Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas Cakes and baking

They're all in the process of being eaten now, and frustratingly although the new oven cooked them quickly (2 hours instead of last years painfully slow 5) this years cakes were on the dry side. Some working out is required for next year. Fortunately the Christmas chutney turned out well (Diana Henry's recipe from the brilliant 'Salt Sugar Smoke' and the puddings worked to (from Dan Lepard's equally brilliant 'Short and Sweet'. There are a couple in there, both the ones of tried have been excellent and well worth the simmering time.) so not all was lost.

The second batch of gingerbread for tree decorations turned out well; I baked them until they were very well done indeed and they have neither fallen apart or fallen victim to mum's dogs appetite (she isn't impressed that we've kept her away from the tree; she can smell it, and she thinks it smells pretty good). The original recipe I used wasn't perfect for decorations - to soft - but it's brilliant for eating so I'll post it soon. I would put up a picture of the tree but it looks even more artificial (practical in a flat, but not romantic) on camera than it does in life...

And however dry the cakes might be (mine at least is also obnoxiously boozy as well, as it's had about a third of a bottle of whisky poured into it) I was still pleased with the decorations. This year I decided to print bits of poetry or carols onto them. I used rubber stamps with the very thick food colouring paste as ink, watered down to a suitable consistency. The results could have been more professional with more practice and patience, but I was pleased with the overall effect and might try something along similar lines again.


  1. What a great idea! The first cake in particular turned out beautifully.

  2. The first one is larger which really helped. I would love to find some more stamps but nowhere seems to be selling them locally and I hate buying things unseen online. The smaller cakes were gifts so doing something flat made them easier to transport and I really liked the idea of using poetry or carols.

  3. I just love these cakes! Where did you get the idea ... I would love to try it next year. What letter stamps did you use and can you explain how you made the "ink". The results are truly impressive - you have a real talent. If I remember correctly you created an amazing painted owl cake once before. I usually end up doing peaks of icing with the back of a spoon late on Christmas Eve but you have inspired me to aim higher!

  4. Thank you! the idea's been at the back of my mind for a while, the uppercase letters came from Waterstones and I got a set of lower case ones from Amazon, they're just ordinary rubber stamps. The ink is food colouring, I like the stuff that comes as a thick paste in a little tub, it's expensive but you get a great range of colours and you don't need to use much and it's great for painting with as well. You just need to put a little on a plate and add water drop by drop until you're happy with it, I used a bit of clean sponge to deal with any excess ink on the stamp. I tried using sponge as an ink pad but it marked the corners of the stamps which then ended up on the icing. A small paint brush, clean water, and a clean tissue is enough to wash and blot out any small blobs. I use ready to roll fondant icing because it's easy, and had a good practice on a left over piece to work out how much pressure to apply and so on. The good thing about putting the letters on the actual cake was that I could get almost eye level with it and see where they were going, once I started it didn't take very long at all - maybe 20mins, and perhaps another 10 for sorting myself out before hand.

    I love decorating the Christmas cake!

    1. Thank you so much for all the extra detail - duly noted for next year when I will definitely give it a go. The result is just so effective.
      Thank you - and Happy New Year.

  5. Your cakes are SO beautiful! Many thanks for sharing them with us.

  6. Do please let us know how you tackle the oven problem - my new oven is also much quicker than the painfully slow old one but similarly leaves cakes much drier in texture. Just reducing the cooking time didn't work for me (still dry on the outside, barely cooked inside) and lowering the temperature needs more trial and error. Possibly the recipes need tweaking. The trouble is, more experimentation means more inches on the waistline !

  7. Ive been told that wrapping them in more paper might help. I think I'm going to do that, put a baking tray on the shelf above, reduce the temperature a bit and see what happens. I might soak the fruit too, current recipe doesn't, but it might help.