Christmas Baking 2013.

It’s been a busy few weeks leading up to Christmas.  Even though sometimes you feel as if you’re meeting yourself coming backwards and life is a whirlwind, I do love all the exciting lead up and all the baking I do.  I’ve put my Sam’s Smart Cookies and Cupcakes business on hold for the moment until my son leaves school but baking is very much in my blood and I couldn’t imagine not doing it.  It would be like losing a part of me.   Instead, I turned to baking for friends and family making foodie presents as well as donating mince pies and other goodies to Christmas events at work.

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Mince Pies- these were made with a zesty orange pastry. I used Mary Berry’s mince pie recipe from her latest recipe book: They were filled with my homemade mincemeat from Delia Smith’s Christmas book. My late mother in law always used the recipe to make her mince pies and they always tasted delicious. She recommended the recipe and I have used it ever since.

I made several batches of these mince pies during December.  In previous years I’ve used various recipes, including Nigella’s Domestic Goddess recipe and the one featured in the very first Great British Bake Off cookbook.  Compared with shop bought mince pies they are smaller and the mincemeat is sweeter but they are how I imagine homemade mince pies to taste. I baked some mince pies to serve after our school Nativity performance and also for a grandparents’ Christmas tea party. Sadly, when I was baking for the first event I was carrying a rack of two dozen pies from the oven over to the worktop and knocked them all onto the floor.  Oh dear!  It didn’t help that my greedy but gorgeous Labrador ran in while I was getting the brush out and “hoovered” them up! We only had half the mince pies on that night! I can see the funny side of it now!

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A festive version of the Mocha Marble Cake as featured in The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook. I baked this as a pudding for after Sunday lunch.
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I baked a lot of cupcakes for foodie presents this year.

I love baking cupcakes at Christmas and although I don’t have much spare time to make my own toppers and decorations I was pleased that my local Sainsburys could help me out.  I got the gingerbread men and Christmas pudding toppers in special packs and the snowmen came from somewhere else.  I was also pleased to find TKMaxx selling sprinkles and found some great crushed peppermint pieces in a tub.

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Christmas Pudding Cupcake- all the flavours of a Christmas pudding within a sponge cupcake, including a dash of brandy in the frosting! Recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book.
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Another recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book. This time it’s the Candy Cane Cupcake recipe. I decorated the top slightly differently as I couldn’t find my two tone icing bag.
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These are the EggNog cupcakes from the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book. They were flavoured with rum!
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Finally, here are some gingerbread cupcakes. They provided a great spicy hit without being too overpowering and were topped with a lemon cream cheese icing. Another recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days cookbook.

For our school Grandparents’ Christmas Party during the last week of term I wanted to serve Christmas Cake but hadn’t left enough time to bake a traditional cake.  I found this ideal alternative in Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection, a light fruit cake baked as a traybake.  You then ice the top with marzipan and sugarpaste and cut it into small squares.  I thought this was a brilliant idea and the cakes went down well even though some people don’t like the sweet icing, it was easily peeled off. I decorated the tops with snowflakes, trees, stars and other Christmassy motifs.

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The Christmas Cake Bites from Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection.
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The remaining gingerbread men and the snowmen sugar toppers got used on these fondant topped vanilla sponge cupcakes made for the children in the school where I work. I love baking them cupcakes or cookies at the end of term.

When baking for Sam’s Smart Cookies and Cupcakes I made these gingerbread Christmas Trees to order.  Each one I made was unique and I loved putting them together.  This year I only made one which I donated as a raffle prize.  I originally bought the cutters from Selfridges as a set from Wilton when I was in London a few years back.  Now Lakeland Limited sell them and they are very popular.  For the recipe I use 2 batches of a gingerbread cookie recipe and bake two of each size of cookie.  Once these have been baked and cooled they are covered in roll out icing.  I used the white Renshaw icing for this project and added Skittles and Toffee bon-bons.

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The 3D Gingerbread Christmas Tree.
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After baking the star shapes for the tree I had enough dough left to bake some gingerbread men. I added 4 cheeky gingerbread men to look like they were sitting on the branches of the Christmas tree.
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This is our family Christmas Cake this year. Usually I love to make my own decorations but I fell in love with all these pretty cake toppers and cake band when I was in John Lewis in Liverpool back in October. I just HAD to have them for my cake. What’s more as they’re not edible I’ve got them again for next year!
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Mary Berry’s Tunis Cake as featured on The Great British Bake Off Christmas Special
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More cupcake foodie presents. This time I made chocolate orange and chocolate mint cupcakes. The boxes were ones I found in Lakeland last year and kept them for this Christmas.
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My children helped me to decorate their Christmas pudding alternative- a chocolate Yule Log. I treated myself to the Nordicware Yule Log Bundt pan on sale in Lakeland. They covered the chocolate cake in ganache and piped royal icing on the top of it.
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I made gift bags of cookies for my step-nephews and nieces from a cutter set I bought from TKMaxx. The colours aren’t that Christmassy but it did spell out ho-ho!
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Two Mint Chocolate Cupcakes left over from all the baking. I was looking forward to trying one out but the kids got there before me!

Here’s hoping you all had a great 2013, fantastic Christmas and that you’re looking forward to what 2014 may bring.

Love Sam xx

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