I’m not sure what a sugar plum is. It sounds like a made up confection, a gossamer treat so impossibly sweet that it exists only in your Christmas Eve dreams because I’ve never seen or tasted one in real life.
Sugary sweets have had a place in our Christmas traditions at least as far back as pre-Victorian times when poet Clement Clark Moore wrote his famous piece titled “A Visit from Saint Nicholas,” more commonly known as “The Night Before Christmas.” In the poem, sugar plums were something that all kids looked forward to. Besides being an edible treat, the definition of sugar plum also means something very pleasing or agreeable, and especially when given as a bribe. Sugar plums were a good reason to stay off the naughty list.
So we couldn’t find any sugar plums here in the River Valley, but we did find some interesting pastries at Opal Mae’s Bakery in downtown Russellville. The dainty little frosting covered cakes are called petits fours. It’s a French word that means “little oven.” In 19th Century France, a coal heated oven had only two settings: full heat used for roasting and the petit four setting for pastries. The lower setting became synonymous with baked sweets and the name stuck.
Opal Mae’s petits fours are small white cakes covered in white frosting and then decorated with just a bit of color. The presentation is airy, like a thin veil of frost on cold December mornings. The taste is sweeter than Christmas snow, sweeter than an angel’s kiss and likely sweeter than anything else you’ve ever tasted.
And now that I know about them, who needs sugar plums?