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The Peacock's Tale

The Peacock's Tales

When working with vintage materials I often wonder about the people who originally owned them; daydreaming whilst embroidering is the best way to spend a couple of hours!  I'm fascinated by our folk heritage; ancient traditions, customs, songs and tales reflecting a way of life that has all but disappeared, even from our collective memory.  In The Peacock’s Tales I'd like to celebrate those connections to our past and revel in the seasonality they often reflect.  Do share your stories too; it would be wonderful to hear from you.

Stirring Up Glorious Ginger

By Vivien Massery, Nov 22 2015 10:41AM

Today is Stir Up Sunday, the Sunday before Advent. In the Anglican Church the collect for the day begins "Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord...", hence the name. "It warns the Sussex housewife of the approach of Christmas, and to commence to "stir-up" her plum pudding, and tells the grocer to stock his shop-window with Christmas fruits for sale", so says the Sussex Archaelogical Collections of 1883.


I've never made a Christmas Pudding but I do like to make my own mincemeat and Christmas cake and so my Stir-up Sunday usually involves bags of raisins, sultanas, suet, citrus rinds, brown sugar and copious amounts of brandy. However this year I thought I'd look back to earlier times, a Medieval Christmas, and forgo the mincemeat and fruit cake for a beautifully fragrant and rich gingerbread; a proper gingerbread full of ground ginger, stem ginger and all the other wonderful spices that signify Christmas and it'll be made a little nearer the time. So today, to get in the mood and to mark Stir-up Sunday I'm going to make my Aunty Glad's Ginger Cake; comforting, sticky, delicious and redolent of childhood Sunday afternoon teas in a tiny cottage in Cefn-y-Bedd in North Wales. And, in case you'd like to bake your own gingery goodness, here is the recipe:


Aunty Glad's Ginger Cake

275g (10oz) self raising flour

1 level teaspoon salt

2 level teaspoons cinnamon

1 1/2 level teaspoons ground ginger

1/2 level teaspoon nutmeg

225g (8oz ) demerara sugar

175g (6oz) melted trex (a solid vegetable product for baking)

225g (8oz) black treacle

2 beaten eggs

150ml (1/4 pint) of milk

75g (3oz) sultanas


Grease and line a deep 7" (19cm) cake tin and preheat oven to Gas mark 3, 170 C


Sift together the flour, salt and spices and stir in the sugar. Add the melted trex, treacle and beaten eggs. Beat well then add the milk and sultanas. Pour into the cake tin and bake for one and a half hours or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.


And whether you're making mincemeat, puddings or cake don't forget the most important thing, everybody in the family gets to stir the mixture and make a wish! Now what am I going to wish for......



Stir up, we beseech thee,

The pudding in the pot,

And when we get home,

We'll eat it all hot.

(Children's old rhyme)



6 comments
Nov 29 2015 05:25PM by Eliza Boaz

Really interesting, mincemeat and Christmas pud are beyond me but I'll give that recipe a try! Can't wait til your next post ��

Dec 17 2015 03:40PM by Darrell

Ooooohh - how thrilling to now have some of Vivien Massery favorite recipes, now too!!! Thank you... love your webpage, stories, crafts and posts. It brings simple beauty back into a restless and weary world.

Dec 23 2015 04:11AM by Kate Read

Viv!! Why did I not realize that you had made another post?! I am SO sorry and it really is an absolutely fabulous one too...You write so well. I think you are going to have to write a book or something because it is just wonderful! I feel all nostalgic for those lovely English traditions. I have obviously entirely missed Stir Up Sunday but this recipe looks so delicious that I will just have to make it anyway. I love to bake and this looks heavenly. Thank you so much for sharing and again, so sorry that I missed this.
- Kate xx

Dec 24 2015 03:57PM by vivienmassery

Hello Kate, no worries, I'm grateful you read it :) And my posts are a bit random...the intention is to tie them in to different old festivals and traditions, sometimes I manage it, sometimes I don't....hamster wheel again! I'm glad you enjoyed good old stir-up Sunday though and hope the cake turns out ok, it is a scrummy one, I think it's the treacle, or molasses, as Rick calls it, it's a much deeper taste than golden syrup. Happy baking and remember to wish, a wish is good at any time! :) x

Dec 24 2015 04:00PM by vivienmassery

Thank you Darrell, you're lovely! Caramel and walnut popcorn courtesty of the Gamache-Stone household is snuggled alongside Aunty Glad's Ginger cake in my cookery book. I love how different food reminds you of different people, lovely connections and memories! :) xxx

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"The time has come the Walrus said to talk of many things; of shoes - of ships - of sealing wax-  

of cabbages and kings."

Through the Looking Glass - Lewis Carroll