Rudolph Christmas Cake

I absolutely love making and decorating our Christmas cake each year and spending the time looking at ideas of what to make. I came across this design and thought it looked really good fun. And luckily I had the opportunity to make a second cake for our friends Matt and Beckie and their two kids Ellie and Freddie as their Christmas pressie again this year, so this was the perfect excuse to make it.

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One of our favourite treats for breakfast at the weekend are homemade cinnamon buns! I’ve tried quite a few different recipes and spotted this Christmas version so thought I’d give it a go for breakfast this weekend. I have a huge jar of homemade mincemeat in the cupboard still, so this was perfect for using some of it up. Click here to read more.

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Nordic Gnome Christmas Cake

Last year after Christmas I was sitting down having a cup of tea in a rare quiet moment and thought I would browse Pinterest for a bit, I came across a lovely Christmas gnome cake and thought it looked a bit different so I would do something similar for Christmas next year. Little did I know how popular Nordic gnomes would become this year! I am sure I say this each year, but this is my favourite Christmas cake – until next year! Click here to get an insight into how I made it.

The original idea for the cake can be found here. I made my Christmas cake with two 5” fruit cakes and one 4” fruit cake and went back to using Delia’s recipe again this year. I covered them in marzipan then coloured some sugar paste pale brown. I rolled it out and cut strips that were about 5-7mm wide, I painted the tops of each strip with slightly watered down dark brown food colouring. I took one strip and starting from one end started to wind it up a bit like a snails shell, once I had reached the end I got another strip and kept going till the diameter was almost the size of the cake. I then rolled it gently with a rolling pin to flatten it a bit, then carefully placed it on top of the cake and smoothed it into place. I coloured some more sugar paste dark brown and rolled it out into a long strip big enough to wrap around the outside of the cake, then used my silicone oak mat to make the bark texture before putting it onto the cake. I then used some dark brown petal dust to add some definition.

I made the gnomes body using Rice Krispie treats which I rolled into a ball then covered with grey sugar paste. I made the hat in the same way and squashed the Rice Krispie treats around a thick florist wire that I bent into shape. I then covered it in chocolate ganache before icing it.

I made some royal icing and added some grey food colouring then began piping the beard. To get the beard effect I piped from bottom to top, without sticking the start of the piping to anything, I piped upwards in mid air then just pushed the piping bag to the bottom of the hat to complete each line. So each line was dangling down and not touching anything at the bottom. Once done I used some white sugar paste to put around the edge of the hat.

The girls absolutely love the little gnome, there was lots of shrieking from Chloe when she first saw him! Just a shame this year we can’t have friends and family round so no one will get to see it. But we are definitely going to appreciate having him sat on our sideboard this Christmas!

Rudolph Mince Pie Rocky Road

We have been super busy baking at home this week! So this is the first of my Christmas baking blogs, hopefully plenty more to come. I tried to pick recipes this year that the girls could help with to keep us busy at home. These were really good fun to make and look very cool too. Click here for the recipe.

The recipe was from November’s Sainsbury’s magazine – mince pie tiffin bites. We all love rocky road in our house, so this festive version will definitely be a favourite. Here is the recipe:

Mince Pie Tiffin Bites

100g skin on almonds

85g glacé cherries, quatered

55g dried cranberries

2 tbsp brandy or orange juice

125g butter

100g golden syrup

20g cocoa

Zest of 1 orange

150g dark chocolate

275g mince pies (roughly 5)

For the topping:

200g milk chocolate

3 tbsp double cream

16 chocolate covered pretzles

8 red glacier cherries

Small amount of white and black fondant for the eyes

  • Preheat the oven to 200C (180 fan). Toast the almonds for 5-10 minutes then leave to cool.
  • Put the cherries, cranberries and brandy in a small bowl and leave to soak.
  • Line a 7” round tin with baking paper
  • Put the butter, syrup, cocoa, orange zest and a pinch of salt in a large saucepan and heat gently, stirring until melted and smooth. Stir in the chopped dark chocolate and remove from the heat, leave to melt fully.
  • Stir in the brandied fruits, toasted almonds and broken up minced pies. Tip into the lined tin, spread out and allow to cool, then chill for an hour in the fridge till set.
  • Place the chocolate and cream for the topping in a heat proof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, leave to melt, then remove from the heat and stir until smooth. Pour over the tiffin and smooth out. Allow to set.
  • Remove the tiffin from the tin and using a hot knife slice into 8 portions.
  • Melt a small amount of milk chocolate and lightly dip the top of the glacier cherry into the chocolate then stick it to the point of the slice of tiffin. Take 2 pretzels and drip the underneath of each in a small amount of chocolate and stick to the outsides of each slice of tiffin for the antlers.
  • roll out the white and black fondant and cut circles for the eyes. Using a paint brush, brush a small amount of chocolate on the back of each eye and secure in place.

This years bake off final really was super exciting and I was so happy for Peter to win, he thoroughly deserved it! Emily enjoyed it so much this year too and was quite sad this week when she realised there was no bake off to watch when she got home from school. But we still have one technical to do at some point as we never got round to making the eclairs. But for now I am looking forward to doing some Christmas baking! So here’s the last technical challenge and they certainly saved a good one till last! Click here to see how we got on.

Prue’s recipe for the walnut whirls can be found here. The girls helped make the biscuits and the ganache, then the rest was down to me. Unfortunately my ganache didn’t really firm up, even after several hours in the fridge, so when I piped it I ended up with a puddle on the top of each biscuit. I ended up putting it in the freezer and managed to squish it into roughly the right shape on top of each biscuit. Luckily my marshmallow hadn’t set too much in the piping bag so I was still able to pip around the outside of the ganache.

Covering them with chocolate was pretty messy! The recipe made about 3 times the amount, so I just kept remelting the chocolate to cover the rest and we had plenty of left over marshmallow too. They were super yummy, probably my favourite technical along with the doughnuts! We’ve had so much fun again this year and really enjoyed trying a few things that we wouldn’t normally attempt. Now time for some Christmas baking!

I can’t believe that the final of the Great British Bake Off is tomorrow, this series has gone super quickly and we’ve really enjoyed trying all the technicals again. When we watched last weeks episode I really wasn’t too sure we would manage to make it, it really did look like a super hard challenge! But I love a challenge, click here to see how I got on.

I made the biscuit dough with Emily and Chloe after school on Friday and left it in the fridge over night till Saturday afternoon when we had some free time. Emily didn’t really want to help, so while she was busy playing with her lego I shaped and rolled all the biscuits and baked them. They all cracked quite a lot but smelt pretty good! The recipe can be found here.

I tempered the chocolate and piped the swirls, I found the chocolate much harder to pipe than royal icing and much messier! I piped loads of extra swirls as i could see it was going to be very fiddly to stick them on without breaking them. Once the biscuits were cooled I piped on the royal icing then left them to dry.

Unfortunately the only time I had left to assemble them was while I was trying to get the girls tea ready and also get a chicken curry prepared and in the oven, so it was a bit messier and more rushed than I would have liked! I also found that where the royal icing was piped on the top of the biscuits the caramel didn’t want to stick making assembly quite tricky. I got there in the end and it held its shape while I carefully stuck the chocolate swirls on, plenty of them broke, but I had just enough. The biscuits tasted really good and were perfect the next day with a coffee! I would definitely make the biscuits again, but not in a horn shape!

I am sure plenty of people will agree with me that this weeks technical wasn’t really the most appealing, but I wanted to give it at go and I could see that the flavours should be pretty tasty. Luckily I had some suet in the cupboard as I was planning on making my mincemeat for Christmas this weekend. I ran out of time to bake with the girls, so this was my first solo challenge, click here to see how I got on.

I decided that we really didn’t want to make the whole recipe, Rich really wasn’t keen and I also didn’t have the right sized pudding bowls, so I used a small metal one instead and made just under half of the recipe. The full recipe can be found here. The recipe was easy enough to make. But I was not paying enough attention and forgot to line my tin, I had greased it though, so hoped that would be enough.

I didn’t time it very well as the 2 hours was up on the steamer while Rich was on a work phone call and we hadn’t even eaten dinner yet, so I left it another 20 mins before getting it out and having a go and turning it out. Unfortunately it wasn’t very easy to remove from the tin and broke, making a big puddley mess on the plate, just like most of the bakers! I think this is my first proper bake off fail! Amazingly it tasted much better than it looked and the lemon inside was soft and it was a bit like eating a sweet marmalade pudding. Emily and Chloe had a small bit to share and they really enjoyed it. It’s not really something I will be making again though!

I’m getting a bit behind with blogging about the Bake Off technicals, but we have been giving them a go! I think I have only made doughnuts a couple of times as I don’t have a deep fat fryer, but these looked so good that it seemed worth the effort of filling a large saucepan with oil and using the thermometer to check the temperature, its definitely much harder to regulate it on the hob. We were all very excited to give these a go! Click here to see how we got on.

I didn’t have any strawberries, but had some of my parents homegrown raspberries in the freezer, so used some of these to make the jam instead. Emily and Chloe helped measure things out and helped with kneading the dough a bit too. Chloe loved poking her fingers in the soft dough! Pauls recipe can be found here.

I fried the doughnuts while the girls were having their tea so we could all have them for pudding. I couldn’t believe how big they got when they were put into the hot oil! They had just enough time to cool down so I could pipe in the filling and the jam. We very much enjoyed eating them! Probably one of the best technical challenges ever, they were so good!

We missed last week’s technical challenge as the recipe wasn’t on the website until after the weekend so we didn’t have time. But we will catch up and make them at some point during lockdown. This weeks recipe looked really interesting, but neither Rich or I are keen on matcha so we decided to make a crepe cake half the size in case we didn’t like it! Click here to see how we got on.

I had some matcha powder left over from a wedding cake I made and hadn’t been brave enough to bake anything else with it, so this was the perfect bake to use it up. Prue’s recipe can be found here. Emily and Chloe helped make the pancake mixture, we had to add a bit of Green food colouring as the matcha I had wasn’t a very vibrant green!

I made the ganache meringue filling, it was super smooth and rich. Emily helped me assemble the crepes and did a good job of spreading out the filling and topping with the sliced strawberries. We popped it in the fridge to chill before decorating it, it looked quite pretty especially when you cut into it. Rich and I enjoyed some for pudding with some extra mango and strawberries on the side, it was actually quite yummy – apart from the dusting of matcha powder on top!

We were all very excited for chocolate week on the GBBO, its got to be one of our favourite things to bake with in our house. And even better, the babka was a perfect treat for breakfast at the weekend. So on Friday when Emily finished school, we headed home and made the chocolate fill and the dough. Click here to see how we got on.

Once the chocolate filling was made and cooling down in the fridge, we make the dough, it was very sticky, but I kept the mixer running and amazingly it all came together to make a super soft lovely dough. Once done, I rolled it out and Emily helped sprinkle the chopped hazelnuts over the top, before I rolled it up, cut it and plaited it. It was actually relatively easy to do.

I then left it to prove, but even after 3 hours there was barely any change and I was running out of time before going to bed, so I just bake it anyway. Luckily it rose a bit, not as much as I had hoped, but when we cut into it for breakfast on Saturday morning it was beautifully soft and light and the chocolate filling was so super rich and sugary, we all loved it!