A Calendar of Bakes – An afternoon of cake and history in Cambridge


Happy 1st Birthday to my blog! 

Thank you to everyone following my blog and for the lovely comments on my posts over the last year.  I am really enjoying posting here and look forward to posting more.  I have also recently received a couple of lovely blog related messages on Twitter which was a lovely surprise (oh and on Facebook too..thanks Mum, hehe!!).

My first post on April 29th last year was about The Secluded Tea Party (which has also been the subject of a couple of other posts since too).  It turns out this birthday post is also Secluded Tea Party related! What better way to celebrate my blog birthday than indulge in a nice slice of cake and a cup of tea!

This post might turn out to be quite long, so thank you if you do read the whole post 🙂

A Calendar of Bakes

I attended ‘A Calendar of Bakes’ at the Folk Museum in Cambridge, with cake and tea supplied by the lovely Miss Sue Flay, hostess of The Secluded Tea Party.  It was a truly inspiring afternoon and improved a very miserable, wet, Sunday afternoon!

Our museum hosts begun by giving us a fascinating talk, which took us through a year in cake related history.  Here are a selection of my favourite traditional foods and customs;

First Footing/Black Bun

First Footing is a New Year tradition mainly found in Scotland and the north of England.  Depending on what type of person is the first to enter your house after new year supposedly determines the kind of year you are to expect!.  Naturally they would want a respectable, good-looking, successful type of person walking across their door step, otherwise who knows what bad things would happen that year!  A ‘black bun’ is the traditional cake eaten at this time and is a thick crusted pie filled with fruit.

St Agnes Feast/Dumb Cake

Poor St Agnes was only 13 when she became a martyr to her catholic faith.  St Agnes is said to have loved her faith wholly and vowed never to ‘stain her purity’.  St Agnes refused all suitors and became the patron saint of maidenhood, and is said to be worshipped by young girls who wish to enter the perfect marriage.  St Agnes feast was celebrated on 21st January, maidens hoping for the perfect marriage would abstain from talking and fast all day.  In the evening they would eat a ‘dumb’ cake, with ingredients donated by their friends.  Once the festivities had ended folklore dictated they would dream of that perfect marriage!

Cambridge Fairs

Cambridge is famous for its fairs, one of them being the Stourbridge Fair which was one of the largest fairs of the medieval era.  Gingerbread men/women were one of the most traditional cakes eaten and would be sol by the women.  Eventually the popularity of ginger bread died out and brandy snaps replaced them.  Of course these days it is now sweet treats like candy floss which are most common at fairs.  Interestingly the main sweet maker around that time was Reynolds, whose fruit flavoured rock was also sold at the fairs, apparently the family still run a stall at Cambridge market too!

St Clements Day

I have left my favourite til last!  St Clement is the patron saint of blacksmiths and was celebrated on November 23rd.  However, it was also a day celebrated by bakers and this is what interests me the most.  Cambridge bakers held a feast on this day, for the poor of Cambridge, to celebrate Queen Victoria’s coronation.

The feast was held on Parker’s Piece in Cambridge, with 15000 poor people attending.  Apparently around 4500 loaves were baked for the event! Phew!  The museum has a picture of the event and some other exciting artefacts related to that day.  I am fascinated by this and want to find out more.

After the talk we were invited to take part in a food history trail of the museum, related to what we had just been told.  I visited the folk Museum a few years ago but it was great to look around again.  I have become more interested in history since my last visit so I found myself looking at all the artefacts housed there in a different way.

The subject and the environment have inspired me and there are so many things I would like to research/write about/blog about.  Watch this space!

Last, but not least, we were able to sample Sue’s gorgeous cake creations (yum!), drink tea and chat to fellow guests.  a lovely way to end such an interesting afternoon.

If you are ever in Cambridge take time out to visit the museum, which is situated on Castle Street in Cambridge.  The artefacts are housed in a lovely 17th century timber-framed building, they are set out in rooms which relate to different parts of a house, such as a kitchen for example.  I plan to write a post about the museum in the future.

Hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did attending it 🙂


About Maria Explores...

Blogger and Freelance Writer
This entry was posted in Cambridge, Customs and Traditions, Food and Drink, History and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to A Calendar of Bakes – An afternoon of cake and history in Cambridge

  1. Happy Birthday! How exciting to have finished your first year of blogging. The calendar of bakes sounds fascinating–and yummy! You might be interested in an article I posted yesterday called Victorian Cooking Lessons. I found an old cook book from the 1800’s and recipes are so different from what we see now. One of them that I pictured in the article, is how to make a wedding cake–1800’s style. You might find it interesting. Thanks for writing. I’m off to peruse more of your articles. 🙂 http://wp.me/2iBq4

  2. simone says:

    Happy first birthday, nice seeing you again.

  3. forestfae says:

    Happy blog birthday! 😀

  4. viveka says:

    Happy Birthday – you have done a fantastic job with during this 12 months. Keep going.

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