Traditionally the Christmas cake was made up to a year in advance and was stored away until Christmas. Brandy was essential to prevent the well wrapped cake from going mouldy or drying out. I think everyone who walked into the kitchen while it was being cooked put a slosh of brandy in the cake mixture, just in case it was forgotten.
A cake we sent to Kevin in the Sudan had to survive several months at sea and was baked in the roasting dish. It had at least one bottle of brandy in it, if not two. By all accounts it arrived in excellent condition. Careful portion control and keeping it away from naked flames saw it last several months under the hot Africa skies.
From a cookbook hand written by Rom’s mother, Dorothy Bennett. Over the years other recipes were added. Deirdre McPharlan worked with Rom at the national library and was a dear friend. It could be her hand.
Of all Rom’s recipes, this is the one that I was most “deflated” to learn was from the Manawatu Evening Standard. I imagined, not unreasonably, that “Gran’s Ginger Bread” would be just that. Handed down across the generations from time immemorial. But no, my illusions were shattered when, at the tender age of 45, I first laid eyes on the recipe.
The very first recipe in a cookbook hand written by Rom’s mother, Dorothy Bennett.
These can be cut into different shaped biscuits and used as Christmas tree decorations. To do this, cut a hole in the baked biscuits while they are still hot. Leave to cool on a wire rack. When cool, thread through green and red ribbons and tie on to the Christmas tree.
To this day I have no idea how these bite sized loaves of ginger wonderfulness keep in the cupboard. Rom had to fight us back just to allow them to cool from the oven. Personally I think they are at their best steaming and hot from the oven with a dob of butter, or raspberry jam, or icecream melting over the moist interior.