There a letter in today’s Guardian:
During the period of post-War rationing (so I was around the age when I’m not supposed to remember such things), my mother finally fulfilled her ambition to make a christmas cake.
This had taken some ingenuity, rounding up the ingredients from various family members — and presumably some would have been substantial vintage. Oddly enough, in those days there were very few ‘best before’ dates.
My Dear Old Dad had somehow sourced icing sugar: my guess would be some dodgy boozer in the East End of London. Since he was then a copper of Thames Division’s river police, he would have been ‘on the spot’. None too many questions asked, alas.
The cake was made and iced. Applause all round.
Only then did the whole project hit the wall.
That icing sugar was, it seemed, bulked up with plaster-of-Paris. The whole cake was impenetrable.
Hence my memory of Dad on hands-and-knees hacking at the cake with a cold chisel and hammer.