Happy St Catherine’s Day! Yes today (25th November) is the saint day for St Catherine, the patron saint of amongst other things, lacemakers and spinsters (hmm, any connection there…!) and my namesake 🙂 .
St Catherine of Alexandria (282-305AD) is a pretty good saint to have as a patron as she was extremely clever, well-respected and her opinion was widely-sought, although she was put to a hideous and early death. However St Catherine never made lace, and it seems her name only got associated with lace-making through another Catherine, Catherine of Aragon (1485-1536). It is believed that Catherine of Aragon heard about the plight of local lacemakers and decided to destroy all of her own lace so that the lacemakers would have some more work to do and therefore earn some more money. So the patronage, and the Cattern’s Cakes which we eat to celebrate St Catherine’s Day, actually have very little to do with St Catherine herself.
But whatever the connection, this saints day on 25 November was traditionally the day when lace makers would sell their work to the merchants, and would celebrate their earnings by making Cattern’s Cakes. You can still find recipes for Cattern Cakes including the one I have in this book, Favourite Home Baking Recipes by Carol Wilson:
I also have a recipe sheet which I’m not sure the source of which has slightly different ingredients and I’m aware of a couple of other variations too. Anyway, whatever the method, they’re more like a biscuit than a cake, flavoured with currants, cinnamon and caraway seeds. They’re rolled up like a Swiss roll, cut into rounds and then baked on a tray and are delicious with a nice cup of tea!
I’ll be making a batch this evening and then will definitely be sitting down to do some lace once the kids are in bed – Mondays were always my lace night anyway as that used to be when I had my classes.
How about you- have you got your bobbins out, or is it time to start? Happy lacemaking!