My beloved paternal grandmother, Nan, had popped her mother’s recipes for our Wallace family Christmas cake and pudding into my wedding gift in October and I’d started marinating the various dried fruits in brandy in a large jar immediately.
As a wee girl, I loved nothing more than ‘helping’ Nan with any cooking project but the Christmas baking preparations were extra special. Each of her 11 children received a cake and a pudding every year as part of their Christmas gift package, plus Nan always made a huge cake and pudding for Christmas day, making for a few busy baking days.
We started baking very early, as the sun was just peeping through the stands of eucalypts around the ‘home’ paddocks, gradually warming the backs of the Hereford cattle awaiting branding that day. Nan made a pot of tea as we both donned aprons, gathered bowls of various sizes plus the many kitchen implements we’d need during our baking marathon.
Today my kitchen is filled with the same aromas and my nasal senses are drawing me back to Nan’s rural farmhouse as I repeat, step by step, the skills I learned as a pre-schooler standing on a stool beside Nan.
“Just cream the butter and brown sugar together, Annie” she’d say as my little arms beat the mixture enthusiastically with the wooden spoon. “Now you can crack each egg and add it to the mixture.” Patiently, she let me muddle my small way through the cake-making process, always ending with stirring at the end, while making a wish, before licking the bowl once the mixture was in the cake tins and placed inside the Aga stove’s ovens.
Next Tuesday I am planning to introduce my daughter-in-law into the secrets of the Wallace clan’s Christmas cake and, in a year or two, I’ll include Toby, my grandson, in my family tradition. Stacey will take one of the cakes up to Brisbane when her family gather on Christmas day, thereby completing a family heritage circle.
What family traditions have been passed on through your family?