8 February 2012

Spreading The Christmas Cheer...a retrospective post...

This will be the last retrospective post...for now...I don't think there are any more to come, but stranger things...

Now I know it is almost Valentines Day, which means for us here in Enfield, a school (half-term) holiday...but I want to look back to the last holiday that we had, Christmas...

...Christmas is a magical time, a time for giving, loving, seeing friends and family, sharing and in our house birthdays...I've always loved Christmas, as a child for the presents, as an adult for the time off work! But as a parent for the smallish people's reactions to it all...and more recently, for the food...

It really is only recently (the last 4-5 years) that I've 'done' Christmas at our house...we are a far flung family, with Grandparents in Greece and Wales and Aunts and Uncles in Australia,Wales and Brighton...no-one closer than a 2 hour drive...so getting everyone together rarely happens...in tends to happen in stages...which is fine...we get to see everyone over time...

...I used to get so stressed and panicky over who was coming, what I would feed them, when they would be leaving...but these days, I seem to have mellowed slightly...this may be an 'age thing' or maybe I just appreciate the people in my life a bit more...which is also probably an 'age thing'...but anyhow, this last Christmas we went to the Grandparents in Wales...Hubby's Parents...so my parents (the Grandparents in Greece) came over in late November...which meant I started my Christmas foodie giving a bit earlier than usual...

Last Year I made a Christmas cake for the first time ever! Yes ever! Yes I am nearly 43! But I HATE fruit cakes...until last year...when I discovered the most amazing recipe in an Essentials Magazine...(this isn't the recipe, it's not on the website).

It was for a Shimmering Snowflake Cake...well I made it, and it was great!! In fact it was Fab!

So I wanted to share it with you (and Jules who is waiting for the recipe...well here it is!)...any tweaks I have made are in red...

* Makes 30-36 slices
* ready in 4hrs 30 mins


225g dried apricots, roughly chopped
200g dried figs, stalks removed and chopped
175g sultanas (I use mixed green raisins and golden sultanas)
100g glace cherries, halved
100g Craisins (dried cranberries)
Zest of 1 orange
Zest of 1 lemon
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp ground corriander
½ tsp ground ginger
100ml Amaretto, plus extra for drizzling...(I use about 150ml)
225g butter, softened
225g golden caster sugar
4-5 medium eggs, beaten (you want 225g unshelled weight)
225g plain flour
100g pistachios (I chop them)
75g blanched almonds (I chop them)

20cm square or 23cm diameter deep round cake tin, greased and triple lined
Oven gas mark 2, 150oc

  1. The Day Before soak all of the dried fruit, orange and lemon zests, and spices in the Amarreto. Cover and leave overnight.
  2. Heat oven to gas mark 2, 150oc. In a very large bowl, whisk together the butter and sugar using an electric hand whisk (I used my Kenwood Chef this year) until pale and fluffy, add the eggs, a splash at a time.
  3. Gradually fold in the flour (Still used the Kenwood, just on low speed), then mix in the nuts and soaked fruit.
  4. Pour into the tin, smoothing the surface. Lay a sheet of foil over the tin to stop it browning too much too quickly.
  5. Bake for 4 hours, checking 30 mins before the end. If a metal skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean it's done!
  6. Remove from the oven, spike all over with a skewer and drizzle over the extra Amaretto. Leave to cool in the tin.
Once cold, wrap in greaseproof paper and foil...will keep like this for about a month...you can also 'feed' the cake more Amaretto a little each week...

Decorate as you wish...

Now for this years 'tweaked' version

...Boozy Christmas Cupcakes...

 All the ingredients are the same as above, as is the oven temperature...what changed was after a suggestion by hubby, I turned the mix into 30 muffin-sized cakes instead! 

So what did I do...poured the batter into 30 Muffin cases and baked at gas mark 2, 150oc for about 25-35 mins depending on your oven...check after 25 mins and do a skewer test...
And they were perfect...the ideal size to go alongside a cup of tea or coffee...no remaining cake that goes dry on the cut edge...just 30 perfect muffin-sized portions! The feedback from all the relatives was good too...I made 2 batches this year...one for my parents, which I didn't ice and this batch for his, which I used using a layer of cutout marzipan topped with fondant and some sparkly bits and pieces...and not one was wasted!

Whilst on the subject of Christmas and giving...well we were right at the start of this post! This year for Teacher's gifts, we kept to the foodie theme and made them all a jar of Muffin Mix to bake themselves. All of them said how wonderful it was and that they went on to do similar gifts for friends

I got the idea from one of my favourite foodie sites...BBC Good Food and the nuts were double bagged as the top layer in case there were any alergies...here are the pictures of what we did...


  1. I love the idea of "bake your own" muffin pressies. I might be using that one myself! Nice to meet you, lovely blog. Katie xx

    1. Thanks Katie...we thought they were so much better than the usual choccies, biscuits or smellies as a pressie.
      Stop by again soon.

      Sara x

  2. Thanks for the recipe Mrs M, plenty of time to practice for the festive season 2012! x


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