Stir up Sunday is coming so you'd best get your wooden spoons and brandy at the ready.
On Sunday, the last one before advent, heady scents of cinnamon, cloves, citrus and dried fruits waft around the kitchen. British tradition is to make a Christmas pudding, but I generally tend to opt for a Christmas cake with plenty of time to soak in booze ahead of Christmas day.
Dating back to Victorian times Stir up Sunday gets its name from the 'stirring up' of mincemeat and Christmas pudding mix, typically the time where children get to help out in the kitchen. Each family member will take it in turns to stir the mix clockwise, making a wish with the idea that it would impart God's blessings to all those who eat it. But only under the strict order that it's made on Stir up Sunday and that you really do stir it clockwise.
If you don't, like I haven't (blogger dedication), then its believed that this invokes the work of the Devil. Well, its been nice knowing you guys...!
And for this, we have Prince Albert to thank with his love of rich, fruity puddings from his German childhood. Albert introduced this tradition of Christmas pudding, favouring a steamed version. The difference being that pudding contains suet and is baked, and the cake is baked.
The benefit of making it in advance is not only to ensure that its soaked up optimum levels of brandy, but also to allow the flavours to intensify and colours to darken.
Even better, allow the dried fruit to soak up in brandy on Saturday night. On Sunday morning they'll be perfectly plump and juicy ready to stir up.
(makes one round 7" cake)
75g dried cranberries
75g dried apricots
400g mixed fruits (currants, raisins and sultanas)
40g candied peel
2tbsp brandy or amaretto
175g unsalted butter, softened
175g dark muscavado sugar
175g plain flour
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
3 large eggs
40g flaked or chopped almonds
1/2 tbsp black treacle or golden syrup
zest of 1/2 a lemon
zest or 1/2 an orange
- Measure out the fruit and leave to soak overnight in a large bowl covered in brandy.
- Line a 7" round baking tin with a double layer of baking paper round the sides and base and grease. Heat the oven to 140 degrees.
- In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy.
- Add the flour, spices, eggs, almonds, treacle and zests and continue to beat until well incorporated.
- Add in the dried fruit and brandy and gently fold together.
- Pour the batter into the baking tin, smooth over the top and place a double layer sheet of baking paper on top.
- Bake for 4 hours, until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow to fully cool before inverting from the tin.
Feeding the cake
Once cool, pierce the top of the cake with a skewer and pour over a little brandy to soak in. Other spirits like amaretto also work well. Wrap well in a layer of baking paper then foil and leave in a cool dry place. Continue to feed the cake at regular intervals, say once or twice a week ensuring to leave the baking paper in place to keep the moisture in.
If you're not a fan of ultra boozy cakes, then alternate between doses of alcohol and orange juice.
Keep feeding your little fruity baby until two weeks before Christmas.
Decorating the cake
One the second week of December, cover the cake with marzipan. You can buy it pre-rolled or alternatively I love this recipe to make your own orange, cinnamon or ginger marzipan - so much better than shop bought and incredibly easy!
Wrap it up once more for the final week. This will allow the marzipan layer to firm up making it much easier to apply frosting.
For frosting, there's a number of different methods and styles, it just depends on what you want to go for.
Complete beginner? Buy some ready rolled white icing, place centrally on the top of your cake. Use the warmth of your hands to gradually and gently smooth round the edges from top to bottom. Trim off an excess and tie a big festive ribbon around for decoration.
Alternatively, head over to Pinterest for some more ideas. I've done a lot of pinning to save you some time...Follow Sophie Loves Food's board Christmas Cake - Stir Up Sunday on Pinterest.