Cambridge Edition December 2019

F I TZB I L L I ES 100

IMAGES Above; The Fitzbillies book, just in time to get baking for Christmas; Left, the festive window display that’s destined to make your mouth water

cakes and puddings in the quiet of September. They benefit from a slow and contemplative baking process, followed by a period of maturation, and the cakes also need regular feeding with alcohol. When term ends early in December, we can get down to some serious preparation: the Christmas cakes get their last shot of rum and are topped with marzipan and icing. Then begins the madness of the mince pie marathon. All leave is cancelled, every baker –plus as many other members of staff as are deemed competent – crowd round the giant tables in the bakery and, with the sort of production line that would make Henry Ford turn in his grave, produce thousands of the most delectable mince pies you will ever eat. They have been called ‘sublime’, ‘heavenly’, ‘addictive’… one of our more irreverent young bakers once dubbed them ‘Cambridge crack’. This is also the time of year when meringue snowmen start appearing in the shop. We think they might be related to the meringue ghosts that appear around Halloween, but nobody is sure. It’s a strange thing. We never plan the snowmen, there’s no ‘launch date’ or particular fanfare. The first Christmas after we took over the business, the snowmen arrived as if of their own volition, as they apparently always have, and every year since they’ve done the same. At this time of year, we also make our spectacular decorated Genoa cake and the very popular gingerbread. Why not have a go yourself – we’ve got the recipes for both over the page.

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