old measurements for everything.

    Reply
  56. Hi Teresa! I thought the card game sounded rather fun as well. You could make up all sorts of interesting characters to act out. Though I can see why Queen Victoria thought it might all be getting a bit too racy!

    Reply
  57. Hi Teresa! I thought the card game sounded rather fun as well. You could make up all sorts of interesting characters to act out. Though I can see why Queen Victoria thought it might all be getting a bit too racy!

    Reply
  58. Hi Teresa! I thought the card game sounded rather fun as well. You could make up all sorts of interesting characters to act out. Though I can see why Queen Victoria thought it might all be getting a bit too racy!

    Reply
  59. Hi Teresa! I thought the card game sounded rather fun as well. You could make up all sorts of interesting characters to act out. Though I can see why Queen Victoria thought it might all be getting a bit too racy!

    Reply
  60. Hi Teresa! I thought the card game sounded rather fun as well. You could make up all sorts of interesting characters to act out. Though I can see why Queen Victoria thought it might all be getting a bit too racy!

    Reply
  61. Oh, how interesting, Mary! I do think Lockdown has inspired a lot of different baking/cooking/eating ideas. This week I’m trying semolina chips with a spicy dip and salad. New to me, anyway. Enjoy your culinary adventures!

    Reply
  62. Oh, how interesting, Mary! I do think Lockdown has inspired a lot of different baking/cooking/eating ideas. This week I’m trying semolina chips with a spicy dip and salad. New to me, anyway. Enjoy your culinary adventures!

    Reply
  63. Oh, how interesting, Mary! I do think Lockdown has inspired a lot of different baking/cooking/eating ideas. This week I’m trying semolina chips with a spicy dip and salad. New to me, anyway. Enjoy your culinary adventures!

    Reply
  64. Oh, how interesting, Mary! I do think Lockdown has inspired a lot of different baking/cooking/eating ideas. This week I’m trying semolina chips with a spicy dip and salad. New to me, anyway. Enjoy your culinary adventures!

    Reply
  65. Oh, how interesting, Mary! I do think Lockdown has inspired a lot of different baking/cooking/eating ideas. This week I’m trying semolina chips with a spicy dip and salad. New to me, anyway. Enjoy your culinary adventures!

    Reply
  66. That recipes appears to be something like a yeasted fruit cake, such as stollen or panettone, but that’s an awful lot of currents, and the eggs seem to be missing.
    I have done more than my share of baking this past year. The Australian recipe for orange almond cake that Anne Gracie linked to was a huge hit, I’ve made it several times. It’s also lovely enough for the fanciest company. Even my husband who is not much of a sweets eater loves it!

    Reply
  67. That recipes appears to be something like a yeasted fruit cake, such as stollen or panettone, but that’s an awful lot of currents, and the eggs seem to be missing.
    I have done more than my share of baking this past year. The Australian recipe for orange almond cake that Anne Gracie linked to was a huge hit, I’ve made it several times. It’s also lovely enough for the fanciest company. Even my husband who is not much of a sweets eater loves it!

    Reply
  68. That recipes appears to be something like a yeasted fruit cake, such as stollen or panettone, but that’s an awful lot of currents, and the eggs seem to be missing.
    I have done more than my share of baking this past year. The Australian recipe for orange almond cake that Anne Gracie linked to was a huge hit, I’ve made it several times. It’s also lovely enough for the fanciest company. Even my husband who is not much of a sweets eater loves it!

    Reply
  69. That recipes appears to be something like a yeasted fruit cake, such as stollen or panettone, but that’s an awful lot of currents, and the eggs seem to be missing.
    I have done more than my share of baking this past year. The Australian recipe for orange almond cake that Anne Gracie linked to was a huge hit, I’ve made it several times. It’s also lovely enough for the fanciest company. Even my husband who is not much of a sweets eater loves it!

    Reply
  70. That recipes appears to be something like a yeasted fruit cake, such as stollen or panettone, but that’s an awful lot of currents, and the eggs seem to be missing.
    I have done more than my share of baking this past year. The Australian recipe for orange almond cake that Anne Gracie linked to was a huge hit, I’ve made it several times. It’s also lovely enough for the fanciest company. Even my husband who is not much of a sweets eater loves it!

    Reply
  71. The orange almond cake is divine and I would far rather have that than the rather heavy 12th cake. Thank goodness we can adapt our own celebrations!

    Reply
  72. The orange almond cake is divine and I would far rather have that than the rather heavy 12th cake. Thank goodness we can adapt our own celebrations!

    Reply
  73. The orange almond cake is divine and I would far rather have that than the rather heavy 12th cake. Thank goodness we can adapt our own celebrations!

    Reply
  74. The orange almond cake is divine and I would far rather have that than the rather heavy 12th cake. Thank goodness we can adapt our own celebrations!

    Reply
  75. The orange almond cake is divine and I would far rather have that than the rather heavy 12th cake. Thank goodness we can adapt our own celebrations!

    Reply
  76. I always organise a last-minute party (so that no-one including me has to do much preparation and the guest-list is self-limiting). Everyone is instructed to bring any leftover Christmas candy and a paragraph or two from books they’d enjoyed in the past year to read aloud.

    Reply
  77. I always organise a last-minute party (so that no-one including me has to do much preparation and the guest-list is self-limiting). Everyone is instructed to bring any leftover Christmas candy and a paragraph or two from books they’d enjoyed in the past year to read aloud.

    Reply
  78. I always organise a last-minute party (so that no-one including me has to do much preparation and the guest-list is self-limiting). Everyone is instructed to bring any leftover Christmas candy and a paragraph or two from books they’d enjoyed in the past year to read aloud.

    Reply
  79. I always organise a last-minute party (so that no-one including me has to do much preparation and the guest-list is self-limiting). Everyone is instructed to bring any leftover Christmas candy and a paragraph or two from books they’d enjoyed in the past year to read aloud.

    Reply
  80. I always organise a last-minute party (so that no-one including me has to do much preparation and the guest-list is self-limiting). Everyone is instructed to bring any leftover Christmas candy and a paragraph or two from books they’d enjoyed in the past year to read aloud.

    Reply

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