Wednesday 26 October 2016

It Must Be Half Term...

...because I have just made my Christmas Cake and Puds. I've made them in the October half term week for almost 40 years now, using a modified form of the recipe in my ancIent, food spattered, Good Housekeeping Cookbook. The best years were the ones when the girls were at home, and we all took a turn to stir the mixture. We each wrote down 4 hopes and prayers for the coming year - 
  1. a gift we would like for ourselves
  2. a gift we would like for someone else we knew
  3. something we would like to happen in our family, our church or our community
  4. something we would like to happen in the world.
The notes would go in my notebook and then the following year we would check them. I wish I hadn't mislaid that little book, it would be good to look back and realise just how many of those things had come to pass.
A few helpful tips I have learned in all these years of Christmas Cake & Pud Making
  • a grated carrot or too adds extra sweetness and moisture to your pud [my Gran's tip - and recommended by Marguerite Patten too. It was a popular during WW2 rationing]
  • if you are teetotal - and thrifty, you can always use cold tea instead of brandy in both pud and cake
  • tying a cloth over the pudding bowl with string is the traditional method - 2 layers of greaseproof paper and an outer one of foil can be held on just as well with a rubber band, and it is less fiddly to put on. But don't forget to put in a pleat to allow for expansion. 
  • if you are steaming your puds, use a steamer - or a stack them in a pressure cooker [balance the lid on top, rather than fixing it right down] or, if you are making a lot of little puds, you can use a fish kettle - like the one Bob bought in a CS last year
  • you can save time by cooking puds under pressure in a PC - I was making a load this year and decided to use the trad steaming method. Some years I have steamed them all by standing them in a roasting tray in the oven but I have never cooked them in the microwave
  • if the hob is covered with steaming puds and there is a cake in the oven, plan your evening meal carefully. I put a tray of jacket spuds in the bottom of the oven - served up with microwaved baked beans, grated cheese and cold ham. The spare cooked spuds will go into the fridge and be used in tomorrows meal.
  • keep a kitchen timer about your person, so you get regular reminders to go and check the pans have not boiled dry. 
Do you make your own Christmas puds and cakes?

Or do you usually buy them?

If you make them, do you have any special tips?


  1. I use my own slow cooker and borrow others. Takes longer but they don't need any supervision.

  2. That's one method I have yet to try - but I like the fact that they can bubble away unattended!

  3. I have no tips, but the HE department 8in school are using an M&S idea for making two cakes from one. If you make a big cake and a small, as I do for us and then for my father, make just one big, round cake, and when cool cut the small round cake out of the centre of the big cake. Decorate the remaining big ring as a Christmas wreath! It helps if you are the Technology technician and are already making a circular cutting tool...

    1. Only you could suggest a holey Cake Mags! I have seen small ones made in well washed half sized baked bean cans.

  4. hi angela

    Always make my own. Always add a carrot and an apple - a Scottish friend I used to work with suggested this many moons ago when I was first learning to cook and I have used it ever since no matter the recipe. The carrot does add a touch of sweetness. I either steam in the traditional steamer basket or pressure cook. however I like yout lateral thinking with the fish steamer had not thought of that one.

    I see you have the Good Housekeping old faithful. it was my mum's cookbook of choice and the one I learned to cook from. it is well battered but I now have it safe in my custody. I think the old ways are the best and the tradition of stirring the puddings, and the cake mixing bowls and making a wish were something that we were also bought up with. The highlight though was finding the silver sixpence in the pudding. I am surprised that more people do not make their own especially as they are far fruitier and richer than the store bought ones. I only bought one once. never again and I do not use the microwave for cooking them either. I make my brother and his wife their cake and pudding as well as the plum bread - my sister in law does not bake and when mum was here she used to bake for them so really I am just carrying on a tradition. my nan used to make the plum bread for everyone and then when she passed mum took it on and now its my turn. I think that there is some comfort certainly for me with the traditions surrounding the cake and pudding making. it marks the turn in the seasons and is part of the planning for the months to come. hope you are keeping well. pattypan x

    1. I love that you are keeping up the traditions. Our family never did the silver sixpence thing. I think someone was afraid of choking, or breaking a tooth or something!

  5. It's also good for reheating on Christmas Day. I used to leave mine in the utility room out of the way. Made it nicer than just microwave reheating

    1. Now that IS a good idea, to reheat in the slo-cooker. Thanks for that suggestion x

  6. My maternal grandmother used to make Christmas cake and pudding. Like so many others in my country of birth at the time, she had no oven, so she'd send her cake to be baked at the neighborhood bread bakery! My mother and I used to make Christmas cake, but my daughter doesn't like it (she only likes the marzipan topping!), so I haven't made any since my mother died.

  7. I'm not a fan of Christmas cake or pud but I used to enjoy stirring as a child. I think it is a lovely family tradition. Your tips are Great!


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