Advent Calendar 5: Mulled Cider

Sometimes the world is out to get you. Hard days and long nights don’t take a holiday because it’s Christmas. Therefore, here is a recipe that will cute your ills, soothe and warm you, and get you well on your way to being merry.

Mulled Cider

  • 1 litre still dry cider (I used Snakecatcher by New Forest Cider)
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 vanilla pod, split
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Juice of an orange
  • 50ml calvados
  • 50ml pomegranate juice
  • 3tbsp caster sugar

Warm up the cider until steaming. Meanwhile, measure out your dry and wet ingredients.

Chuck in your spices and juice/booze mixture and give everything a good stir. Bruise the cinnamon stick and vanilla pod with your spoon as you do so.

Bring the pot up to a boil, then turn it back down to a simmer for 5-8 minutes

Serve piping hot in heatproof cups.


This recipe is based on Jamie Oliver’s recipe for the same, with a few measurements tweaked, and an extra dose of booze to warm your cockles. It’s a damn good recipe, so I didn’t need to muck about with it much. Sweet, fruity, boozy and oh so quaffable- this is going to be my go to mulled beverage this year.




Vanilla Latte Cake

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; you’d be hard pushed to find a cake that isn’t improved by a splash of vanilla. This goes double for coffee cake.

I’m one of THOSE people. I take syrup in my coffee. Don’t get me wrong, I like my coffee long, strong and life giving, but I’m not sweet enough to take it with out a little sassy sugar hit. My go to drink if I’m caught at a coffee joint I’m not familiar with is to order a Vanilla Latte. I’m usually going to be safe with that. So, when I was making a coffee cake not so long ago, I thought, hang on… I can make this BETTER.

So I made a light coffee sponge, sandwiched it with a whipped coffee-vanilla buttercream that’s got so much java in it, it could wake the dead. Ta daaah. You’re welcome.

Vanilla Latte Cake

For the cakes:

  • 225g Butter
  • 225g Light muscovado sugar, caster sugar or a blend of both, depending on your supplies
  • 225g Self-raising flour
  • 1tsp Baking powder
  • 2tsp Vanilla extract
  • 4 Free range eggs
  • 4tsp Instant coffee
  • 1tbsp Boiling water

For the buttercream:

  • 150g Butter
  • 350g Icing sugar
  • 1tsp Vanilla extract
  • 4tsp Instant coffee powder
  • 1tbsp Boiling water
  • Cocoa powder to finish

Preheat your oven to 180C or the equivalent. Grease and line two 8inch round cake tins.

Boil the kettle, and add the boiling water to the first lot of coffee powder in a small container. Mix together until all the coffee is dissolved into a syrupy consistency. Set aside.

Cream together the butter and the sugar, then mix in the remaining ingredients until a uniform and smooth cake batter is formed.

Finally, mix the coffee syrup into the batter evenly, then divide the mix between the two prepared tins.

Bake the cakes for 25-30 minutes, until an inserted skewer comes out clean and the cakes are shrinking from the edges. Allow to cool in their tins, or on a rack.

When the cakes are cold, you can either leave them as is for a fatly layered cake, or slice each cake in two and have a four layer cake. If in doubt or lacking confidence or time, do the former.

With the boiling water, make up another batch of coffee ‘syrup’.

Beat together the butter, sugar, vanilla and coffee until a thick, luxurious buttercream forms. spread a quarter of the icing over the bottom layer of the cake, then top it with a next, and so on, until the top, where the remaining generous quarter should be spread evenly then swirled for a pretty finish. Dust with cocoa powder to complete the whippy latte look, and serve this aromatic delight with coffee or tea.


I wish I had a picture of this delight to show you, but what with camera issues this year and how fast this cake vanishes, I simply don’t. Trust me when I say that this cake is as aromatic and delicious as it is pretty. It’s perfect for celebrations- I find all multi layer cakes a bit festive. If you want to kill with kindness, make an extra sponge (so half the recipe), and stack them up with oodles of icing (one and a half to twice the recipe above) for a true monster that will drop jaws. The amount of buttercream yielded from this recipe is enough for generous layers between the cut cakes, and on top, but if you want to cover the whole cake, which looks a little more polished, make one and a half times this amount, or double to be on the safe side.

I’ve made this cake for a friend’s birthday, and given one to a non-profit event, and in both cases they flew. It’s a real crowd pleaser, and you deserve to make one for yourself.



Festive Libations: Recipe Advent Calendar 5th-9th

Sorry tee-tollers; this post is not going to be for you.

I like my Christmas ‘merry’, and for me there is nothing so festive as a swanky Christmas cocktail party. Not that I get invited to too many of those, but an evening under the Christmas lights, martini glass in one hand and wrapping paper in the other does me just fine.

I like my cocktails fruity and sweet, so this ‘menu’ leans quite a bit that way. Some are long, most are strong, but all are instant festive favourites and I just know you’ll love getting ‘jingled’ on them as much as I do.

I dedicate this post to Simon, Davi, Pam, Amber, David, Gary, Holly and Izzy, who dutifully ‘tested’ these out for me over the weekend.



Cheery Chocolate Cherry-tini

For a ‘martini’, this isn’t the strongest drink around, but it is so tasty and festively red. I adore it. If you really can’t get hold of creme de cacao you *can* use a sweet clear liqueur like Malibu, but I really recommend getting yourself a bottle of this stuff. One, you’ll need it for another recipe later on. Two, you deserve it. Three, it isn’t too difficult to find- a well stocked drinks specialist/off license should have it, or try amazon or

  • 1 part cherry juice
  • 1 part creme de cacao
  • 1 part vanilla vodka

Add ingredients to a shaker and shake over ice. Serve in a martini glass with a glacé or maraschino cherry garnish. If you like your drink a little longer, use two measures of cherry juice.



The Grinch

I love love LOVE this cocktail because it is such a step away from the usual christmas flavours, whilst still being pretty darn festive, colour accurate and refreshingly delicious.

  •  2 measures midori
  • 1/2 measure lemon juice
  • 1 tsp simple syrup
  • OPTIONAL: a tap of confectioners glitter in Holographic White (for the snow of Hooville)

Shake ingredients over ice and serve in a cocktail glass. Garnish with a glacé or maraschino cherry. For extra cheer, wet the rim of your glass with the rind of the lemon and rim it with coloured sugar- I recommend red.




This fruity, oh-so-red holiday favourite is a great pitcher drink for parties, but here are the measurements for just one glass… if you can restrain yourself to that. There is debate on the the orange liqueur to use, and the sparkling wine, but for me it has to be Cointreau, and I’m not fussy on the wine. White or pink, Champagne or reasonable-but-drinkable plonk- I don’t think you need to go all out on a wine you are using in the mix. If you can drink it on its own, you’re doing it right. If you’re breaking the bank to buy a bottle, you’re doing it wrong.

  • 1/2 measure Cointreau
  • 2 measures Cranberry juice
  • Sparkling wine or Champagne

Pour the Cointreau and chilled cranberry juice into your champagne flute and stir well. If the juice isn’t chilled before hand, use a shaker full of ice to bring the temperature of it and the liqueur down. Top with the fizz.



Black Forest Martini

There are lots of versions of a Black Forest or Chocolate Raspberry Martini, but this is my favourite. I find this recipe irresistibly festive and delicious, so I’ve included it. Because I love you and I want you to get proper merry this season. This one is really very strong- you have been warned.

  • 1 measure Raspberry Vodka
  • 1 measure Cherry Brandy
  • 1 measure Creme de Cacao

Add all ingredients to a shaker and shake over ice. Serve in a cocktail glass rimmed with sugar and confectioners glitter, like a touch of hoarfrost. Beautiful and delicious.


Lets Get Sauced

I saw this fun and, essentially, frugal take on a Cosmopolitan on Mamrie Hart’s genius Youtube show ‘You Deserve a Drink’. If you’ve got some Cranberry Sauce that needs some love, fix yourself one of these. Please note that I’ve erred on the side of, erm, caution with these measurements.

  • 2 shots citrus vodka
  • 1 shot lime juice
  • A generous tablespoon of cranberry sauce

Add all your ingredients to a shaker and shake thoroughly over plenty of ice. Strain and serve in a martini glass with a slice of lime to garnish.


After one of each of those you’ll probably be a little worse for wear, so please remember to drink responsibly, particularly around this feast season: you shouldn’t let anything spoil your celebrations.

That aside, the above concotions also make an excellent cocktail menu if you are planning a christmassy party- try writing or printing them up in a calligraphy style font to set out for your guests to order from or serve themselves with.

I’ll see you again on the 10th with another recipe. Have a Merry-in-more-ways-than-one evening, everyone!