Make a stunning Christmas centrepiece

A very effective table centrepiece

It takes a bit of patience but it’s worth it

Make a stunning, table centrepiece using your Christmas cake and fondant icing.

Fondant icing reindeer and trees with tea lights to make a woodland scene
Fondant icing reindeer and trees with tea lights to make a woodland scene

You will need:

  • Christmas cake with marzipan icing
  • Large pack of fondant icing, I got mine from https://www.aldi.co.uk/
  • Rolling pin
  • Scalpel or small, sharp, pointed knife
  • Cardboard, pencil and scissors to make template
  • Icing sugar and water for the grace icing
  • A few toothpicks

Ice the cake

Roll out the fondant to the size of the cake, leaving enough spare to make the reindeer.  Dampen the marzipan and place the fondant over.  Smooth the surface.  Leave for a couple of days to harden before making the reindeers snow scene.

Christmas cake with a layer of marzipan under a layer of roll-out fondant icing
Christmas cake with a layer of marzipan under a layer of roll-out fondant icing

Make the template

Find a simple line drawing or picture of a reindeer.  Sketch onto a piece of card.  It doesn’t need to be posh card, I used a piece from a tea-bag box https://www.yorkshiretea.co.uk

Cut out the shape and then… carefully and painstakingly cut out the reindeer.

Carefully cut out reindeers shapes using a card template
Carefully cut out reindeers shapes using a card template

Leave them alone

Put them on a board to dry out for a couple of days.  Leave them out of reach.  They become quite brittle and so need to be treated with great care.

Glace icing snow

Place three tea lights on the cake. up a paste with icing sugar and a few drops of hot water.  Use this to make snow drifts in which the reindeer will stand.

Set the scene

With great care place the reindeer in the snow as in the picture.  Use toothpicks to prop them up until they have set.  Some of the legs may come off! In which case they become  laying reindeer.  Some of the antlers may snap off – in which case they become does!

Use toothpicks to prop up reindeer until they have set into position
Use toothpicks to prop up reindeer until they have set into position

In the woods

Trees can be made from simple, right-angle triangles.  Lean three together in a puddle of glacé icing with a little icing spread on the edge where they join together.

Centrepiece

Light the candles and turn out the lights for a stunning, Christmas  centrepiece.

 

 

 

How to Make a Mahoosive, Celebration Cookie

Fudge icing and Smarties to decorate a mahoosive cookie

It’s really easy to make a celebration cookie

I have a confession to make which might shock:   I don’t like cake. There, I said it!  I don’t ‘do’ puddings and cakes.  The only thing I might eat, to be sociable, is biscuit or cookie. So here is my mahoosive, celebration cookie recipe…

A little help may be needed with the decoration of the cookie
Get help with decorating the cookie

Don’t buy one, make one!

To buy a celebration cookie from a specialist cookie maker at the shopping centre can be fraught with problems.  Celebration cookies can be expensive and they are difficult to get home.

It’s fun!

It is far more rewarding to make your own.  And it is really easy.

You will need:

White sugar, brown sugar, chocolate chips, butter, eggs, flour and essence
The ingredients needed to make a giant cookie

Ingredients for one 14” cookie

(I got the icing from https://www.bmstores.co.uk/)

The equipment you will need:An electric hand whisk, a seive, greasproof paper and a round, 14” metal pizza tray

 

Now, make a mahoosive cookie:

Preparation time 15 minutes Baking time 20 minutes Decorating time 10 minutes 

Cream the butter and white sugar
Cream the butter and white sugar
  • In a large bowl, beat the butter, caster sugar, dark brown soft sugar and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well.

    Cream the butter and sugar
    Cream the butter and sugar
  • Gradually add flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda, beating until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips/chopped chocolate.

    Fold in the flour and baking powder
    Fold in the flour and baking powder
  • Line a 14 inch round pizza pan with greaseproof paper.
  • Evenly spread the mixture onto the paper

    Spread the mixture onto the greasproof paper-lined pizza tray
    Spread the mixture onto the greasproof paper-lined pizza tray
  • Bake at 190oC for 20-25 minutes. 
  • Cool the cookie in the pan. 

    The baked, giant cookie
    The baked, giant cookie
  • Decorate as desired.
Go mad with the Smarties
Go mad with the Smarties

By the way.  It can stay in the pan, it doesn’t make any difference.  It freezes well – also in the pan.  You can serve it from the pan too!

Savour the Homemade Christmas Mincemeat

Mincemeat – it goes back a long way…

About thirty years ago a friend convinced me that homemade mincemeat was the best.  She was not wrong and pointed me in the direction of Delia Smith https://www.deliaonline.com/.  Yes of course I had a Delia Smith cook book (well four actually), seriously who didn’t back in the 80s?  I loved that book, I never had a failure from it!  However, I did adapt and ‘improve’ a little and put my own spin on certain recipes.  But in the main, we have Delia to thank for this delight.

Ingredients for mincemeat
The glorious ingredients for mincemeat

The origins of mincemeat

I love the origins of the mince pie too.  The ingredients for the mince pie we know and love can be traced back to the return of the crusaders from the Holy Land.  Middle Eastern methods of cooking (which sometimes combined meats, fruits and spices – Heaven forbid!) were popular at the time. Pies were created from such mixtures of sweet and savoury foods (I am not sure about that either!)  In Tudor England, shrid pies were formed from shredded meat, suet and dried fruit. The addition of spices such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg was, ‘in token of the offerings of the Eastern Magi.’  During the English Civil War they were banned, on account of its connection with Catholicism. Crikey! The hubster would never have survived. I also believe it is ‘bad luck’ to refuse a mince pie (I avoid being offered one) and… you should always make a wish as you bite into the first one of the season.

Everyone loves a mince pie… well nearly everyone

They are well-loved in our household.  My son loves them with an almond paste/marzipan top.  The hubster just loves them! Fortunately (or unfortunately) I DON’T.  Anyway, here is my recipe for homemade Christmas Mincemeat:

The equipment you will need:

The equipment needed to make Homemade Christmas Mincemeat

Ingredients

  • 450g cooking apples, peeled cored and finely chopped
  • 225g shredded suet http://www.atora.co.uk/
  • 350g raisins
  • 225g sultanas
  • 225g currants
  • 225g ready mixed chopped peel
  • 350g dark, soft brown sugar
  • Grated rind and juice of 2 oranges
  • Grated rind and juice of 2 lemons
  • 50g ready chopped almonds
  • 4 teaspoons mixed spice
  • Half a teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Half a teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 120 ml brandy
Homemade Christmas Mincemat ingredients
Homemade Christmas Mincemeat ingredients

What to do:

Fresh fruit prepped for mincemeat
Prep the fresh fruit

Mix all the ingredients (except the brandy) in a mixing bowl.  Put the bowl into a preheated oven 120oC for three hours.

Fill your house with the amazing Christmassy aroma.

After three hours remove from the oven and allow to go completely cold – then stir in the brandy.  Fill some clean, sealable jars or plastic containers.  

Christmas Mincemeat
The finished product, Homemade Christmas Mincemeat

It makes this much! Enough for probably 100 mince pies! It will keep for a very long time. Yes, it is a faff but it is definitely worth it.  Savour the Homemade Christmas Mince Pies!

How to make a Lavender bag

Capture the smell of lovely English lavender now

Now is the time to harvest the lavender that is probably growing in your garden.  If not your garden then someone else’s close by!  Let’s make a traditional, English lavender bag together.

Snipping lavender spikes in the garden

Granddaughter Evie came to stay and so she was put to work with the scissors in the garden.  A good bunch of lavender spikes later makes a lovely display as they dry out for a couple of days – without water.

Fresh lavender without water

Ready to create an English lavender bag

OK so now we have our lavender spikes.  Here’s what else we needed:

What you need
  • A meter of netting (cost £1.50 from the local market)
  • A meter of ribbon (cost .75p from the local market)
  • Scissors
  • And of course… lavender spikes

And here’s what we did with the lavender

  • After leaving the lavender spikes for a couple of days to dry out pull off the flowers into a pile onto some paper
Lavender bag
  • Cut x2  9”/23cm squares of net, lay one on top of the other for double thickness
  • With the net partially placed under the paper, push a quantity of lavender onto the net as shown
Transferring the lavender onto the net
  • Draw up the corners and sides of the net without letting the lavender escape
  • My able assistant then tied a length of ribbon around the enclosed lavender – very tightly.  Learning to tie a knot in the process.
Tying securely

A souvenir of a lovely summer

We made enough lavender bags to give to Mummy to make her drawers smell nice and even one for Daddy for the car.  The smell in the kitchen was just divine.  When we learned that the smell is ‘soporific’ and relaxing grandson Jack said that he would like one for his bedroom ‘Because sometimes it’s just too hard to get to sleep!’