Peggy Etchell got us started with Christmas cakes in 1994. I was convening the Christmas Fair in 1994 when Peggy came to me with the idea and it grew from there. I had never made Christmas cakes but remembered my aunt making them and knew they could be tricky to get just right.
Charlie and Peggy would get the supplies from Weigh To Go and Stongs initially donated the 25 oranges. Butter and brown sugar were bought at Costco by Faye Lighthall. We gathered in my kitchen to divide the ingredients and prepare the pans. Charlie did all the lifting and carrying of the raisins etc. and brought the cakes to the church the day of the fair. If John was home the night we divided the ingredients, he would get involved and grind the oranges in our food processor.
Peggy asked her friends in the Jones girls if they would loan us their pans and many of them donated their pans. These have been well guarded over the years. Peggy also gathered ice cream buckets and we made sure to get them and the pans back after the fair. We stored them in one of the cupboards near the entrance to Tom Thumb preschool.
That first year Peggy also made Christmas puddings but that was the only year there were puddings. We got together and wrapped the cakes at her house the week before the Fair. The second year we got together at Louise Brooks' home to wrap the cakes. Louise is a friend of mine and her dad Allan Brooks was a parishioner at St. Philip’s for many years. After that we just asked people to cut and wrap the cakes they made.
We started out making 25 (8 in sq.) cakes and most of them sold before the fair through pre-orders. This was frustrating for the people who came to the fair looking for Christmas cake. One year I decided we would only take orders for half the amount we baked. We still ran out of cakes well before the fair was over. Then I decided we should double up and make 50 (8in sq,) cakes. This went very well and increased our revenues. I often made several cakes.
There are people who come to our fair every year to buy our cake. I know one woman who comes to get our cake because it is her Dad’s favourite and he told her it “makes his Christmas”. There is another woman who comes specifically to get a nut free cake. Others keep coming back because it is a home made cake which they prefer to the cakes available in grocery stores. The Jones girls buy one and one half (8 in sq.) cakes to give to the clergy.
We know it was a wartime recipe because it came from Lil Simpson whose family cut the recipe out of the newspaper during WWII, I believe. She gave the recipe to Peggy.
The year we wrapped the cakes at Louise’s we decided to store some of the cakes in the Totem Room Kitchen on top of the cupboards. Peggy came to me one day and said the cakes had disappeared. We had no idea where they could be, but they were found before the fair. I can’t remember where they were found.
Gathering in my kitchen to divide the ingredients started off my Christmas preparations and I loved the smell that permeated my kitchen when the cakes were baking.