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A cynical, outdated Japanese expression for unmarried women older than 24. As little as 20 years ago, it was expected of a Japanese woman to marry before that age. If she didn't, something was wrong with her, and she probably would end up an old maid - like a cake made specially for Christmas, for which there is little demand after December 24th.

Nowadays, the average age of marriage among Japanese women has risen to 26 years (as of 1995), and marriage at an early age is not anymore considered quite as important.

One thing I have never been able to do is stick to a recipe - I feel that a recipe makes a good guide, but I tend to adapt any that come my way. The recipe below is equally adaptable - try to keep the proportions roughly the same but add or subtract ingredients according to preference.

Christmas cake is a rich, moist fruit cake, best made a couple of months before Christmas to allow it to mature.
Actually, the most important reason to make it in advance is so that you can 'feed' it weekly with a good dose of brandy, whisky, Cointreau - or whatever else takes your fancy :-)

Ingredients - enough to make an 8 or 9 inch round cake

Method

  1. Soak the dried fruit, peel and nuts in the orange juice and brandy overnight
  2. Line base and sides of an 8" round tin with a double layer of greased greaseproof paper or parchment paper so that it comes about 1" above the top of the tin
  3. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  4. Beat the eggs into this a little at a time
  5. Stir in the treacle
  6. Fold in the flour, spices and rest of ingredients
  7. Put into cake tin, level off the top then slightly depress the centre
  8. Bake in a preheated oven - 140°C/275°F or Gas mark 1 for around 5 hours. To check if it's done insert a skewer - when done the skewer comes out clean and dry with no sticky bits on it.
  9. Allow to cool in the tin before removing
  10. Feed with a couple of tablespoons of your favourite tipple before wrapping.
  11. Store in a cool place, unwrapping and feeding on a weekly basis until a few days before Christmas

Christmas cake is usually covered with a layer of marzipan before icing/frosting and then eaten at leisure. It stores well if you can make it last that long.

According to wertperch it is best eaten with a good hard cheese - most people prefer to eat it with a nice cup of tea or coffee!

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