Even though Christmas baking promises lots of fun and creativity, people often find it stressful. However, with a bit of careful planning and preparation, you really can achieve what you wish for with your Christmas baking. One of the great things about baking for the festive season is that so much of it can be done ahead of time.
Early November is the ideal time to get planning and baking. For one, right now there are loads of great offers in-store on lots of baking ingredients, from flour to sugars, dried fruits and nuts and not forgetting things like glace cherries, mixed peel and jars of mince meat and other preserves. I always take advantage of those offers now because, for starters, it helps me spread the cost of Christmas. Also, rather than just buying a load of what I think I might need, I actually take the time to decide on what I’m going to bake and for when. That way, I not only prevent uneccessary buying but I tick one big Christmas organising job off my list.
Here’s my planning and preparation checklist:
CHRISTMAS CAKE AND PUDDING
Speaking of which, people always ask me questions about the basics of making a Christmas cake and pudding, so here’s the low down…
Fruit cakes are best made any time from three weeks to three months in advance of the big day. The longer you leave them, the better their taste and texture will be. They will actually improve with age, especially if they’re being drip-fed with alcohol as they mature.
TIP: Christmas puddings can actually be made up to a year in advance.
Why not make two in one go and put one away for next year?
Begin by soaking the dried fruits in Guinness, whiskey or sherry, depending on the recipe. Allowing them to soak for at least 24 hours and up to three days ensures juicy and plump fruit.
Once your cake and puddings are made, wrap them well in a double layer of parchment paper followed by a double layer of foil. Then store in an airtight container in a cool place away from direct sunlight. Icing and decorating can be done much closer to the big day. Check out my how-to guide HERE.
If you are reading this much closer to Christmas (with none of the above done!), then go ahead and make them anyway, they won’t taste as mature but they will be just fine.
Mince pies are a firm favourite on most families Christmas baking list. I always make my pastry in advance, as it will live happily in the freezer for up to a few months. If I’m getting really organised I will even stamp out the pastry discs for the pies and freeze them between sheets of baking parchment. I might even have the pies tucked away in the freezer, completely assembled and ready for baking depending on how busy I know I will be when it gets to the point of needing them.
This year I’m also making my ‘Magical Mince Pie with Cranberries and Cinnamon’. It is a mince pie for sharing whereby the pastry needs to be baked first before adding the filling. My plan is to have the tart case already baked off and tucked away in the freezer ready to be filled for its final bake so it is fresh (and fast!) for when I need it. I can’t wait to use Supervalu’s award winning ‘Signature Taste, mince meat with brandy’ LINK TO THIS? in this by the way – be sure to add one to your basket – it is delish!
I’m delighted with how my ‘Christmas Wreath Cookies’ turned out and can’t wait to make them as edible gifts for friends and family. I will be making the dough now soon and freezing it, which means I just have to shape and bake them. My ‘Santa’s Red Velvet Cupcakes’ were great fun to develop also. You could make and freeze the cupcakes in advance but I’m going to involve the kids with that bit too (and they wont want them going into the freezer, not to be eaten!) so I’m going to leave time for us to bake them fresh.
I’m really looking forward to making and decorating both of these recipes with my two girls. While the iced decorations might look hard to achieve, why not give them a try and I really feel you will surprise yourself with how easy they actually are. Decorating is a fun and creative activity to keep the kids occupied once on their holidays.
I hope you get to really enjoy your Christmas baking as much as I do. Like everything with Christmas, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Plan and shop ahead, giving yourself enough time and that way you can have fun in the process. Why not create a family tradition whereby the whole family gets involved in baking together? Make it even more enjoyable with festive music, mulled wine, cider or apple juice and the odd Christmas jumper or hat allowed too! Happy baking!