And here we are at the end. Or, rather, the beginning, because, while it’s the end of this year’s 12th Night Giveaway, it’s the beginning of the 167th year for Mr. Sherlock Holmes, wherever he might be celebrating his 166th birthday this year–London, the Sussex Downs–or in the hearts of those who love him.
And how will the Great Detective be marking the occasion this year? Possibly at Simpson’s. A good seat at the opera. Maybe with a quiet day on the Downs. Hopefully with a magnificently outré murder. Always with Watson.
As for me, I am going to post this entry, do a bunch of drawings, get dinner ready, and go to work. I’ll be taking birthday cake to work, and bringing one home to the family.
It doesn’t seem like “birthday cake” was a thing in Britain until the latter part of the 19th century, and even then, Mrs. Beeton, while she has a zillion mentions of “cake,” doesn’t have even one for “birthday”–and that’s as late as 1891. While I am sure that Mrs. Hudson made Holmes his favorite meals for his birthday (assuming he wasn’t forgoing food for the benefit of a case), I am guessing that, for tea or dessert, she just made something simple, like one of these:
Pound Cake.–Ingredients for large cake.–1 lb of butter, 1 1/4 lb of flour, 1 lb of pounded loaf sugar, 1 lb of currants, 9 eggs, 2 oz of candied peel, 1/2 oz of citron, 1/2 oz of sweet almonds; when liked, a little pounded mace. Average Cost, 3s 6d.
Work the butter to a cream; dredge in the flour; add the sugar, currants, candied peel, which should be cut into neat slices, and the almonds, which should be blanched and chopped, and mix all these well together; whisk the eggs, and let them be thoroughly blende with the dry ingredients. Beat the cake well for 20 minutes, and put it into a round tin, lined at the bottom and sides with a strip of white buttered paper. Bake it from 1 1/2 to 2 hours and let the oven be well heated when the cake is first put in, as, if this is not the case, the currants will all sink to the bottom of it. To make this preparation light, the yolks and whites of the eggs should be beaten separately, and added separately to the other ingredients. A glass of wine is sometimes added to the mixture; but this is scarcely necessary, as the cake will be found quite rich enough without it.
Time.– 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Seasonable at any time.
—Mrs. Beeton’s Every-day Cookery and Housekeeping Book. London: Ward, Lock, 1891
Or, perhaps, given the time of year and her own Scots heritage, she made something like this:
Snow Cake:—(a genuine Scotch Recipe.)—Ingredients for a cake of moderate size.–1 lb of arrowroot, 1/3 lb of pounded white sugar, 1/2 lb of butter, the whites of 6 eggs; flavouring to taste of almonds, or vanilla or lemon. Average Cost, 2s 3d.
Beat the butter to a cream; stir in the sugar and arrowroot gradually, at the same time beating the mixture. Whisk the whites of the eggs to a stiff froth, add them to the other ingredients, and beat well for 20 minutes. Put in whichever of the above flavourings may be preferred; pour the cake into a buttered mould or tin, and bake it in a moderate oven from 1 to 1 1/2 hour.
Time.–1 to 1 1/2 hour.
Seasonable at any time.
And now for the final Giveaway question…..
Watson seems like a person who likes to give gifts. What do you think he might give Holmes for his birthday, and why?
And his love of betting notwithstanding, Watson could likely afford to give Holmes some nice presents, particularly once he inked the publishing deal which got him this:
The only collecting I do anymore is for the Giveaway, but I did go through the requisite Sherlockian collecting mania at first. I don’t have deep pockets, so I learned very quickly that, if you are patient, you can find lovely things just a tad cheaper, simply due to condition. As you can see, this Collier’s has a stain on the bottom, which took it out of the three-figure price-range, into this Giveaway, and possibly into your house. I will be sending it in its original packaging, but if you are the winner, please consider storing it in a flat archival box, which you can find for very reasonable prices online.
And, as always….send in your answers via blog comment or FB message (the Well-Read Sherlockian page, or my own). Happy Epiphany, Merry Christmas (for you who celebrate today), and Happy Returns of the Day to Sherlock Holmes!