Mary Beekman is a four-year-old ghost who resides in The Beekman Mansion, and considers Brent and Josh her “imaginary friends.” Follow Mary Beekman’s Diary each week to learn what it’s like to be a young child in early 19th century America

My oldest sister was at the window the first thing this early morning.  She was worried it may be snowing and she would not be able to attend a celebration.   But the snow was packed on the road and was not drifting. That is good.   She has been invited to the home of her dearest friend.  They have been friends for a very long time.  Almost five years.  I have been friends with Josh and Brent for that long.  I wish she could see them too. Her friend is hosting a Twelfth Night Party.  There will be much eating and drinking and perhaps some dancing.  There will even be a king or a queen to rule over this party.  My sister would really like to be the Queen.  She has been arranging her hair many times.  I had to leave the room because I was “chattering.”

There will be a wonderful cake….a Twelfth Night Cake.  Everyone who has a piece must chew carefully.  There is a coin baked inside the cake.  Whoever finds the coin becomes the King or the Queen of Twelfth Night.  I fear that my sister will be so hasty to discover if she has the coin that she may chip her tooth.  Wouldn’t that be horrid??? Sister’s friend and her family have costumes and will entertain everyone with plays.  I would so love to be present.  I might be the one to find the coin and be the Queen.  My sister would not be happy about that at all. But Mother said it is a party for young people and not children.  She told me that in 1759 in Williamsburg, Virginia, George and Martha Washington were married on Twelfth Night.  I wonder if Martha found the coin?


Twelfth Night Cake*


4 pounds of flour, dried and sifted
7 pounds currents, washed and rubbed
6 pounds of the best fresh butter
2 pounds Jordan almonds, blanched and beaten with orange flour water
4 pounds eggs – put half of the whites away
3 pounds double refined sugar, beaten and sifted
1/4 ounce mace
1/4 ounce cloves
1/4 ounce cinnamon
3 large nutmegs, grated fine
A little ginger
1/2 pint sherry wine
1/2 pint of right French brandy
Sweetmeats to your liking (candied lemon peel, orange peel and citron, or melon


Work butter into cream with hands; then add sugar and mix well together, well beaten and strained through a sieve. Work in almonds first, and then put in eggs.  Beat together with the set-aside egg whites until they look white and thick; then put in sherry, brandy and spices.  Shake in flour by degrees, and when oven is ready, put in currents and sweet meats, as you put dough into your hoops.

Four hours baking in a quick oven  (350 degrees)
You must keep beating with hands, all the while you are mixing dough
Fill two large wooden baking hoops (probably 10 normal rings – Bundt-type-baking pans)


*Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy by Hanna Glasse

by Mary Beekman

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Roger, Perhaps next year I can bring Josh and Brent and come to your party. I think

Sister may be busy.


Dianna, I shall try and remember all these things. I know I shall remember to

have the loveliest of dreams. Thank you.


My dear friend Mary,

Your writing about Twelfth Night (January 6) brought back many happy memories! My late husband and I were married on January 6, because it seemed like such a special and happy day. We followed an old English custom for that day. I would bake a cake and drop in a very large dried bean. Whoever found the bean in his slice would be named "King of the Bean!" If a woman found it, she could name her "King." The King ruled all day long, and his every action was followed by shouts from the other guests–"The King sneezes!–huzzah!" He could also issue silly (but safe!) commands in which all of the men had t wear pink ribbons in their hair.




Hello Mary:

It's wonderful to hear about the party your sister is attending on Twelfth Night and to learn about the Twelfth Night Cake with its hidden coin or charm. I'm sorry you won't be able to go but you might still find something special to do at home to observe the holiday.

I think it's nice to have another special day to look forward to and celebrate as part of the "holiday season". For me, Twelfth Night is a time of frivolity, light-heartedness, fun and even some whimsy. I like to invite friends to my home so I prepare a big selection of snacks, beverages and goodies for my friends to enjoy. We might get out board games, or play cards, or even enjoy a movie. It is the final ending of the holidays before facing the cold, wet and overcast months of January, February and even March. I will be longing for spring and nicer weather to enjoy but it usually seems like a long way off. The day after Twelfth Night is when I finally take down my Christmas tree and pack away all of my holiday ornaments until next year. I try to make the most of each of the Twelve Days of Christmas. After all they are still part of the hoiday season!

Diane M. Deacon

Dearest Mary,

First, allow me to apologize for peeking into your diary. Don’t worry; I did not read every little detail; that would be too unkind. Please, Mary, do not be very cross with me; I simply wanted to reassure myself that you did not make any furtive plans to attend this evening’s Twelfth Night party. You are young and naïve and too curious for your own good. Do not worry, dear sister; your time will come, and when it does, I shall pray you find the Twelfth Night coin, which will transform you from farm girl into fantastical queen…even if just for one night.

Mary, remember to help Cook prepare the Wassail for tomorrow’s festivities. Also, remind mother that Cook sometimes uses too light a touch on the honey dipper. No one likes punch lacking sweetness, especially on the Epiphany. Ask one of the stable boys to come up to the main house and remove all the fruit from the Christmas tree in the front parlor. Sweet, sweet Mary, please remind father to remove the fruited wreath from the front door and then oversee its dismantling. Ask mother which bowls she would like to display the fruit from the tree and the wreath in. Take care to arrange it artfully.

On last thing, darling Mary, dream pleasant dreams tonight. Dream of dancing at a masque where you are Queen and all your wishes come true.

With my deepest love and affection,


sue tolbert

Hello Mary, I have been waiting to hear from you. I hope you had a joyous Christmas with your family and many friends. I know you are excited to hear if your sister will find the special coin and become the Queen. It won't be many years and you will be preparing to go to a Twelfth Night Party, until then you will learn all about such parties from your sister. I have an older sister and she told me stories about special parties that she attended. Older sisters are actually very good teachers. Have a wonderful winter and remember it won't be long and we will be celebrating St. Valentines Day. Your friend, sue t.


Feliz Dia de los Reyes ( Day of the three Kings)!! Traditionally celebrated with a cake similar to the one above. Anyone finding the coin or charm ( often a baby Jesus charm) in their slice of the cake will have much good luck in the coming year. Many of my friends from Sicily and also Mexico call this cake the "Kings Cake"

Linda Schnell-Leonar

So Sweet, She was such a good little girl. Bless you Mary Beekman. Merry Little Christmas