St Catherine’s Day,
Today, the 25th November is St Catherine’s Day ~ in the UK it is a special day for lace makers whilst in France it is special day for young unmarried women. In France on St Catherine’s Day, young unmarried women are encouraged to pray for a husband ~ these young women are called “Catherinettes” (what a truly wonderful name) and as well as the special name, family and friends make them outlandish and rakish hats in vivid colours such as yellow (for faith) and green (for wisdom), these hats are then worn all day as a “crown” of their spinsterhood. The Millinery trade in France has also chosen this day to show off their latest hat designs, with more than a passing nod to the nation’s unmarried hat-wearing young ladies!
Whilst the French ladies are busily praying for a husband, in the UK our Lace Makers are celebrating their Saint’s Day and “Cattern Cakes” are the speciality of the day; “Cattern cakes” are spiced with cinnamon, lightly fruited and flavoured with caraway seeds; they were traditionally made by the English Nottingham lace makers for the festivities on their special feast day. The recipe goes back to Tudor times and has changed little over the centuries, although they are sometimes made with yeasted dough. Also known as Catherine Cakes, after Catherine of Aragon, whom whilst imprisoned locally at Ampthill, heard of the lacemaker’s financial plight and destroyed all of her lace only to commission some more and give work to the local industry.
Cattern Cakes are still specially prepared for St. Catherine’s Day in the UK by Lace makers for their special day, and are traditionally washed down with Hot Pot – a hot mixture of rum, beer and eggs. However, I find that I prefer mine with a cup of tea! These delicious little cakes are more like a soft and slightly chewy biscuit or cookie and I find the addition of caraway very refreshing, but then I love seed cake.
|Bobbin Lace made from 100% linen thread|
The following recipe was taken from my favourite book of all times, Cattern Cakes and Lace ~ a wonderful book celebrating the passing feasts and festivals throughout the British year. St Catherine, by the way, is the patron Saint of spinners, lace-makers, rope-makers and spinsters ~ hence the festivities I have written about being associated with her name.
See you later and if you are unmarried, don’t forget your hat!
(Makes 12 cakes/biscuits)
- 9 ounces self raising flour
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 ounces currants
- 2 ounces ground almonds
- 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
- 6 ounces caster sugar
- 4 ounces melted butter
- 1 medium eggs, beaten
- extra sugar, for sprinkling
- extra cinnamon, for sprinkling
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl: flour, cinnamon, currants, ground almonds, caraway seeds and sugar.
Add the melted butter and the beaten egg and mix well to give a soft dough.
Roll the dough out on a floured board, into a rectangle about 12″ x 10″ – 30cm x 25cm.
Brush the dough with water and sprinkle with the extra sugar and cinnamon to taste.
Gently roll the dough up like a Swiss roll, not too tightly, and then cut the rolled up dough into 3/4″ – 2cm slices.
Place these slices on to a well greased and lined baking tray or biscuit/cookie sheet, making sure that they are spaced well apart.
Bake in a pre-heated oven 200C/400F/Gas 6 for about 10 minutes, or until golden and crispy to the top.
Allow the cattern cakes to cool on a wire rack. Sprinkle with extra caraway seeds, sugar and cinnamon if you like.
Store in an airtight tin for up to 7 days.
Lace BobbinsHistorical notes: