All posts filed under: christmas

Speculaas Snowflakes

There is no lengthy introduction to this recipe. I was given Gingerbread Wonderland for Christmas last year, but never got round to making any of the recipes in the book. Then I was recommended The Speculaas Spice Company later in the year. I decided to order some of their Speculaas spice blend in Autumn and to make Speculaas biscuits as gifts for my kids’ teachers for Christmas. Steven, from The Speculass Spice Company, included a lot useful information about the spice blend, including a recipe. Their website has even more recipes. But I decided to make a new recipe with elements from their recipe and with those in Gingerbread Wonderland, and here it is. Ingredients: 100g of Butter 150g of Light Muscovado Sugar 1 Medium Egg The zest of half an Orange 200g of Plain Flour 1/2 Teaspoon of Baking Powder 3 Teaspoons of Speculass Spice Mix 50g of Ground Almonds Cream the butter and sugar until paler and fluffy. Add the egg with a dessert spoon of flour, and the orange zest, and mix thoroughly. Mix all the dry ingredients …

Apple and Cranberry Snowflake Pies

The creation of these came about entirely from the purchase of the snowflake pie mould from Lakeland. Initially, I thought about making regular mince pies with it, then I thought it might be nice to make something equally Christmassy but slightly lighter. I came up with apple and cranberry and the combination, with some Christmas spice, works very well, and would make a great alternative to those who don’t like traditional mincemeat. Ingredients for the filling: 1 Large Bramley Apple (about 250g once peeled, cored and chopped) 50g of Dried Cranberries (soaked overnight in 20g of Vanilla Vodka or orange juice) 100g of Light Brown Sugar 15g of Butter 1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract 1/2 Teaspoon of Mixed Spice 1 Stick of Cinnamon 1 Heaped Teaspoon of Plain Flour Zest of an Orange Soak the dried cranberries overnight in the vodka or orange juice to allow them to plump up. Chop the apple into small pieces and combine all the ingredients, except the plain flour, in a large pan and heat on medium. Cook the apple …

At long last…

It took a while, but I got there in the end with this recipe and beautifully detailed cake. It wasn’t so much the cake recipe, which I adapted from the Nordicware recipe card that came with the Snowflake tin, but getting it out of the damn tin. I had an idea to adapt the almond cake recipe by adding some dried cherries soaked in Amaretto (which, by the way, are awesome on their own). It just felt more festive. Once I had fiddled with the batter amount and worked out the optimum quantity of cherries and soaking liquid, I thought it would be easy to pop the cake straight out using homemade goop (it works on other bundt and detailed pans). But this was not to be. This pan is on a different scale of difficulty to remove cake from. I made it again, coating far more liberally with goop: fail. Then I looked on the internet for advice and it said you should only use a small amount on detailed pans like this, so …

Happy Hogmanay

We have several traditions surrounding Hogmanay, or New Year’s Eve, in Scotland, many of which revolve around food or drink. One such tradition is the consumption of Shortbread. I suspect it was made available at The Bells at midnight to soak up the whisky being knocked back. But, as a nation, we are known for our buttery, short biscuit the world over. Who hasn’t been given a garishly coloured tartan tin of the stuff from someone who has visited our dear land? I don’t really like the stuff. Well, the stuff in the tins and packages. Homemade is an entirely different beast, and everyone has their own recipe and preferences. Most Scots will add rice flour or corn flour to their shortbread mixture. I am not one of them: I find it makes the biscuit too claggy when I eat it and it sticks to the roof of my mouth. My shortbread contains only three ingredients: One of the things that got me into making shortbread was coming across the prettiest of Shortbread moulds that …

If It Ain’t Broke.

I have a confession to make. I am one of those mums. Yes, the mums that make and bake gifts for their kids’ teachers. But please don’t think for a second that it is because I want to show off or compete with other parents: it’s just what I do. I make and bake for everyone and anyone that I feel gratitude or friendship or love for. And I always feel an enormous debt to my children’s teachers and to all the other support staff at their school because I think they do a wonderful job teaching, caring for, guiding, supporting and encouraging my three, very individual, offspring. Maybe the teachers would prefer cash in hand, or a shopping voucher, but I can’t bring myself to do that. Perhaps it is selfish of me to indulge in my own passion when it should really be about what they would like. But I enjoy planning, baking and packaging these gifts, and my kids have come to expect it too. Last year, I was very short of …

Cool, Pale and Festive

I think that the last thing anybody needs to be doing just before Christmas is designing and executing an elaborate Christmas Cake. If, like me, you find yourself spending lots of time with all other manner of christmas preparations, including exquisitely fiddly home made treats for the kids’ school Christmas Fayre or as gifts for their teachers, then run out of quality time to enjoy making a beautiful centre piece cake for your own family, you need to have an easy and quick design up your sleeve. I am a firm believer of less is often more, especially when it comes to cake design. Simple and elegant is often the way to go and, although that doesn’t always mean quick, in this case it does. I have come up with a cool coloured and pale silhouette cake design that really is very simple to carry out. If you have a warmer or bolder colour scheme, this design could easily be adapted to blend in. I coloured the icing a pale blue/grey using a combination of …

Winter Berries and sparkle

I know I’ve written this before, but I really mean it this time. This *is* a short post. I just wanted to share some images from something that I baked and decorated this weekend, especially as it’s a departure for me from cake. I also chose to decorate it with a nod to the visual themes of winter berries and sparkle. Some of you might be thinking ahead to Christmas and be looking for decorative ideas, and I thought this might inspire one or two of you. Ages ago a girl that I went to school with asked if I’d make a cake for her sister’s birthday this weekend. As it got closer to firming up ideas she confessed that her sister doesn’t actually like cake. After some discussion we settled on a baked cheesecake. Of course, I had to make it as celebratory and beautiful as a birthday cake. Seeing as the season has well and truly changed to winter here in Scotland, I felt completely justified in picking up some edible silver leaf …

Feeling Festive

Over the last few years it has become a tradition for me to make a Gingerbread House for my kids to decorate. Only two out of the three really like the taste of Gingerbread. But you see, it’s not about the Gingerbread: it’s about the sweets and icing; the edible glitter; and the fun and mess that we (they) make when decorating it. I use a BBC Good Food recipe (link at the bottom), that bakes into a tasty yet sturdy building, able to withstand a heavy handed toddler. Just remember to let the royal icing “cement” dry overnight. On a few occasions I’ve made a house, covered it in sweets, and donated it to my kids’ nursery or school. Money is easily raised by folk paying to guess how many sweets are on it. Yes, I do count them and yes, it’s a lot. If you plan to cover your Gingerbread House entirely in sweets, then make sure you buy lots of them. They probably won’t all make it on to the house. 😉 …

Fall into Autumn

I’d planned to put this recipe together and write this post about a month ago, during our school holidays. It seemed a suitable gap in the bustle of family life and a timely mark of the changing season. It wasn’t to be, however, as we decided to take advantage of the glorious crisp and golden Scottish autumn weather, headed for the hills, and simply enjoyed spending time with one another in the fresh air. I can thoroughly recommend it. I love autumn: it’s my favourite season. And autumn in Scotland is stunning, especially once you leave behind the cities and head to the Trossachs and the Highlands. I think it’s the best season to visit and explore Scotland and, as with this year, we often get a late surge in pleasant sunny weather, that makes roaming about outside a far more pleasant experience. I also, like many, find the change in season a good excuse to dig out those more traditional and comforting family recipes. I find this with baking too. The late summer and …

Frances Auty: Self-Confessed Baking Addict

Originally posted on It's all about the cake:
Meet Frances Auty: no ordinary home baker… Picture the scene: you’re seven years old, you’re tucked up in bed with chicken pox and you’re listening to the soothing tones of Felicity Kendall on tape as she reads ‘The Bonfire Pudding,’ one of Dorothy Edwards’ ‘My Naughty Little Sister’ stories. It’s about a little girl so scared of fireworks that she stays home to make Christmas pudding with her Gran. As you listen you imagine the warmth in the kitchen and the smell of the lemon and orange and spices being patiently mixed together. Such is your enjoyment of this well loved, comforting story that you listen to time and again that it sparks in you the beginnings of a love affair with all things cake. For Frances, who has been making her own Christmas puddings for twenty years now, bonfire night will forever be synonymous with that time in the year when preparations for the festive season begin and her home is filled with the delicious scents…