Christmas Cake.

Its 10 weeks until Christmas and now is the time when I start thinking about my Christmas baking (yum yum yum…). Lots of delicious recipes improve by being left for a couple of months to mature and for the flavours to develop and this deliciously fruity Christmas Cake is the perfect example of that. 

A Christmas Cake is a very flexible cake recipe and can take all sorts of different goodies being added (or removed) to change the flavour to suit your own tastes. I prefer to not to use dried peal and to use dried cherries, marmalade and brandy as some of my chosen goodies so get creative!

If you would rather not have the hassle of making a Christmas Cake yourself then I am taking orders for Christmas Cakes so do get in touch by calling 07971423678 or emailing heather@heather-brown.com

christmas cake

Ingredients. 

  • 10oz currants
  • 12oz sultanas
  • 3oz dried cherries
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 orange
  • 2tbsp brandy
  • 7oz plain flour
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 5oz butter
  • 6oz soft brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1tbsp marmalade

Method. 

Line an 8″ round tin with 2 good layers of baking parchment. You can also wrap the outside of the tin with brown paper too. Also make a ‘hat’ for the cake out of baking parchment to protect the top but cut a hole in the centre to allow the steam to escape. The cake cooks for a long time in the oven and this helps not to scorch the top and side of the cake.

Preheat the oven to 140/gas mark 1.

Add the sugar and butter to a large bowl and beat them together until pale (about 2 minutes with an electric whisk). Add in the eggs gradually (alternating an egg with a spoonful of flour). Then mix in the flour.

Then add all your goodies – juice and rind of the lemon and orange, mixed spice, brandy, marmalade and all the dried fruit and mix well.

Place in the tin and put in the oven and bake for 2.5 hours. Check the cake every 30 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool in the tin and once cold, wrap the cake in a layer of baking parchment and a layer of foil and place in an airtight container and leave until about 1 week before Christmas, when you can ice the cake however you fancy. If you would like to – every 2 weeks, poke the cake a number of times with a skewer and spoon over some brandy. This is called ‘feeding’ the cake.

Chocolate Chip Muffins.

This is one of my favourite recipes as it is both simple and quick but super delicious! My secret is simple – I just add lots and LOTS of chocolate chips! If you always sometimes have the need for chocolate cake, then this recipe is for you! 

choc muffins 1 (2)

Ingredients. 

  • 6oz caster sugar
  • 6oz butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 6oz self raising flour
  • 1/2tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g chocolate chips

Method. 

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees/180 fan/gas 6. Place paper muffin cases into a 12 hole muffin tray.

Mix together the butter and sugar until the mixture turns pale – this can be done with a wooden spoon but a mixer will make this quicker (and easier on your arms!). Beat in the eggs and vanilla really well (the mixture may look ‘curdled’ at this point but the flour will sort this out). Mix in the flour until combined (go easy with the mixing at this point) and then stir in the chocolate.

Spoon into the cupcake cases and bake for 15-20 minutes until brown on top and middle cakes in the tray are ‘springy’ to the touch. Check the muffins after 15 minutes and rotate the tray if necessary so they brown evenly.

These are great eaten warm but if you don’t manage to eat the whole tray warm from the oven (!) then 10 seconds in the microwave is enough to just melt the chocolate chips to make this delicious snack even better!

Makes 12 muffins. 

Yorkshire puddings… with a twist.

I started to add food colouring to Yorkshire puddings in a bid to make them more exciting to my two boys (aged 6 and 8 years old) but I just loved how they came out! Often a generic brown on the outside it is only when you cut them open that they show off their colour inside. It makes a mundane Toad in the Hole much more fun and not only that – yorkshire puddings are super easy to make too!

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Ingredients

olive oil
3oz plain flour
1 egg
milk

Method

Preheat the oven to 200/gas 6. As the oven is warming, dribble into 6-hole muffin tin a very thin layer of olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of each muffin hole). Put this in the oven to heat as you make the mixture.

In a mixing bowl, measure the flour and add the egg and the food colouring (a couple of drops of liquid colour or a pea size amount of the colouring paste). Mix together carefully and add milk a little at a time (this will help you avoid lumps). Once your flour is combined, add enough milk to make a batter that is similar to pancakes (somewhere between thick and runny) – you don’t have to be entirely accurate – with 2 hungry boys, I always seem to be making dinner in a rush and never have time to measure the milk properly and it always turns out fine.

You can use an electric mixer for this or just some elbow grease and a spoon and if you do get lumps, either whisk a bit more or use a sieve!

Take the muffin tray out of the oven (be careful the oil in the tray will be VERY hot) and pour into the muffin holes the mixture. It will look odd at this point as the oil will sit almost on top of the mixture. Pop the tray back into the oven for 15-20 minutes.

Makes 6 individual Yorkshire puddings.

Tips
– DO NOT open the oven door until at least 15 minutes have passed! The puddings need the hot oven to rise up and will deflate into a soggy mess if the oven if opened too soon!
– If you want purple puddings use more colouring than you think – too little and it becomes a weird grey colour.
– A striking yellow is quite difficult to achieve as the puddings are a pale yellow to start with so for a first attempt, try a strong colour like blue or green to avoid disappointment.
– I prefer the food colouring pastes as they are easier to control and I like the gel colours the least (you need to use a lot for a strong colour and that makes them expensive).
– Keep food colouring away from your hands as it can stain for hours!
– If you are making them for the first time for your kids, don’t tell them first – their expression is priceless!

As an aside… this is the same recipe for simple crepes (just fry the batter in a well oiled frying pan)

… you can also colour these too.

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