Mich Turner’s Top 10 Ideas For Festive Baking
“Christmas comes around quicker every year – the secret is to be prepared!
You cannot start too early or write too many lists!” – MICH TURNER MBE
1. Stir-Up Sunday Christmas Pudding
This is the last Sunday before the first Sunday of Advent and is traditionally when the rich fruit Christmas cake and Christmas pudding should be made to allow them full time to mature. This year, Stir Up Sunday is 26th. Here is my family Christmas Pudding recipe – I have been making it for my family for years. I hope it fills your homes with the aroma of Christmas and fulfils your wishes. You can order a Silver Sixpence from The Royal Mint here.
For a 2-Pint Pudding Basin (or 2 x1-pint pudding basins):
- 110g vegetable suet
- 50g self-raising flour
- 110g white breadcrumbs
- 1tsp mixed spice
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 225g soft brown sugar
- 110g sultanas
- 110g raisins
- 275g currants
- 50g dried cherries
- 50g chopped blanched almonds
- 125g Bramley apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped or grated
- 1 orange zest
- 1 lemon zest
- 2 large eggs
- 75ml brandy
- 75ml Guinness
- SILVER SIXPENCE
Begin the Day Before…
- Place the suet, flour, breadcrumbs, spices and sugar into a large bowl and mix thoroughly.
- Wash the dried fruit and cherries and drain well.
- Add the fruit to the dried ingredients and then add the nuts, apple and grated orange and lemon.
- In a jug, mix together the brandy, Guinness and eggs. Pour this liquid over the ingredients and begin to mix thoroughly. The mixture should be fairly loose. If it is looking stiff or dry, add a little more Guinness.
- Pop the Silver Sixpence in the pudding and invite everyone to stir and make a wish.
- Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to stand overnight.
Stir Up Sunday
- Pack the Christmas pudding into a greased pudding basin (with a disc of baking paper on the base of the bowl) with your silver sixpence inside.
- Place a circle of baking paper on the top.
- Cover the bowl with a double layer of greaseproof paper with a pleat folded in the centre and then a piece of aluminium foil – again with a fold to make a pleat.
- Tie securely with string or ribbon.
- Pull the edges of the paper up and away from the bowl and trim with scissors.
- Place in a large saucepan or steamer and fill 2/3 with water. Bring to the boil and then gently simmer for 8 hours. Check regularly and top the water up as necessary.
- When the pudding has steamed, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
- Replace the top paper and foil with fresh and leave in a cool, dry place to mature.
On Christmas Day, steam as before for 1 – 2 hours before turning out onto a festive plate and serving. Whoever receives the Silver Sixpence will have all the luck!
2. Christmas Gift Cakes
Christmas gift cakes make fabulous gifts for friends, family, neighbours and school teachers. Bake rich fruit cakes and decorate with marzipan, sugar paste, festive ribbons and decorations. Present these on a cake board, in a cake box finished with a ribbon and personalised ornament or card. Bake different sizes to make good use of all your tins. For smaller individual cakes, stamp these out using a cutter from one larger cake.
3. Seasonal Breakfast Muffins
Add dried cranberries, orange zest, pecans and cinnamon to banana muffins for a festive brunch bake.
4. Christmas Tree Cookies
A wonderful decoration for the Christmas tree and fun to make with the family. Bake Christmas spiced cookies in a range of Christmas shapes with a hole (made using a straw) before baking. Decorate with royal icing and sprinkles before tying with festive ribbon and hanging from the tree. They will last up to one month. My favourites include crowns, trees, wreaths, stars and camels. Use the same idea without the hole, but inserted on coloured paper straws and baked in the oven. Hand pipe names on the cookies and present to the children in your school class or everyone at your Christmas party.
5. Oaty Mince Slice
For an alternative to classic mince pies, I love these oat mincemeat slices. Spread a jar of mincemeat between an oaty crumble and bake in the oven until golden brown. My favourite:
- 365g plain flour
- 30g golden caster sugar
- 250g melted unsalted butter
- 165g rolled oats
- Mix all ingredients together. Press half into the base of a lined 7″ x 11″ rectangular tin.
- Spread a 410g jar of mincemeat on top. Cover with remaining oaty crumble.
- Press down firmly and bake in the oven 180°C for 30 minutes until golden brown.
- Leave to cool then cut into 16 squares.
These will keep for up to a week in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
Decorate a wreath of gingerbread with hand decorated cookies. I have gingerbread holly and vanilla snowflake cookies in my NEW book – Have Your Cake and Eat It. Combine these ideas and add your own designs, candy canes, and sugar decorations to create a table centrepiece for everyone to share.
Makes 50 mini cupcakes.
Bake your own Christmas canapé cupcakes – add a dash of rum to dried cherries and stir into your favourite chocolate cake recipe mixed with the zest of fresh orange. Spoon into mini cupcake cases and bake until just set. Top with a chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream and sprinkle with edible gold dust or sparkles.
- 100g melted cooled dark chocolate 70% cocoa solids
- 125g unsalted butter
- 175g light brown sugar
- 3 eggs – medium
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 70g plain flour
- 1 orange zest
- 50g dried cherries soaked in 2 tbsp rum for one hour
- 50g glace cherries, washed and chopped
- Place mini cupcake liners into a mini muffin tin and set the oven to 160°C.
- Follow the recipe for making chocolate cake from Have Your Cake and Eat It.
- Stir the cherries, any remaining rum and orange zest into the cake batter.
- Spoon the mixture into a large disposable piping bag and snip the end.
- Deposit the batter into the cupcake liners until they are ¾ filled.
- Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.
- Allow to cool then remove to the wire rack until cold.
- Decorate the cupcakes with meringue buttercream and dredge with gold shimmer dust.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
This Swiss meringue buttercream relies on heating together the sugar and egg whites to make a meringue into which butter is beaten to thicken and stabilise it. This buttercream has a wonderfully silky, velvety texture which is deliciously light. It handles beautifully for piping onto cupcakes and larger cakes and holds its shape well.
This recipe yields 1kg.
- 5 egg whites at room temperature (medium eggs)
- 275g caster sugar
- 1tsp vanilla bean paste
- 450g unsalted butter
- Place the egg whites and the sugar in a large, clean bowl over a pan of gently simmering water. Whisk with an electric hand whisk until the meringue is silky and not grainy when a little is rubbed between your finger and thumb – a temperature of 190°F or 88°C. This will take approximately 10 minutes.
- Remove the meringue from the heat, but continue to whisk until the meringue cools to room temperature and has thickened.
- Add the butter in small batches and beat well between each addition.
- Add the vanilla and whisk until well combined.
TIP – because the meringue is cooked, it is stable at room temperature.
TIP – allow the meringue to cool to room temperature before adding the butter, otherwise it could spit. If this happens, continue to whisk well and allow to cool.
Chocolate Meringue Buttercream
- Add 190g melted, cooled dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids chocolate) to the Swiss meringue buttercream.
- Whisk with an electric hand whisk until the buttercream is silky and smooth.
- Half fill a large disposable piping bag with the buttercream, fit a 2D nozzle, and pipe a generous swirl of buttercream on the top of each mini cupcake. Start in the centre and work outwards finishing with a flick! Dust the cupcakes with edible gold shimmer dust.
8. Easy Peasy Perfect Pastry Crumble Topped Shortbread Mince Pies
- Rub 225g chilled unsalted butter into 350g plain flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs and then stir in 100g golden caster sugar.
- Spoon 2 large tablespoons of these crumbs into the base of a 12-hole bun tray and press down firmly and up the sides with the back of a spoon.
- Spoon a large teaspoon of brandy mincemeat into each pie case and then sprinkle the remaining shortbread crumbs over the top of each pie. Press down lightly.
- Bake in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes at 180°C until golden brown.
- Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before lifting out with a cranked palette knife.
Serve with lashings of brandy cream. These will keep for up to a week in an airtight container and can be warmed through in the oven.
9. Showstopper Christmas Cake
I host my annual Christmas Masterclass at The Dorchester Hotel in London and love coming up with a different cake design every year to complement the Christmas season. My favourites include our sleepy polar bear, the Santa star and the gingerbread man candy cane.
10. Chocolate Biscuit Boxing Day Cake
For all those who don’t like the traditional vine fruit cake.
- Pile a mould or tin with my decadent chocolate biscuit cake.
- Line the tin or mould with clingfilm brushed with groundnut oil.
- Fill the mould with the chocolate biscuit mixture and cover with clingfilm.
- Press down firmly and then refrigerate until firm.
Cover with sugar paste and decorate with a festive decoration or bake in a large tray and serve on Boxing Day after a hearty walk. Store in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.