My most vivid memories of baking tend to revolve around my Nan. She’s a good teacher, and if I'm honest, the most influential figure in my love of baking.
As soon as I could hold a wooden spoon in my hand and stir ingredients in her huge baking jug, I was scooped up on to the counter and my baking days began. My Nan also had a fetching assortment of 1960s Doris Day style aprons which I would dress up in and I would write my own 'recipes' in her handwritten recipe book. Although not necessarily in the right order - "eat it, beat it and bake it' was one of my immortal lines!
The highlight of our baking calendar was the Christmas cake. In late Autumn, we would take a trip to the little cake decorating shop to the side of the market hall and we would stock up on supplies.
On the counter were neat rows of baskets filled with jolly, round Santas, sledging snowmen, spindle-legged deers and springs of berried holly - the cake shop’s answer to a pick ‘n’ mix.
Sometimes we would choose a new trinket to add to the festive scene on top of the cake, other times silvery cake boards, boxes of marzipan and paper bun cases were loaded into the tartan shopping trolley.
Back home, we would snow a few spoonfuls of flour over the cherries, dried fruit, mixed peel and nuts (to stop them sinking) and then stir, stir, stir. I loved whipping spiral patterns into the soft brown sugar and butter with the electric whisk and the smell of the brandy, cinnamon and mixed spice in the air.
Years later, Nan gave me her recipe book, filled with the recipes of my childhood, written in her flowy, copperplate handwriting. Beside the title of each recipe, she made a note of who had given it to her.
Now I’m passing her Christmas Cake recipe to you.
Christmas cake recipe