A heavily iced Christmas cake
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British & Commonwealth variations
A Christmas cake may be light or dark, crumbly-moist to sticky-wet, spongy to heavy, leavened or unleavened, shaped round, square or oblong as whole cakes, fairy cakes, or petit fours, with marzipan, icing, glazing, dusting with icing sugar, or plain. If a Christmas cake is covered in icing, it is quite common for it to be decorated - models of houses, of fir trees or of Santa Claus may be in the array of decorations.
A particular favourite of many is the traditional Scottish Christmas cake, the Whisky Dundee. As the name implies, the cake originated in Dundee and is made with Scotch whisky. It is a light and crumbly cake, and light on fruit and candied peel—only currants, raisins, sultanas and cherries. This Christmas cake is particularly good for people who don't like very rich and moist cakes. As with all fruitcakes, the almonds (or other nuts) can be omitted by people who don't like them or those with severe nut allergies.
In the middle of the spectrum is the mincemeat Christmas cake, which is any traditional or vegetarian mincemeat, mixed with flour, eggs, etc., to transform it into a cake batter; or it can also be steamed as a Christmas pudding.
Coins were also occasionally added to Christmas cakes as well as Christmas puddings as good luck touch pieces. The usual choices were silver 3d piece, or sixpences, sometimes wrapped in greaseproof paper packages.
A cake that may also be served at Christmas time in the United Kingdom, in addition to the traditional Christmas cake, is the cake known as a "chocolate log". This is a swiss roll that is coated in chocolate, resembling a log.
Christmas cake in other countries
In the United States, some people give fruitcakes as gifts at Christmastime, but they are not called Christmas cakes. In the neighboring country of Canada, however, such an item is labelled a Christmas cake, at least among the English-speaking majority.
In Japan, Christmas cakes are traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve. They are simply a sponge cake, frosted with whipped cream, often decorated with strawberries, and usually topped with Christmas chocolates or other seasonal fruit.
In the Philippines, Christmas cakes are bright rich yellow pound cakes with macerated nuts or fruitcakes of the British fashion. Both are soaked in copious amounts of brandy or rum mixed with a simple syrup of palm sugar and water. Traditionally, civet musk is added, but rosewater or orange flower water is more common now, as civet musk has become very expensive. These liquor-laden cakes can usually stay fresh for many months provided they are handled properly.
In Italy, Panettone, a sweet sourdough bread with a distinct cupola shape, is traditionally eaten at Christmas. It contains raisins and candied citrus fruit and is prepared meticulously over several days.
In Cyprus, it is served on Christmas Day. It is the first treat the locals serve to their guests. Cypriot Christmas cake is much like the UK equivalent.
Japanese term for an unmarried woman
In Japan, women had traditionally been expected to marry at a young age and those who were unmarried after the age of 25 were sometimes scornfully referred to as Christmas cakes (unsold after the 25th). The term first became popular during the 1980s but has since become passé because contemporary Japanese women often remain unmarried without stigmatization.
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- Tanaka, Yukiko (1995), Contemporary Portraits of Japanese Women (book), p. 24, retrieved January 3, 2013
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