Fiona Cairns’ company became known worldwide after being commissioned to make the Royal Wedding Cake for TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The eight-tiered cake, made with seventeen fruitcakes, was baked and decorated in the Leicestershire bakery, and took the team two months to make. The cake was displayed in the Summer Exhibition at Buckingham Palace.
Fiona has written three popular books on cake baking and decorating, Bake and Decorate, The Birthday Cake Book and Seasonal Baking. Here Fiona shares her Christmas baking tips with us.
Forward Planning – Lists
I am a great believer in making lists, and part of Christmas for me is planning my baking, writing lists and enjoyable hours in the kitchen. You can’t start early enough and this way you really cut the stress in half. Choose a few of your seasonal favourite recipes, maybe factor in a couple of new ideas which have caught your eye. Think about how much time you have, don’t be over ambitious and remember to know your skill limitations.
Read through the recipes and check your store cupboard. Stock up on the longer life ingredients you might require such as dried fruits, nuts, sugar, flour and spices.
The deep freeze does come into its own for Christmas. Unbaked goods especially can be stored and baked off freshly as required – little and often.
Clear space and ensure you have plenty of freezer containers with lids, labels, foil, freezer bags etc.
Baking Ingredients – Prepare
The temperature of your ingredients when baking is so important. Remove butter at least a few hours, or even the night before from the fridge. Stand uncracked eggs in a bowl of warm water for 15 minutes or so if chilled.
Fresh Bakes – Anytime
I always make a big batch of gingerbread men and festive shaped shortbreads (stars, hearts and Christmas trees are my favourites). I roll the dough, cut the shapes out and layer with silicone paper and store in large containers in the freezer. Defrost and bake a batch when required, your family and guests will be so impressed. The house will have a delicious aroma too. Some cakes e.g. chocolate cake freezes especially well, although freeze buttercream separately. Chocolate ganache is best freshly made.
Why not arrange a “Christmas bake in day” or an afternoon with a few friends or family members. I do this every year with a few girlfriends it gets us into the festive spirit and its great fun.
The Christmas cake, pudding and mincemeat can be made as early as October and the earlier they are made the better they will taste.
Delight family and friends with beautifully packaged little boxes of gingerbreads, seasonal biscuits, a Christmas cake, batch of cupcakes, or a jar of mincemeat. Start collecting and recycle ribbons little boxes, bags etc. I do this all year so by Christmas I have a wonderful assortment.
A traditional rich fruit Christmas cake is not for everyone, children often don’t like it. Bake a delicious chocolate cake, cupcakes or roulade too, or light airy meringues, or even a tropical fruit pavlova as alternatives.
If you really don’t have time (or the inclination for that matter) why not buy a cake. It could be iced or un-iced, add a little booze, perhaps a fabulous ribbon, a few candles, a bundle of cinnamon sticks, candy canes or deep red and white roses for decoration.
Do remember a simple design is often the most effective.