Wednesday, November 14, 2012


The Naming Of The Town

   In the late 1840s, a group of settlers—mostly of German descent—formed a small community in Spencer County in Southern Indiana. Although they no doubt had to deal with the day-to-day struggles of pioneer life, the weightiest problem that plagued them was the lack of a name for their town. In fact, the community became known as the "nameless town." The naming of the town of Santa Claus is such a charming story that it was featured on Christmas Eve, 1992, on renowned radio news commentator Paul Harvey’s "The Rest of the Story" program. Here is the story Mr. Harvey told to millions of listeners world-wide:


   Never in history did a town have so much trouble naming itself than the town of…well, that, see, that was the problem. The town didn’t have a name--not even an unofficial one. There were many suggestions, but every time somebody made a suggestion, it was discovered that some other town already had that name.
   How did the folks find their way to the "nameless town"? Well, people who lived on the gently rolling hillscape of southern Indiana would simply point and say, "Over yonder is the ‘nameless town.’" So that’s exactly what they came to call it until one Friday night, late in 1852, on Christmas Eve. And this is The Rest of the Story…
   The Christmas Eve service had just concluded in the little log church, and everybody was there. [It was] as good a time as any to hold a final town meeting of the year, one citizen decided. As had often been the case through the years of town meetings since the community’s founding, there was only one order of business that night: a name for the "nameless town."

   All were gathered around the pot-bellied, wood-burning stove. The circuit riding preacher, who had just preached the service, was there, too. He was a popular fellow—the Reverend Christian Wyttenbach. So esteemed was this minister that somebody suggested naming the town Wyttenbach, Indiana. But I think it was the reverend himself who respectfully declined; after all he didn’t even live there.
   The frustrating discussion continued. Now when I mention "everyone there," I mean everybody; children--although quiet and not participating--children were included. But then, with a chilly December gust, the door of the church blew open. It was the adults who fell silent and it was the youngsters who suddenly came to life. For beyond the picture-framed doorway was a magical scene of snowflakes winking on black velvet, and the magical sound of sleigh bells.
   But whose sleigh might it be? All were present, remember--and nobody else for miles and miles around except…that’s right. And as the children ran to the doorway they excitedly shouted the name that every grownup was thinking, "Santa Claus!" they cried. "It’s Santa Claus!"
   Thus one Christmas Eve, 140 years ago tonight, because of some bells that nobody’s ever been able to trace, the little nameless town received its name: Santa Claus, Indiana; and it is so named to this day. The population no longer numbers in the dozens--there are 1,200 residents now. And in a sense you might say that there are 12-hundred-and-one. For each and every Christmas season, hundreds of thousands of letters arrive in the town’s post office. Letters come from all over the world with but a single name inscribed upon them. The inscriptions are often scrawled in crayon, but the letters are sent in utmost sincerity. Of course, you know what the name is on all those envelopes, and you know why those letters arrive where they do ’cause, well, because you know The Rest of the Story.

Background of the Town & the Beginning of Santa Claus Land

   In the 1920s, Jim Martin was postmaster of the Santa Claus Post Office. He noticed that a number of letters, addressed to "Santa Claus," were being sent to his post office. After a while, he decided to answer these letters, so as not to disappoint the children. In the early 1930s, Jim Yellig from the neighboring town of Mariah Hill volunteered to help answer the children’s letters—which were arriving in greater numbers each year. Yellig solicited the help of the Santa Claus American Legion to join in the project. Fund-raisers were held to secure money to pay for the letterhead, envelopes and postage. The practice of answering children’s letters to Santa continues to this day.
   In the mid 1930s, attorney Milton Harris worked out a deal with the Curtiss Candy Company and built a "castle" for selling candy to visitors to the town of Santa Claus. He also built a factory where Santa Claus sleighs pulled by reindeer were built.
   A few other toy companies built small plants where they built and displayed toys.
   Less than a mile away, businessman Carl A. Barrett collected donations and opened a park with a 22-foot granite statue of Santa Claus and a log cabin; the park was dedicated in 1935. No other Christmas attractions were developed until after World War Two.
   Meanwhile, Evansville industrialist Louis J. Koch was dismayed that there was not a greater memorial to Santa Claus in the town named after him. The father of nine children, Koch loved holidays and wanted children who visited the town to be able to see that this was truly Santa’s home. He began making plans to build a memorial to Santa Claus.

Members of town answering Santa letters

    On August 3, 1946, Koch opened Santa Claus Land. This was the first theme park ever built (Walt Disney constructed Disneyland nine years later). Santa Claus Land included the Mother Goose Land Train, with a 1/4-scale locomotive for rides through Mother Goose Land, a toy factory with elves at work, a place to visit Santa Claus, and a food and souvenir shop. One of Koch’s sons, Bill, returned from the war and became interested in working with his father in developing Santa Claus Land and the Town of Santa Claus.
   In 1984, Bill Koch and his family decided to expand Santa Claus Land to include two additional holidays: Halloween and the Fourth of July. The expanded theme park was renamed Holiday World. In 1993, Holiday World added a water park, called Splashin’ Safari. The Koch family continues to own and operate the theme parks and adjacent campground, Lake Rudolph Campground & R.V. Resort.

Bill Koch Conceives Idea of Developing a Rural Community

   In addition to developing Santa Claus Land, Bill Koch kept busy developing the town of Santa Claus. In the late 1950s, he was involved in trying to attract new industry to Indiana. After much study, he concluded that in order to attract new business, an area has to offer an attractive environment in which the employees of the prospective companies will live. He drafted a plan for a "Rural Community" which would offer all the positive aspects of rural life (friendly neighbors, plenty of land, low noise level, clean air and water, natural wildlife) and provide plenty of outdoor recreation, entertainment, shopping facilities, and easy access to highways and interstates.

Christmas Lake Village

   In developing Christmas Lake Village, Bill Koch began by looking at recreational opportunities in the area. He built three lakes: Christmas Lake, Lake Holly and Lake Noel, for swimming, boating, and fishing. He began plans for a championship golf course and club. He developed the residential community around the lakes with 2,200 home sites. Christmas Lake Village encompasses approximately 2,500 acres; it is a private community, with a security guard monitoring incoming and outgoing visitors around the clock. The Village includes tennis courts, ball field, Recreation Center, and Christmas Lake Golf Course.

One of the street signs in Santa Claus, In.

Holiday Village

   The Koch family continues to develop a second residential community in the northern part of town. The 400-acre Holiday Village is similar to Christmas Lake Village, however, it does not have a security gate and its roads are public. Holiday Village has 600 home sites, a Recreation Center, a pool, and miniature golf.

Kringle Place

   This shopping center is the downtown area of Santa Claus. Koch Development Corporation in cooperation with Holiday Foods Inc. purchased the former Holly Plaza in November 1997. In 1999, the name was changed to Kringle Place and a major renovation transformed the late 60's-early 70's architecture into what now looks like a German/Bavarian village befitting of the town's heritage. Citizens and visitors of the area can shop at up to 12 businesses located in Kringle Place. Kringle Place is now co-owned by HO HO HOldings, LLC, a new company created in May 2002 by Philip Koch and Kristi George, Bill Koch's youngest son and oldest daughter.

One of the busiest places during Chrstimas time

 Growth of Santa Claus

   The Town of Santa Claus is, by percentage, the fastest growing community in the state of Indiana. The town was incorporated in 1967, with a population of just 37. The population now numbers over 2,000 according to the 2000 U.S. Census.


1. “White Christmas” – While there are more than five Christmas carols written by Jewish songwriters, I thought I’d just cover my favorites, starting with not only the most famous Christmas song written in modern times, but according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the best-selling single of all-time.

Written by: Irving Berlin in 1940

Actually written by: Israel Isidore Baline (Irving’s real name)

Written while: seated poolside at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa in Phoenix, Arizona (talk about your White Christmas)

Made famous by: Bing Crosby in the movie Holiday Inn 

Cool Irving Berlin fact: Refusing to make money off his deep-seated patriotism, Berlin donated all the royalties from “God Bless America” (just another little ditty he penned) to the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Campfire Girls.

2. “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”

Written by: Johnny Marks in 1949

Based on: a poem/story penned by Marks’ brother-in-law, who invented Rudolph

Made famous by: Gene Autry, whose recording sold over 2 million copies in the first year alone.

Famous Rudolph mondegreen: “Olive, the other reindeer” (see our post on mondegreens if you don’t know what they are)
Cool Johnny Marks fact: He is the great-uncle of economist Steven Levitt, co-author of one of my favorite books of all time, Freakonomics.

3. “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”

Written by: composer Jule Styne in 1945 with lyrics by Sammy Cahn

Actually written by: Julius Kerwin Stein and Samuel Cohen (real names)

Made Famous by: Vaughn Monroe, hitting #1 on Billboard in ’46 

Interesting “Let it Snow” fact: the lyric never once mentions Christmas
Cool Jule Styne fact: he also wrote the music for the musicals Gypsy and Funny Girl

4. “Silver Bells”

Written by: Jay Livingston and Ray Evans in 1951

Actually written by: Jacob Harold Levison and Raymond Bernard Evans (real names)

Introduced by: Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell in the movie The Lemon Drop Kid
Made Famous by: Bing Crosby and Carol Richards 

Cool “Silver Bells” fact: the song was inspired by the silver bells of the Salvation Army bell ringers, thus making it one of the few Christmas carols about the city, as opposed to the usual rural countryside setting.

5. “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”

Written by: Albert Hague in 1966 (with words/lyrics by Dr. Seuss, of course)

Actually written by: Albert Marcuse, who was born in Berlin, but his family raised him Lutheran with the last name Hague in order to avoid the raging anti-Semitism in the 1920/30s (He got out of Europe just in time, landing in America in 1939)

Made Famous by: Thurl Arthur Ravenscroft, who made a name for himself singing and doing voice-overs for Disney (and Frosted Flakes!)

Curious Albert Hague fact:
 He was also an actor! You can see him in both the movie and TV series, Fame, playing the role of Shorofsky


   This recipe comes from www.this-is-irene.blogspot.com.au .   OOOOHHHH do these little cakes make my mouth water.  Go ahead and make it! I DARE you!

Vanilla, White Chocolate Layer Cake

It's been a while, but it feels so good to know exams are finally finished! All that's left is the actual HSC but come one now, it's 2 whole months away! And so alot of things have happened while I was gone- like how I finally turned 18! Exciting yet it doesn't feel that much different...

As I said, this is actually a recipe that I made quite some time ago but never got around to posting it. And another exciting thing was I finally bought some decent individual food rings!!! It's sooo exciting because I've always wanted them but was hesitating because the other day I got a set of 6 individual tart moulds... eh, well let's just say I only got to use it once. And that one time, after rolling out dough, cutting pieces to fit to the moulds and all that jazz, my shortcut pastry shrunk like crazy after baking and I almost cried thinking where are my pretty individual tartlets!? So after that, I got too paranoid in attempting to make individual tarts again. But food rings don't let people down- that's the thing! It's just about putting pre-mixed components in layers and voila, you'll get a pretty lookin stack of layers! It's a real genius invention- so are rubber spatulas if I may add!

So basically, I'm a sucker for anything white chocolate or vanilla. People say white choc is overly sweet, which yes, I won't deny that, especially for this dessert, but maaaaaan it's gooood! So anyway, recently, I had a taste of the famous V8 cake from Adriano Zumbo. If you're from Australia, you must have remembered that crazy 10+ layer vanilla cake the masterchef contestents 2 years ago had to replicate. Click here to see the mile long list of ingredients yourself. Haha well of course, I wasn't up for the whole challenge, I mean just seriously- LOOK AT ALL THOSE INGREDIENTS! 

So anyway, although not up to the big challenge, it really made me want to make something layery too! So that's when I thought, I CAN DO THIS- just with less layers for less fuss and make them simpler too! The crunch that came from the toasted brulee, I would just replicate with the usual cornflakes and some crushed digestives. I was so so wrong, sure I expected them to turn soggy, I like my cornflakes soggy anyway so it thought it'd be okay. But I never would've thought they'd turn out hard instead of soggy! Hard and chewy, but it was nice in a strange way. If you're trying this recipe out, you may like to substitute it with something- I don't know quite yet, maybe a crumble topping or something crunchy that you can think of, or stick to cornflakes if you want to experience the strange deliciousness of chewy cornflakes. Without further ado, let me introduce you to the humble 5 component vanilla, white chocolate layer cake:

Vanilla, White Chocolate Layer Cake
Makes 4 individual cakes

For the Vanilla Almond Sponge:

3 large egg whites (room temperature)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup ground almonds
1 cup icing sugar (sifted)
3 large eggs
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter (melted and cooled)
2 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Line 2 large baking trays with parchment and grease it with butter.
2. Beat the egg whites in a bowl until they form soft peaks.
3. Add the sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy.
4. Beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs in another bowl until light and voluminous.
5. Add the flour and beat until the flour is just combined.
6. Fold the meringue into the almond mixture.
7. Fold in the butter and vanilla extract.
8. Pour batter to tray and use a spatula to spread it out thinly
9. Bake in a preheated210°C oven until lightly browned and just springy to the touch, about 5-9 minutes.
10. Run a knife along the edges to loosen the cake form the pan.
11. Peel of the parchments paper flip and cover the cake while it cools.
12. Cut 16 7cm diameter rounds of cake and set aside

For the Vanilla Buttercream:

1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg whites
3/4 cups unsalted butter (at room temperature)
2 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Whisk the sugar and matcha into the egg whites in a bowl over a pan of simmering water until the mixture is hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. (The sugar should be dissolved and the mixture should look like shiny marshmallow cream.)
2. Remove the bowl from the heat and beat until the cream is cool, about 5 minutes.
3. Beat in the butter one stick at a time.
4. Beat the mixture until it thickens and becomes smooth, about 5-20 minutes.
5. Fold in vanilla extract and set aside.

For the White Chocolate Ganache:
150g white chocolate (finely chopped)
1/2 cup heavy cream

1. Heat cream until very hot
2. Pour onto chopped chocolate and whisk until smooth and set aside

For the Cornflake Layer:
a handful of cornflakes- coarsely crushed

For the Crumbed Biscuit Layer:
5 digestive biscuits, coarsely crushed

To assemble:
NOTE: I recommend placing a sheet of parchment around the sides of the rings beforehand to make it easier to unmould

1. Place rounds of sponge at the base of the food ring
2. Spoon in buttercream over the sponge
3. Sprinkle cornflakes
4. Place round of sponge
5. Pour in ganache
6. Sprinkle crushed digestives
7. Repeat steps, ending with buttercream or the ganache
8. Top with extra cornflakes and berries if desired

The verdict: The buttercream was exceptionally delicious and the whole cake turned out beautifully tastewise. But again, the cornflake was a disappointment- I really do need to find a simple way to add a crunch factor to the cake. Other than that, I thought it was a pretty good cake well worth the effort- it was so fun to make too!