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Christmas Pepper Cake

Yorkshire, Cleveland, Durham

(or Carol-Singing Pepper Cake, or Carol Cake)

A flattish cake or gingerbread, highly spiced with cloves, served, especially to children, at Christmas and at other festivals.

Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail - Friday 20 December 1878

Brand's popular antiquities of Great Britain of 1905, quoting the 'Cleveland Glossary' of 1888 says that; "Pepper Cakes. - In Yorkshire (Cleveland) the children eat, at the Christmas season, according to Mr. Atkinson, "a kind of gingerbread baked in large and thick cakes, or flat loaves," called pepper-cakes. they are also usual at the birth of a child. "One of these cakes," says Mr. A., "is provided and a cheese; the latter is on a large platter, or dish, and the pepper-cake upon it. The cutting of the Christmas cheese is done by the master of the house on Christmas Eve, and is a ceremony not to be lightly omitted. All comers to the house are invited to partake of the pepper-cake and Christmas cheese."

Modern interpretation of Christmas Pepper Cake
Image: Alex Bray

The 'Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer' for Tuesday 05 January 1954 has; "My correspondent explains that peppercoke not round but oblong and Is usually of a dark colour. Inside and out. “As we In these ports know it,” she says, it never contains fruit. Nor. far one can tell, does It contain any pepper of the kind associated with salt. It is not a cake we housewives make at home. Its most characteristic feature Is its highly glazed top. which flat and bears a slightly raised pattern. my childhood, pepper-cake always had top, in slight relief, a fine cluster Shiny grapes. This time —perhaps because Coronation year—the cake was adorned with a rather grotesque the lion and the unicorn." "

The 'Hull Packet' on Friday 7 January 1870 reported that children at the Sailor's Orphan Home had been provided at Christmas with 78lbs of pepper cake donated by Mr Corney of Whitby.

Original Receipt from the correspondent 'PIPMead' to the YORKSGEN-L Archives, 6 Dec 2000

Pepper Cake

In parts of the North Riding, a sort of parkin was made at Christmas called Pepper Cake, or Carol-Singing Cake. Children would go round the houses singing the rhyme,
A little bit of pepper cake
A little bit of cheese,
A cup of cold water
And a penny if you please.

1 1/2 lb plain flour
1/2 lb butter
1/2 lb soft dark brown sugar
1oz cloves
1 1/2 lb black treacle
4 eggs beaten
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Rub the butter into the flour, stir in the sugar and cloves, then add the treacle, eggs, and bicarbonate of soda mixed with a little milk. Pour the mixture into a large, well greased tin, and bake at 170C for 1 3/4 hours.


Compare with:
Christmas Pepper Cake
Pepper Cake
Westmorland Pepper Cake
Pepper Cake

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