One of my most precious memories is making Christmas cakes with my Nana. Nana is my mum's mum and is very precious - she is my last living grandparent.
Although I have many happy memories of baking with her, she is no longer able to stand in the kitchen long enough to make a cake. She is a feisty lady who isn't shy about giving her opinion.
Unlike most people I know, she wouldn't hesitate to tell me if she thought the Christmas cake I put in her hamper this year could be improved - so when she said how much she enjoyed it, I was really delighted! My recipe is based on an old Mrs Beeton one, with a few additions.
|Before second coat of jelly|
Traditionally, the fruit and nuts would be heaped in a pile in the centre of the cake, but I like this slightly more, well, Victorian look! I spread jam or jelly underneath, add the sliced fruits, nuts and candied ginger in rows from the centre or from the corner, then add another thin layer of jam or jelly on the top. It's best to use a light colour so you can still see the fruit's lovely colours.
This year, I also made mince pies. I made my own mincemeat, using some of the mountain of apples from my mum and dad's allotment, using Delia's recipe: Delia's mincemeat. I have a bit of a tendency to tweak the ingredients to the ones I have available and adjust the spices to taste, but it's an absolutely great recipe and reliably results in delicious mincemeat. It's well worth making a little in advance.
These little fruit pies are so tasty. This year, I made them with a crumble topping, by keeping back about a third of the breadcrumbs from making the pastry and stirring in a little muscovado sugar, and making a rich buttery pastry with the other 2/3, using egg and a dash of milk and a little icing sugar to sweeten. The self raising flour means the pastry rises slightly and has a lovely texture.
Another of my favourite bakes is these spiced orange cake squares. I just added a little allspice, vanilla and natural orange essence to a normal sponge batter. I then did a traybake and cut into squares and popped into individual cases. To decorate, I just cut a rough star out of a clean plastic cocoa tin lid, rested it on the top of each square, and sprinkled icing sugar, caster sugar and a pinch of allspice mixed together while they were still warm. I thought they looked really cute!
A bake I really enjoyed was the 'Emmatines' I made for Emma's birthday. I did two types - little squares and cupcakes. Emma loves teal and showed me the cakes she was dreaming of - and I did my best to recreate them! I was much happier with the cupcakes than the squares, but as it was my first attempt icing cube shaped cakes I decided not to beat myself up too much. I must admit despite taking the day off work, I was tearing my hair out a little, because I was also trying to get her quilt finished, but thankfully I did manage it all in time to drive to Manchester for the party! These were in little gold foil cases - which aren't very eco friendly, but it was a very special occasion...
The last bakes I want to share today are some tear and share breads. I am sure we cake lovers all have that friend who doesn't share our love of cake and sweet things, and in fact prefers savoury - but nonetheless deserves some love and care on their birthday because they are an all round wonderful person. So the first of these breads was a personalised bread, made of lots of little stars (because this person is a star) with the birthday girl's initials on. This was made using my parsnip tear and share recipe.
|Ready for the oven|
|The finished loaf|
Hope you've enjoyed - and I look forward to hearing about your cooking exploits too!. Happy baking, folks....