I’ve been feeling christmassy since the leaves started falling, but now its less than a month till the big day I think I can get away with vocalising my excitement. Christmas pudding isn’t a favourite dessert for me, but it’s a such a festive tradition […]
I’ve never been a fan of the traditional rich Christmas fruit cake, but it just doesn’t feel like Christmas without a cake! So every year I whip up a big ol’ layer cake for the family to enjoy that’s a bit more modern in style. This year I decided to emulate my buttercream flower wreath cake and create a wintery version as I loved that cake so much!! Its the proudest I’ve ever been, so I knew I wanted to try the style again. I did downsize slightly and kept the flowers to one side. I love how it makes it look a little more elegant and so so festive!
So that’s how my Christmas wreath cake was born.
Flavours wise I decided to create an earl grey sponge with a vanilla swiss meringue buttercream. The bergamot flavour from the tea gives it a lovely subtle festive note, without being too overpowering. I also created an earl grey cake soak to enhance the flavour and ensure the cake stayed moist and flavourful throughout. I really think cake soaks are worth taking the extra time to create, especially if you’re not serving the cake on the day you baked it.
The earl grey sponge is really the star of this christmas wreath cake, but swiss meringue buttercream is my absolute favourite for layer cakes. It’s so luscious without being too sweet, and is so smooth making it the easiest buttercream to get a crisp finish. It also works really well for piping flowers as they keep their shape so well. I always pipe mine onto small squares of parchment paper attached to a flower nail, that way you can then place them in the freezer to harden which makes your life ten times easier when placing them on the cake.
For decoration I also added cinnamon sticks to look like twigs, and small dots of buttercream to act as holly berries. I really love the look and taste of this Christmas wreath cake, its subtly festive and super pretty.
For the last in my edible gift series, I give you candy pretzel rods! Probably the most American sounding and tasting treat on my blog, its the perfect combination of salty and sweet. I’ve seen these on Pinterest for a few years now, but have never been able to find pretzel rods in the UK – until now! I found them in Whole Foods a few weeks back and was sooo excited! You absolutely could make these just by dipping regular shaped pretzels, but I just think the rods look so cute.
I feel abit of a fraud calling this baking, when its literally just melting some chocolate and dipping the rods. But that does make it the perfect lazy afternoon bake, especially with kids in tow! I decided to just stick to milk chocolate and white candy melts, though with candy melts or even food colouring you could really go to town! Red & green pretzel rods would look super festive!
For the decorations I bought festive sprinkles and shapes, but again you could coat them in anything you fancied! The American pretzel rods that I’d seen on pinterest are sometimes covered in M&M’s and all kinds of small candy, but I could only find thin rods and they looked a little ridiculous! Please do let me know if you happen to find fatter pretzel rods though, the possibilities would then be endless!
The salty pretzel rod perfectly complements the sweet chocolate coating, making these ridiculously moreish. You can easily eat 3-4 in one go without really thinking! And as they’re only small, and it is Christmas you definitely don’t need to feel guilty about it.
Wrapped up with some twine and popped in a treat bag I think the pretzel rods are such a cute treat, and they look so festive! I also love that in the UK its not such a traditional sweet, making them all the more interesting and unique.
Let me know if you make them!
The second in my edible Christmas gift series is dedicated to the art of jam making! Strawberry Jam is a favourite amongst adults and children alike, and I don’t know anyone who’d turn down a jar of the homemade variety! Like most edible gifts it’s actually really easy to make, but looks so impressive! And you can really go to town with festive decoration on your jars.
This recipe makes ALOT of jam, so you will need a large pan to make it in! I didn’t anticipate quite how much jam, and ended up in catastrophe. I took my eye off the pan for literally a minute – rookie mistake! – and next thing I know, its boiled over and lava-like jam is running down the side of my oven…all over the halogen hobs…into my oven gloves that were hanging on the oven…and all over my decorative tea-towel. ….Yes that’s a thing!
It was a disaster. And obviously, with it being so hot I was pretty much helpless until it’d cooled down a little. Lessons learnt here? Use the biggest pan possible, and DON’T take your eye off it!
Making jam is a simple concept; boiling sugar and fruit over a high heat until you reach the setting point. What you need to take into account however is the amount of pectin contained in your fruit of choice. Pectin is a gelling agent that causes jam to set, it occurs naturally in some fruit and is absent in others. Strawberries in particular are quite low in pectin, whereas apples and pears have a high count. Thankfully, nowadays our lives are made really easy with specific ‘jam sugars’ that have pectin included!
That’s not to say that you couldn’t make a jam using normal sugar and low-pectin fruits, but you’d have to boil it for so long to get to the right setting consistency that you’d have to sacrifice yield and flavour!
For my strawberry jam, I use a 1:1 ratio of fruit to sugar, with the addition of the juice of one lemon. It makes enough jam for 4 standard jam jars – I used two large and one standard…but that’s because I lost a fair bit in the aforementioned jam disaster :(.
You will need to make sure to sterilise your jars before pouring your jam in as this ensures you kill all bacteria. I find the easiest way is to pop them in the oven for 20 minutes at Gas Mark 1/140C/120C Fan. You’ll need to time this, so that the jars are still warm when you fill them with your freshly set strawberry jam. The only other prep you need to do, is place a few saucers into the freezer. You’ll use these later to test if your jam is set.
I love this strawberry jam recipe, its perfectly set and just sweet enough. Please do let me know if you gift any jars!
I’m BIG on Christmas. I have about 9 Christmas jumpers waiting patiently in my wardrobe until its acceptable to wear them and I had my first Christmas sandwich in October… But one of my favourite festive activities in the run up to the big day is making edible gifts. And salted caramels always feature heavily.
I think a handmade gift is such a lovely thing to treasure, and if you’re a bit strapped for cash (which who isn’t around this time?!) its also really handy as you seem so thoughtful without making yourself bankrupt in the process. Go you!
Salted caramels especially always go down a treat. I mean, who can resist the salty sweet combination? Definitely not me!
Now I know salted caramels can seem a little intimidating, and you do need to be prepared before you start with all your ingredients measured and ready. But! They really are so achievable, and once you’ve mastered the basics you can begin experimenting with different flavours. I’ve made chai-tea caramels before, and tried passion fruit caramels in Paris this year that I’d love to recreate. So please don’t be put off by the thought of boiling hot sugar… just keep calm and carry on.
You will need a candy thermometer for this, as you need to heat the sugar to an exact temperature to ensure they are set but still chewy. I have a Salter digital thermometer and its honestly the best I’ve tried. It was under £15 and can also be used as a meat probe, which also comes in really handy at Christmas time!
The biggest problem I think people have with making caramel is that they can’t resist stirring the pan, which results in crystallised sugar and a big old mess. RESIST the wooden spoon! Honestly, your sugar is fine sat there by itself with only a few swirls of the pan every now and then. If you know there are major heat spots on your hob, you can turn the pan every now and then to distribute the heat more evenly. Just don’t stir it!
Whilst your sugar is dissolving you need to be gently warming the double cream, butter and sea salt flakes in a small pan. Then as soon as the caramelised sugar has turned a warm golden brown colour you need to (slowly!) pour the cream mixture in. I say slowly, as it will boil up at this point so please be careful!
Now is your exciting chance to use your wooden spoon that I know you’ve been itching to get out! Stir in your vanilla and then cook for 5-10 minutes until you reach 120C on a candy thermometer. This is extremely hot (obvs!) so again, please be careful! As soon as it reaches 120C you need to pour it into a prepared pan – see what I mean about needing to be organised?
Then you can pop it in the fridge to set, and await praise from your friends and family over your culinary delights!
Once they were cool, I wrapped my salted caramels up in parchment paper and then popped them in brown paper bags to give them a cute old-fashioned sweet feel. You could buy festive sweet wrappers and bags if you really wanted to go to town though!
I hope that’s enticed you to try making salted caramels gifts for Christmas, or just for yourself!
P.S. Apologies for the slightly sporadic posting! I’m currently moving flats which has taken over my life. Hopefully I’ll be back to Sunday posting soon 🙂