I’ve always tried to avoid doing anything Christmas related until it’s actually December. I feel more excited about the preparations if I wait. It’s a practical consideration too as most of my family’s birthdays fall in November and early December, so it feels right to do these justice before getting festive.
This year I’ve broken with tradition. For the very first time I’m observing ‘Stir up Sunday’ by baking my Christmas cake. Like so many of our Christmas traditions, I think we have the Victorians to thank for this. The last Sunday before Advent is the time to make Christmas cakes, plum puddings and mincemeat as all of these benefits from time to mature. (There’s a whole heap more history here together with recipes.) Traditionally it’s good luck to gather everyone in the house to take a turn at stirring the mixture as it brings good luck. There’s only me here today. I can’t make up my mind if this is unlucky or it means I get a whole heap of luck to myself!
I wish you were here to appreciate the way my home is slowly filling with the rich aroma of the baking fruitcake. It takes an incredible four hours to transform the gloopy mixture containing brandy-soaked fruits into a firm, heavy treat to share. At the time of writing there’s still over an hour and a half to go on the kitchen timer, so today’s pictures are just the ‘before’, the ‘after’ is still down to my oven. I’m not a very confident cook, so I always view baking as nine parts alchemy and only one part chemistry. For now all I can do is peer through the glass of the oven door and cross my fingers. The cake is so heavily clad in baking parchment and brown papers, that it’s giving little away.