~Tea in the Parlour ~
Little Chocolate & Violet Fancies
~ Happy Mother’s Day to my Mum ~
Of all the British holidays, feast days and celebrations, this is one of my favourites – not only does it give me the chance to visit and treat my mum, but it also heralds the beginning of spring. I love the traditions that are connected with this old-established celebration; a great excuse for going “home” with home-made cards, posies of spring flowers, chocolates and maybe even a Simnel cake.
Young girls (and boys) in service were often allowed to make a Simnel cake (donated from the ingredients in the kitchens where they worked) and take the cake home as a gift for their mothers; even better than that, they were often given the day off (or half day) to visit their families – a rare treat, as many of them did not see their families for months at a time, and sometimes only once a year. The traditional flowers associated with this lovely day are primroses and violets – and bunches of these wild flowers often accompanied the cake; what a wonderful old-fashioned tradition, and one that I hope we can all try to keep alive in these modern times of hustle and bustle, and supermarket bouquets. I notice that these shy little spring flowers are making an appearance again in some florists and supermarkets, and there is something wonderfully quaint and quintessentially British about these dainty little Victorian style posies or Medieval Tussy Mussies.
Mothering Sunday as we know it now, was originally (in Medieval times) the day you went home to visit your “mother church”, the cathedral of your diocese. It was only in the mid 17th century that the idea of putting aside this special a day to honour your “human” mothers came into practice. One reason may be that it became confused with Lady Day, which was held on the 25th March, a day that celebrates the Mother of God, a date that was close to the 4th Sunday in Lent, Mothering Sunday. Mothering Sunday was also known as “Refreshment Sunday”, alluding to the fact that fasting for lent was relaxed for this day, a biblical reference to honour the feeding the five thousand with only five small barley loaves and two fish by Jesus (John 6:10-12). However, what a great treat in the midst of fasting, to have your cake and eat it!
Simnel cakes are associated more with Easter nowadays, but they are the original Mothering Sunday cake; rich fruit cake baked with a marzipan layer through the middle and with a toasted marzipan topping. The Easter version is often decorated with 11 small marzipan balls to represent the eleven apostles, minus Judas of course, a Victorian tradition. The name Simnel probably comes from the Latin word simila, which means fine wheat flour that is usually used for baking a cake. Although, common legend has it that a man called Simon and his wife Nell argued over whether the cake for Mothering Sunday should be baked or boiled. In the end they did both, so the cake was named after both of them: SIM-NELL.
Although I have made my mother a Simnel cake on numerous occasions in the past, this year I have made her some lovely little Chocolate and Violet Fancies – little cakes that are adorned with crystallised violets – a wonderful change but still special enough to make your mum smile I am sure…….so here you are Mum, Happy Mother’s Day and here’s some cakes for your special day! I will see you all later, with more treats and new recipes, have a wonderful Mothering Sunday, Karen.