Category Archives: Christmas

The Baked Bean Tin Christmas Cake Project

This project started a couple of months ago when I promised one of my evening classes I would teach them how to decorate Christmas cakes. Today I finally finished decorating them. I really enjoyed this project and plan to given them away as presents, but right now don’t know which one I’m going to keep for us as I love them all for different reasons.

I have so many other decorating ideas, but only made 6 cakes so the other techniques will have to wait. They may be small cakes, but they still take a while to decorate. The four cakes covered in sugarpaste all use the covering method you can find on The Pink Whisk’s blog. I also brush the cake lightly with freshly boiled water to help the icing adhere. Usually I cover the board then cover the cake, this is personal preference. You don’t have to cover the boards at all, but I find it looks neater and I have a particular aversion to the Christmas themed foil boards. To stick the sugarpaste/sugar florist paste decorations to the cake I use either gin or vodka as it’s quick drying, less likely to stain and sticks well. You can also use water, but I find gin/vodka works better. All of these designs are simple and can be easily replicated. No special equipment needed apart from maybe the odd length of ribbon and a piping bag. The cakes were made using one of my favourite recipes, steeped in Sloe Gin, then covered in marzipan over a week ago.

Christmas Present Cake

This is probably my favourite cake. It is simply covered in red sugarpaste then decorated with a bow made from sugar florist paste. This is a type of modelling icing that has a finer, stretchier texture and allows you to roll it a great deal thinner than sugarpaste. It also sets very hard. Icing flowers you see for sale are made from this and while yes it is edible it’s used more for decoration. I love working with sugar florist paste. Unless you are going to be using a lot just buy white florist paste and colour your own.

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How to marzipan baked bean tin Christmas cakes

Your baked bean tin cakes should be nicely fed now so it’s time to get covering them in marzipan. You need to leave at least 24 hours between covering the cake marzipan and icing to allow the marzipan tp dry and stop the oils from the marzipan leaching and spoiling the white icing. One of the reasons for covering a fruit cake in marzipan is to act as a foundation for the icing. It’ll help to hide the major lumps and bumps of the cake beneath. Read the rest of this entry

Brussel Sprout Wreath

The halls are beginning to get decked, the high streets are adorned with lights that are switched on by minor celebrities and tomorrow is the first Sunday in advent. Every household has its own traditions over the festive season, we have many. One being that I make a wreath to hang on the door during Christmas. Over the years they have evolved from a quite traditional wreath to last year’s alternative, yet still festive, creation. Read the rest of this entry

Baked Bean Tin Christmas Cake – pt 1

Before I get chastised for writing a C*&^%$£~s post in October the organised amongst you will be beginning to prep for festive baking time. While Stir-up Sunday, when you traditionally make Christmas Pudding, isn’t until 20thNovember, now is the time to start on the cake to give it sufficient feeding time. A Christmas Cake that hasn’t been stuffed to the gills with alcohol is deemed as substandard in this house. This is the recipe I’ve used for years, and after many request to stop keeping the recipe close to my chest here it is. It’s from a 2005 edition of Prima magazine and produces a lovely moist fruit cake. Read the rest of this entry

Shiny Disco Balls (aka Rum Truffles)

On Monday I was left with the quandary of what to do with left over cake trimmings, though to be honest left over cake in this house is a rare sight. As a child I had a fondness for Rum Truffles. The best ones being from a local bakery called Mellors. These rum truffles were huge, but that could also be due to nostalgic hindsight, just like Wagon Wheels and Monster Munch used to be bigger back then. We also used to make them at home. All I could remember was that is was cake crumbs, rum essence and not much else.

At 6am Monday morning when I was trying to remember the recipe, Google was no help. No help what so ever. A thousand and one recipes for cake pops and the like and fancy truffles with all sorts of ingredients added, but nothing like the simple recipe I could barely remember. Read the rest of this entry

Mince Pies

By the time Christmas has been and gone I’ve worked out I will have made over 450 mince pies in some form or another. Thankfully not for my own consumption but made during the classes I was teaching and for friends and family. I usually make my own mincemeat, but this year due to some of my pupils being unable to come to classes due to illness I was left with nearly a kilogram of mincemeat to use up. To make shop bought mincemeat taste more like homemade mincemeat simply stir in a generous glug of sherry into the mincemeat. No one has to know.

I like using this pastry recipe for mince pies as the addition of orange juice helps shorten the pastry and give it a subtle taste. I don’t sweeten the pastry with sugar because I think the mincemeat is sweet enough. If you wanted the pastry a bit sweeter you could add a small amount of icing sugar to the pastry.

You can top your mince pies with the traditional full covering of pastry, but I prefer to cover with stars. 1) because I think they look nicer 2) you get more mince pies out of your pastry.

Mince Pies

Makes around 12 mince pies

200g plain flour

100g butter

orange juice

200g mincemeat

1 egg, beaten

Demerara sugar (granulated sugar will also work fine)

1) rub the butter into the flour until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs.

2) Add the orange juice 1 tbsp at a time until it forms a soft dough. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 min.

3) Roll out the dough until 5mm thick. Using a 9cm diameter cutter, cut out rounds and press gently into a bun tin.

4) Place a heaped tsp of the mincemeat on top of the dough

5) Top the mincemeat with a  pastry star. Brush  the star with beaten egg then sprinkle with Demerara sugar.

6) Bake at 180° for 15 minutes.

Christmas Nibbles

Due to the size of The Cottage it does make entertaining more than 6 people quite difficult, so in the week run up to Christmas it is tradition for us to throw drinks & nibbles party as there is no room to host a sit-down meal. With the Christmas tree decked, mistletoe hanging from the beams and a roaring fire ready for chestnut roasting it officialy kicks of the Christmas week for us. We live in what could possibly be the only place in the whole of the UK that hasn’t been hit by snow this week so thankfully guests didn’t have any problems getting to us.

When it comes to the food I’m usually am incharge of the veggie and sweet nibbles whereas Hubs concentrates on the meat and fish and I have to say he’s far better at it than I am with meat and fish. He came up with the Black Christmas Pudding idea as we usually serve it up in one one form another at the party. Last night’s menu included:

Sweet Potato Stackers

Mini Toad in the Hole
Halve the recipe for normal toad in the hole and use chipolatas. Place one chipolata in each section on a bun tin, pour over batter and bake at 220°c for 15 min.

Sticky Squash with Sesame Seeds


Mini Ham & Mushroom Frittatas
Either make one large frittata and slice into bitesized pieces or bake in silicone cake cases for around 15 min

Tempura Prawns with Sweet Chilli Sauce

Onion Bhajis with Riata

Cold meat platter

Vegetable Sticks with Hummus


Black Christmas Pudding topped with Parsnip Puree
Roll black puddings in to golf ball sized balls. Fry off the balls until crispy. Peel and dice a couple of parsnips and fry off with some butter. Blitz the parsnips with a small amount of cream to give a piping consistancy. Pipe a swirl on top of the black pudding. Decorate with a tiny piece of chilli and herb leaf.

Cheeseboard featuring Winchester, Blacksticks Blue, Crozier Blue, Red Leicester and Somerset Brie.

Puddini Bonbons

Eccles Mince Pies


Christmas Fairy Cakes

I can’t believe the first term of the academic school year is drawing to an end and I’ve survived my first term in business. Would I change anything? I’ve certainly learnt some lessons, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Let’s just hope in 2011 my success continues to grow.

One of the schools I’ve worked in this term hosted an Afternoon Tea Party yesterday to raise money for a school in Ghana. I baked them some Gingerbread Men, Eccles Mince Pies (these always go down well!) along with Christmas Fairy Cakes. This was a perfect opportunity to use up ingredients that were left from this term of cookery along with experimenting with a technique I saw on Kirsty & Phil’s Perfect Christmas.

I coloured the sugar paste Wednesday evening and wrapped it up in clingfilm ready to use Thursday morning. What I didn’t anticipate was the colours in the icing becoming more intense. I’ve never noticed icing doing that before, hence the quite bright, borderline garish colours. You can find the instructions for making the bows here. Although I could do with a bit more practice, I enjoyed making them. Next time I would roll the top stripes a bit thinner so they don’t stick out as much from the bottom layer when the fondant is bent to make the bows.

Christmas Fairy Cakes
Makes 12 fairy cakes

100g caster sugar

100g butter, softened

100g self-raising flour

2 eggs, beaten

200g icing sugar

freshly boiled water

sugarpaste

food colouring

1) Preheat oven to 180oc. Arrange cake cases in fairy cake tin. Beat together butter and sugar then one by one beat in the eggs.

2) Stir in flour until ingredients are well combined. Half fill each fairy case with the batter. Don’t over fill or you won’t have room for the icing to puddle.

3) Bake for 15 min until risen and golden. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

4) Add boiling water to the icing sugar until you have a smooth icing that pours off the spoon. Using a teaspoon slowly pour the icing on top of the cakes. You can guide the icing somewhat as to where you want it to go and it almost acts like self-levelling concrete. Once you have finished icing place your fondant decorations on the icing and leave to set.

Wishlist – 2010

 

I admit, I’m not the easiest to buy for or at least I don’t think I am. While scanning the web for Christmas pressies I stumbled across these beauties. I can dream, but certainly wouldn’t say no to them. As my wishlist shows I have a bit of things for birds in craft/art at the moment. Starting at top left:

Starling Brooch Anna de Ville is an artist based in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. Her silver designs are gorgeous and I already own one of her little wren necklaces. She does commissions and I this starling brooch has to be one of my favourites.

Wool cup cosy – With working from home a great deal of the time I have a habit of making a cup of tea then getting distracted and end up drinking a lukewarm cuppa. I’m sure a snuggly wool cup cosy would make things a great deal better!

Little BirdsLittle Doodles illustations are glorious and I especially like her Little Birds collection.

Silver Bird Lariat – This silver lariat is everywhere on Etsy, but it doesn’t stop me loving it.

Beater Blade –  I’ve heard so many things about this Beater blade I know I have to try one. Perfect for the times when I’m making cake batter in my Kitchen Aid.

Winter Wonderland bouquet – I’m a big fan of flowers from Blossom Tree. I love this particular bouquet because of the Amaryllis plus the green & cream tones.

Looped Ribbon NecklaceThese necklaces remind me of quilling and I adore the shapes that can be made with plain ribbon.

Button Wreath – felt – check; buttons – check. Why wouldn’t you want to use this Button wreath to adorn doors this festive season?

Windrush Candlesticks – Although I don’t really have room in the house for these, I really like how the 3 candlesticks entwine together.

Stirring up for Sunday – Whisky Pudding

The tradition to begin Christmas food preparation, inparticular the Christmas Pudding, begins on Stir up Sunday which is the last Sunday before advent. This year falls it falls on 21st November. The term Stir-up Sunday comes from the first verse of the collect for the day and has been adopted by the Anglican church.

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Usually I follow this tradition, but this year due to a hectic diary I made my Christmas Pudding a week early. Of all the traditional festive foods the Christmas Pudding is my favourite, it easily wins over Christmas Cake. Even after being full of a traditional Christmas dinner I can always make way for pudding. I can still remember as  child my dad walking in to the dining room with the pudding all alight.

Many people have traditions when making their puddings from stirring from east to west to represent the 3 kings, having a wish when stirring it and placing a silver coin in the pudding mix. In my case the traditions seem to be how much alcohol I can get in the pudding along with praying it will come out of the mould.

One of the main reasons I make my own pudding (and mincemeat for that matter) is that I’m quite a fussy being when it comes to festive fayre. I’m not a big fan of suet being used it in sweet dishes but use grated butter which works just as well. If it says there is alcohol in it I want to be able to taste it and it must be jam packed with fruit. I also like to experiment with flavours and making these foods heralds the beginning of the festive season for me.

Thanks to my lack of Whisky knowledge, sorry Hubs, this may be one of the most expensive Christmas puddings I’ve ever made. Previous years the fruit has been soaked in Guinness. This year I wanted to use whisky as I though Hubs had quite a collection and we could do with using some of it. I picked up the closest bottle to hand, sloshed a generous amount over the fruit then decided to read the bottle. I had only gone and picked up some of Hubs’ expensive whisky and used £15 of it in the pudding. I then had a sip of it and had used a peaty whisky. I will admit this does dominate the flavour of the pudding, but by the time it is served in December the intensity of the whisky should hopefully mellow a bit and the spices become more dominant. If you didn’t want to be so extravagant with the alcohol replace some or all with orange juice.

Since making my own Christmas pudding I’ve always wanted to try a spherical mould for curoisity and nostalgic reasons. Bizarrely it looks a bit like a cyberman. I now know from experience why these moulds have gone out of fashion. Eventhough I had buttered the mould I had a few tense moments getting the pudding out of the mould and did wonder if we were going to get two crumbled hemispheres. Due to the pudding being a sphere we also had a few hairy moments when the newly released pudding started to roll on the worktop, cue flashbacks of On Top of Spaghetti.  This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t use the mould again. It would work really well for other steamed pudding along with desserts like icecream bombe. The coking instruction below are for making it in a pudding basin rather than a mould.

Mrs Cratchit left the room alone — too nervous to bear witnesses — to take the pudding up and bring it in… Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like a washing-day. That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastrycook’s next door to each other, with a laundress’s next door to that. That was the pudding. In half a minute Mrs Cratchit entered — flushed, but smiling proudly — with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.” Charles Dickens – A Christmas Carol

Whisky Christmas Pudding
makes 1x 2lb pudding

500g luxury mixed fruit
100g dates, chopped
250ml whisky
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange
1 medium bramley apple, peeled and grated
100g cold butter, grated, plus extra for the basin
100g dark muscovado sugar, plus 2 tbsp
100g fresh white breadcrumbs
50g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp ground mace
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp mixed spice
2 eggs , beaten

1) In a large bowl soak the mixed fruit, dates, orange & lemon zest and apple in the whisky for 24-48 hours.

2) Butter a 2lb pudding bowl then lightly coat the butter in 2tbsp of muscovado sugar by slowly tipping and turning the bowl.

3) Add the remaining ingredients to the fruit that has been soaking. Stir until well combined. Spoon into the basin and level.

4) Take a sheet or foil and greaseproof and make a pleat in the middle (this allows for the expanding pudding). Place over the top of the pudding bowl, greasproof paper side down, and fix in place with string.

5) Sit the pudding bowl on top of an upturned heatproof saucer inside a saucepan. Pour boiling water half the way up the pudding. Cover and steam for 6 hours. Top water up as required.

6. Once the pudding is cooked cover with fresh greasproof paper and foil. Store in a cool dry place. To reheat either cook in the microwave (minus the foil), on medium, for 10 or steam for a further hour.

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