Golden Christmas Cake : Advent Calendar 23rd

My mother requested something a little different when it came to Christmas Cake this year. The traditional black, rich cake is yummy, but I agree that it divides people into lovers, tolerators and haters. Haters won’t touch it, tolerators will have a sliver begrudgingly, and lovers will eat half the cake themselves, before leaving it to moulder on the side til easter.I get the feeling that my mother is in the middle category at best.

So, to honour her wishes, and because I like a challenge, and because I kept forgetting to make my Nanny’s Christmas Cake, I gave a blonde fruitcake a go. I based my recipe on Nigella’s Golden Fruit Cake very closely. The only changes I have made are because I wanted a flour based cake, and due to fruit and spice preferences.

Please note that though I have used dried pears in my recipe, you can substitute dried apples, which are MUCH easier to get hold of. Of course, you can dry your own, as I did.

Golden Christmas Cake

  • 850g dried fruit (apricots, pears and sultanas. I used about 250g sultanas, 150g pears and the rest apricots)
  • 100g glacé cherries
  • 175gsoft butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 125ml Malibu
  • A glug of brandy
  • 200 grams ginger jam
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 35g ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom, or 3 pods worth
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 3 large free range eggs
  • approx. 75g whole blanched almonds
  • 2-3 generous tablespoons apricot jam
  • Gold sugar balls and confectioners glitter to garnish

First, prep the fruit. Roughly chop the pears and apricots. Cut the cherries in half.

Put all the fruit, the butter, the rum, jam and sugar in a pan and bring up to a simmer, mixing until all the butter is melted. Simmer for 10 minutes, the add the brandy. Stir through, then turn off the heat and set the mixture aside to cool.

Double line a 9 inch pan and preheat the oven to 160 c.

In a bowl measure out your dry ingredients and mix them together. Mix them into the fruit mix, then beat in the eggs.

Spoon the gloriously bejewelled mix into your lined tin and even out. Decorate the top with the almonds as you please.

Bake for 1 hour 40 minutes at 150 c. Check at 1hr 20 minutes. To finish the cake off, turn up the heat to 170 c for 20 minutes. The cake is done when the top is golden and an inserted blade or skewer comes out clean.

Cool completely in the tin- this will take some time as the cake is so dense and large. However, you can glaze it when it is halfway cool. Melt the jam in a milk pan and spread evenly over the top of the cake to give it a jewel like shine. If you like, you can now sprinkle over golden sugar sprinkles and confectioners glitter, for an extra touch of seasonal sparkle.


Moist, richly fruity without the smoke of traditional cake; this is an excellent last minute wonder. It also avoids me having to marzipan and ice anything, and then being ‘made’ to eat everyone else’s icing and marzipan, as my family lack my sweet tooth to a degree.





God Jul! : Recipe Advent Calendar 16th

God Jul! Or Merry Christmas if you are of an english speaking persuasion.

Glogg is the traditional swedish christmas drink- a mulled wine full of spices, but perhaps a little different to what you are used to. Glogg contains a lot of booze, giving the finished product a much more fortifying taste. It also traditionally contains raisins and almonds, and is spiced with Cardamom, which is headily aromatic and common in nordic Christmas fare.

Thankfully, apart from the extra ingredients, it isn’t any more difficult to make, and I love how warming the wine and spices fills my home with the feeling of a Christmas Grotto. Yum!

I’ve broken down this recipe into a 1 person size portion, and adjusted the heating time accordingly. I’ve also omitted almonds, as I simply didn’t have any whole ones in the house. If you want to include them, simply use the same measurement as for the raisins.


  • 125ml red wine
  • 1 shot Brandy
  • 1 shot Ruby Port
  • Scant 1/8tsp Ground Cardamom, or 1-2 pods
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 clove
  • 20g mixed fruit and peel (or 15g raisins and approx 5 g peel)
  • 33g sugar, ideally in lumps


Add all the ingredients, except the sugar, to your pan, and bring the mixture up to a steaming heat.

Heat the wine at this heat for 10-15 minutes. Do not let the wine boil.

When you are ready to serve, strain the mix through a fine mesh sieve. If you like, you can add the fruit to your serving glass, or leave them out at this point.

Place your sugar in the bottom of your glass or mug and pour the portion of Glogg over. Enjoy!


The extra booze gives Glogg a really warming kick. I love the clean, heady scent of the cardamom too. This isn’t more than a stone’s throw away from standard mulled wine, but variety is the spice of life.

Speaking of spice, if you can get hold of make-you-own tea bags, you can make up portions of this mix, save the liquids, as stocking fillers for those old enough to enjoy this Christmas delight.



A perfect Christmas pep up

Mid-december can be a bleak time. The cold has really dug its claws in- I had to scrape my car free of frost today at midday! The shops and high streets are heaving and if you haven’t done your shopping yet, you’re seen to be leaving it late and the pressure starts to mount. Calendars are getting booked up faster and faster until you find yourself having to schedule a few hours at one event before switching over to the other one it clashes with, not to mention the after-party you’ll have to go to following that. Family Christmas gatherings are in full swing, and the stress of justifying your life choices of this or all years, or keeping your head down, or not throttling your over-achieving second-cousin-thrice-removed who is showing you up yet again, frays the best of us. If you find solace at the bottom of a glass of mulled wine, go right ahead. You’re not alone, and tis the season, after all.

Me, I do a like a tipple, but of an afternoon, when I’m staring at my ever growing to do list, nothing is more perfect than a cup of tea and a good biscuit. Homebaked, of course, are best, and since it’s the season of sugar, spice and all things nice, Pepparkakor really hit the spot.

Swedish gingersnaps first became part of my baking sphere back in 2006, when my lovely swedish chum Becka, then President of our university choir, suggested we bake Lucia buns and Pepparkakor for a fundraising Christmas bake sale for the students’ coach to our Easter concert at Snape Maltings. On the last rehearsal day before our Christmas concert, the student choir members entered the rehearsal hall in darkness, each carrying a candle and sang the Swedish carol Sankta Lucia in thanks to our non-student members. In the break we sold the gingersnaps and the saffrony traditional Lucia buns (Lussekater) for donations, and brought in the season with the best of cheer. It is one of my fondest university memories.

Becka now has moved back to Sweden, and I’ve long since graduated from university and bought a house over a hundred miles from my old stomping ground. Munching on Pepparkakor and singing along to the radio on a frosty afternoon  is as close as I come to to that  lovely memory.




Knowing that it is the season of giving, if you have vegan pals you like to bake for, or you yourself are dairy free, this mixture works well with Viltalite or pure or other vegan spreads. You can also replace the flour with gluten free or rice flour for gluten free folk, though I tend to find you have to give gluten free doughs and pastry more elbow grease than gluten-full mixes, and let them thaw a little if they turn to stone in the fridge, which they can also be prone to.


  • 300g butter
  • 500g sugar
  • 7 tbsp golden syrup
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 2 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp ground cloves
  • 2 tbsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tbsp baking soda
  • 240ml water
  • 900g plain flour
Cream together the butter, sugar and golden syrup
Add the spices and baking soda, then mix in the water. Yes, really!
Finally, add the flour and bring the dough together. You will need to work it, first with the spoon and then with your hands. It will come together into a gloriously perfumed golden dough.
Either wrap the dough or cover the bowl it is in in foil and allow the spices to develop for at least 12 hours in the fridge.
When the dough is aged, remove from the fridge and roll out nice and thin. It should be thinner than a pound coin- these are ginger SNAPS, after all. Cut out your cookies and place on a greased baking sheet. They will rise and spread a little, so don’t put them too close- a centimetre gap in each direction should be safe.
Bake in a preheated oven (200-225 centigrade) for 5-8 minutes, depending on how your oven behaves. I baked mine for 6-7 minutes at 200. Cool on the tray for five minutes before transferring to a rack. Store, as for all biscuits, in an airtight container.
The biscuits have an almost flaky texture when fresh baked- so light and crisp it’s heavenly. The cardamom hit is wonderfully different and leaves an aromatic sweet after taste. You may find, depending on your taste and how much of a punch your ground cardamom gives (the older it is, the less strong it will be) that you wish to reduce the spice to 1.5 tbsp per batch. However, I’ve had no complaints, and they go down a treat with a cup of Blossom Earl Grey or Vanilla Chai. And, as with all Christmas Gingerbread, a little bit of white royal icing will make the delectable and irresistibly festive.