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Gingerbreadman Christmas Cake Tutorial

Gingerbreadman Christmas Cake Tutorial

I wanted to show you all a simple and easy way to decorate your Christmas Cake this year.  You can seriously have it done in about half an hour.  It truly is easy peasy, and I think it is really, really cute, don't you?

First you will want to assemble all of your ingredients.  You will need one baked fruit cake. Mine is 8 inches in diameter.  You will also need some ready rolled marzipan and ready rolled fondant icing.  Don't worry if you cannot find it ready rolled, you can either buy the stuff un-rolled and roll your own, or make your own from scratch.  I am going to give you the recipes below to make both the marzipan layer and the fondant.  You will also need 3 TBS of apricot jam, warmed with 1 TBS of water or Brandy and pushed through a sieve to make it smooth and take out any bits.  I have used three gingerbread cutters.  One largish man and two smaller ones, a boy and a girl.  But you can use any combination that you have in your house.  You will also need some ribbons to decorate the edges around the cake or a paper frill, and some candies, etc. to decorate your gingerbread men. 

Once you have everything assembled it will go like wild-fire!  
It is really very, very easy!

Fasten your cake to the centre of a round cake plate/board.  I used a dab of marzipan to hold it in place. If you don't want any lumpy bumpy surfaces, you can go to the trouble of filling in any holes with some extra marzipan, but I am not really bothered myself.  Brush your cake all over with the seived apricot jam mixure. Take your marzipan and roll it over a rolling pin to move it without tearing it.  Place it gently on top of your cake, smoothing it over the top and down the sides. Smooth the paste over the cake using the palms of your hands, then trim with a sharp knife around the bottom edge of the cake all around. It is recommended that you wait 24 hours to let it dry, but because you are going to be cutting shapes out of the top you won't want to do that. You don't really want it too stuck to the cake when you  lift the shapes off. 

Now you want to brush the marzipan all over the top and sides of the cake with more of the apricot jam mixture.  Roll the fondant icing over the top of a rolling pin to transfer it and then layer it on top of the marzipan, covering the cake completely and smoothing it out with your hands pressing it down gently around the sides also.  Trim off any excess from the bottom and discard.  Now place your cutters to where you want them on top of the cake.  Press your cutter/s through the fondant and marzipan layers and remove the icing with the cutter still inserted to help give a cleaner outline. Add the gingerbread man features to the cut out shape using either cut out and shaped pieces of white fondant or fondant water icing placed in a piping bag. Marzipan shapes and sweets can be added on to and around your gingerbread man shapes for extra decoration.

I used some white piping icing to make lines and then little red balls for the eyes and buttons, which I also used some of the white piping icing to help stick them on.  I cut a bow tie out of a red glace cherry for the larger gingerbread man! 

He looks rather dapper don't you think!  Then I used halved glace cherries and some slivers of green cherry to add some other decorative touches  It doesn't quite look like holly, but I think it looks nice anyways.

I cut some ribbons and placed them around the sides of the cake.  I used ball headed pins to hold them in place.  Just remember when you go to serve your cake that they are there! 

*Vanilla Marzipan*
Makes enough
to cover an 8 inch cake

Easy to make.  You can also add flavours to this if you want to experiment. 

175g golden caster sugar (scant cup)
280g icing sugar (2 1/4 cups)
450g ground almonds (5 1/4 cups)
the seeds from 1 vanilla pod
2 medium free range eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp orange or lemon juice 

Mix the sugars and almonds in a large bowl, then rub in the vanilla seeds until even. Make a well in the middle, then tip in the eggs and citrus juice. Cut the wet ingredients into the dry with a round bladed knife. Dust the surface with icing sugar, then knead the marzipan briefly with your hands to a smooth dough. Don’t overdo it as it can get greasy. Add a bit more icing sugar if it seems too wet. Shape into a ball, then wrap and keep in a cool place until ready to cover the cake. Can be made up to 2 days in advance. 

When you are ready to use, dust your work surface with more icing sugar, then roll the marzipan into a circle about 40cm/16 inches across, dusting underneath the marzipan with more icing sugar and turning it a quarter turn after every few pushes of the rolling pin. You should also have prepared your cake by brushing it all over with apricot jam which you have gently warmed and then put through a sieve. (About 3 TBS should do it. I sometimes add a bit of brandy.)

Flip the top of the circle back over your rolling pin so you can see the underside of the marzipan, then lift the pin up and lift the marzipan over the cake. Stop once you can see that the edge of the marzipan nearest you is about level with the bottom of the cake. Flop the front of the marzipan down. Smooth the paste over the cake using the palms of your hands, then trim with a sharp knife. If any cracks appear, simply pinch the paste back together and smooth. Leave to dry for at least 24 hrs, or up to 3 days, before covering with icing.

*Rolled Fondant Icing*
Makes enough to
cover a large cake
 You could buy this ready rolled, but just in case you can't find it, here is a recipe to make your own. 

1 sachet gelatine
60ml cold water (1/4 cup)
125ml glucose syrup (1/2 cup +1 TBS)
1 TBS glycerine
2 TBS butter
1 tp vanilla
1 KG icing sugar (2.2 pounds) 

Combine gelatine and cold water. Let stand until thick.  Place in the top of a double boiler and heatuntil dissolved.  Add the glucose and glycerine. Mix well together and then stir in butter. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Cool the mixture until it is lukewarm. 

Place half of the icing sugar in a bowl and make a well in the centre.  Add the lukewarm gelatine mixture, stirring it in with a wooden spoon. Mix in sugar a little more at a time until the stickiness disappears. Knead in the remaining icing sugar until the mixture is smooth and pliable and does not stick to your hands.  If it is too sticky, add a bit more sugar.  If too dry add a few drops of water.  Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge.  Bring to room temperature prior to using, and knead again until soft.

I think it turned out really cute!  I wanted to show you the neat cake carrier I have to store it as well.

Its one of those Lock Top ones.  I got it quite some time ago.  You put the cake on the insert part, which has handles for lifting. Then you lift your cake and put it into the cake holder and the lid clips on air tight. There is even a handle for carrying it around, out to the car, into the kitchen, etc.  If you don't have one of these you might want to put it on your christmas list!  I got mine at a local cook shop, but I think you can get them online at various places. 

In any case I hope you enjoyed seeing our Christmas cake for this year! Bon Appetit and Happy Holidays!

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Marie Rayner
Dutch Amond Cookies

Dutch Amond Cookies

This lovely cookie is one which I bake every year for Christmas.  I have been baking it for years and years and years!  I believe the original recipe was a first  prize winner in a cookie contest in Canadian Living magazine, but I can't remember for sure.  All I know for sure is that they are definitely prize worthy, as they are that delicious!

They begin with a simple almond flavoured  brown sugar cookie dough.  Easy peasy.

An almond filling is made using blanched almonds, sugar, an egg yolks and some more flavouring in the way of lemon juice and almond extract.

The cookie dough gets rolled into 1 inch balls and you make an indentation in them with your finger tip.  Not a large one  . . .

just large enough to hold a tiny bit of that almond filling, which then gets covered over and tucked inside by the covering of another tiny pinch of that cookie dough.  A little roll between the palms seals it in nice and safe . . .

An egg white glaze and a blanched almond on top and they are ready for baking  . . . 15 minutes later you are rewarded with delicious almond cookies!! 


Sure, they are a tiny bit more effort than a drop and bake cookie, but hey!  It's Christmas and a little bit of something special warranted!  They are worth every little effort!

*Dutch Almond Cookies*
Makes about 5 dozen

I have been making these lovely almond cookies every Christmas since my children were small.  They are delicious! 

250g butter, softened (1 cup)
400g soft light brown sugar (2 cups packed)
2 medium free range eggs
1 tsp almond extract
490g plain flour (3 1/2 cups)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

For the filling:
42g whole blanched almonds (1/4 cup)
50g granulated sugar (1/4 cup)
1 medium free range egg yolk
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp almond extract
You will also need:
1 medium free range egg white, lightly beaten
85g whole blanched almonds (1/2 cup)

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time along with the almond extract. Sift together the flour, salt, soda and baking powder.  Stir this into the creamed mixture until well blended.  Cover and chill for about an hour. 

Put the ingredients for the filling into a small blender/processor.  Blitz until smooth. 

Preheat the oven 160*C/325*F gas mark 3.  Butter several large baking sheets. 

For each cookie take a spoonful of th dough and roll into a 1-inch ball. With a finger make an indentation into the centre of the ball, the. fill with about 1/4 tsp of the filling.  Pinch off more dough about the size of a pea.  Flatten and use this to cover the filling.  Gently roll again in the palms of your hands to seal and smooth edges, Place onto the baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining dough placing the filled balls 2 inches apart.  Brush the tops with some of the beaten egg white and gently press a whole almond into the top of each. 

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes until golden brown.  Scoop off to cool on wire racks.  Store in an airtight container. 

These have lovely crisp edges and chewy middles.  I have never had anyone eat one that didn't want another one immediately after!!  Bon Appetit and Happy Holidays!  

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Marie Rayner
Peppermint Pettitcoat Tails

Peppermint Pettitcoat Tails

This is a delicious variation on the classic shortbread biscuit!  The name “petticoat tails” dates to the eighteenth century, and references the shape of the cookie, which is said to resemble a lady’s spread-out petticoat.

The Concise Encyclopedia of Gastronomy regales the following tale:  “‘An English traveller in Scotland and one very well acquainted with Frances states in his very pleasant book that our Club has fallen into a mistake in the name of these cakes, and that petticoat tails is a corruption of the French petites gatelles.

It may be so, but whatever their origins the fact remains that they are beautiful shortbread biscuits/cookies being perfectly crumbly and delicious!

Beautifully buttery and crisp shortbread triangles, flavoured with peppermint, I'll admit that they don't look very festive yet, but they will do come next week closer to  Christmas, as I plan on drizzling them with a chocolate and peppermint drizzle which will dress them up beautifully.

You can leave the peppermint flavouring out if you wish, giving you a plain shortbread petticoat tail, but the  peppermint really gives them a lovely festive touch.

You do NOT want to know the calorie count of one of these.  Trust me.   Let it suffice to say these are not healthy nor are they low fat.  They're crisp and BUTTERY!  Scrumptiously so.

Can you imagine a wheel of these, nestled amongst festively coloured tissue paper in a box for the holidays?   Tied up with red, green and white curling ribbons? 

*Peppermint Petticoat Tails*
Makes 8 servings

What afternoon tea would be complete without shortbread Petticoat Tails.  These are just that little bit more special with the addition of peppermint flavour.  Of course you can leave it out if you prefer yours plain.  Short and buttery.  Delicious!  

250g butter, at room temperature (1 cup plus 2 TBS)
100g caster sugar (1/2 cup)
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
250g  plain flour, plus extra for dusting (1 3/4 cup plus 1 TBS)
100g cornflour (2/3 cup cornstarch)
1/2 tsp salt
icing sugar to dust

Put the butter, sugar and peppermint extract into the bowl of a food processor.  Blitz until the mixture is pale and creamy.  Sift together the flour and cornflour.  Stir in the salt.    Tip the dry ingredients into the bowl of the food processor and pulse until the  mixture begins to form small clumps.  Tip out onto a lightly floured board.  Bring the dough together into a ball without overworking it.   Place into a 9 inch fluted tart tin with a loose bottom.  Gently press out evenly in the tin using floured fingers and a light touch.   Mark into 8 equal wedges with the tines of a fork.
Place into the refrigerator to chill for half an hour.  Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.

Place onto a baking sheet and then bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.  Leave to cool completely on the tray.  (I like to re-prick with a fork about five minutes after I remove it from the oven for each of breaking into wedges.)  Allow to cool completely in the pan.  Dust with icing sugar.   Will keep nicely in a tightly covered tin for up to 5 days.

What friend or neighbor wouldn't smile broadly at such a gift!  You can bake several of these ahead and freeze them, tightly wrapped until the day you want to give them away.  Guaranteed to make you popular with everyone!  Bon Appetit and Happy Holidays! 

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Marie Rayner
Curry Deviled Chicken

Curry Deviled Chicken

This is a riff I did today on my old Deviled Chicken Recipe that I thought turned out really, really nice.  In fact you could call it finger licking good!

I like to use free range chicken pieces.  Today I used chicken leg quarters.  You slash the meat to the bone so that the marinade flavours can get right into the chicken.

Its as simple as mixing together all the marinade ingredients and tossing the chicken pieces in them and leaving them for about an hour before banging them into a pan and roasting them in a hot oven.

If you don't want a sticky clean-up, line the dish with some aluminium foil first.  Clean up will be a real breeze then, with no soaking required.

This is simple, quick, easy and delicious. Todd really loved it, even more than my regular version.  Do use  a good quality mango chutney for this.  I like Geeta's because it has lots of lovely bits in it. 

*Curry Deviled Chicken*
Serves 4 to 6
Printable Recipe

Chicken which is marinated in a spicy curry marinade and then grilled or baked until glazed and succulently finger licking good. 

6 chicken drumsticks
6 chicken thighs
1 TBS oil
3 TBS good mango chutney, finely chopped or mashed
(I like Geeta's)
1 TBS Worcestershire Sauce
2 tsp English Mustard (hot)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp curry powder
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

With a sharp knife make several slashes deep into the chicken pieces, cutting down to the bone.  Mix the oil, chutney, Worcestershire Sauce, mustard, cayenne, ginger, curry powder and seasoning together in a bowl.  Add the chicken pieces, tossing to coat them well with the marinade.  Cover and let stand for one hour.

Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6. 

Arrange the chicken pieces in a single layer on a nonstick baking sheet, brushing them with any extra marinade.  Bake in the heated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until crisp, deeply golden, sticky and the chicken is cooked through.  (The juices should run clear if pricked with a fork.)  Serve hot or cold, as desired.

Easy peasy lemon squeasy.  Just what you are looking for on these hectic busy days in the lead up to Christmas!  I served it with some baked potatoes and mixed veg, but it would certainly be right at home with a Pilau Rice as well!  Bon Appetit!

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Marie Rayner



Looking for some beautifully simple recipe inspiration for entertaining this Christmas and New Year? Then look no further. Mary Berry’s has created a range of delicious new condiments that promise to tickle taste buds throughout the festive season – and beyond.

First up, Mary Berry’s Redcurrant & Mint Jelly is the perfect accompaniment to seasonal lamb or venison, but so much more besides, including as a key ingredient in the following seasonally appropriate dishes:

Duck with redcurrant & mint sauce – pan fry duck breasts to brown and transfer to a small roasting tin. Mix redcurrant & mint jelly with a little water and pour over the duck, roast for 10-15 minutes and allow to rest before slicing and serving with pan fried pak choi, pouring over the baking juices to serve.

Gammon, kale & redcurrant stir fry – fry sliced red onion with sliced smoked gammon steak until golden. Add blanched shredded kale, a can of butter beans and some redcurrant & mint jelly and cook for a few minutes. Great served with mash or rice.

Meanwhile, Mary Berry’s Horseradish Sauce is toastingly hot and the perfect partner for a succulent Christmas roast beef. Or simply add a dollop of horseradish sauce to thinly sliced tomatoes, chopped basil, sea salt and mix for a tasty seasonal appetiser. Alternatively, follow these simple recipes, which are sure to warm the cockles of any guest:

Hot smoked salmon pate with melba toast – in a food processor, blend kiln roasted salmon, some natural yogurt and horseradish sauce together to create a coarse paste. Serve with hot melba toast.

Smoked mackerel, potato & cannellini bean salad – mix chunks of smoked mackerel, cooked and sliced new potatoes and cannellini beans into some lamb’s lettuce and toss with a dressing made from mayonnaise, white wine vinegar and horseradish sauce.

Horseradish roast potatoes – parboil chunks of King Edward potatoes and toss in oil or melted goose fat, some horseradish sauce and seasoning and roast in a hot oven until golden. Great for Sunday roasts – or even Christmas dinner.

Last but not least, Mary Berry’s Hollandaise Sauce is made with free range eggs and is sure to get seasonal parties off to a devilishly good start if mixed with a little crème fraîche to make the base for Devilled Eggs. Finish by stirring in a few tablespoons of Mary Berry’s Apricot & Peach Chutney and a tablespoon of paprika, before seasoning well and generously spooning into halved boiled eggs.

Alternatively, this beautifully smooth and velvety hollandaise sauce is the perfect base for a host of delicious festive holiday breakfasts, including

Smoked salmon & hollandaise bagels – spread halved and toasted bagels with a little hollandaise sauce. Top with cucumber slices, smoked salmon and a spoonful of extra hollandaise sauce.

Or why not try stirring a tablespoon of Mary Berry’s Hollandaise sauce and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard through scrambled eggs just before serving?

All three new Mary Berry’s condiments are available in Tesco now (RSP: £1.50 per jar).

For more information about the Mary Berry’s range of sauces, dressings and chutneys, visit Mary Berry's Foods.
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Marie Rayner
Hot Yorkshire Pudding Sandwiches

Hot Yorkshire Pudding Sandwiches

So I had some leftover brisket the other day and I thought about making a hash with it and the leftover veg, or hot sandwiches.  I quite like a hot roast beef sandwich, but then the wheels started turning in my head and I thought to myself  . . .  what if I used large yorkshire puddings instead of bread???  What if Indeed!  WOWSA!

This is probably the most inspired idea I have had in ages.  The Yorkshire puddings are perfect for this. They have lovely built in cups to hold whatever you put into them.  I put a quantity of heated leftover cooked swede/rutatabaga in the bottom one and ladled on hot roast beef and gravy.  You could use any vegetable you want or even no vegetable if you wanted . . .

That was topped with another Yorkshire pudding into which I ladled additional gravy . . .

Just look at how it lovingly cups and holds that hot gravy  . . .  and how it sits to pretty atop that beef filling on the bottom . . .

A few homemade oven chips or roasties on the side and some additional veg and we had a dinner fit for a King, or at the very least a Prince, and everyone was very, VERY happy!  Do plan ahead as the yorkshire pudding batter mix needs to sit at room temperature for about an hour prior to using.

*Hot Roast Beef Sandwiches*
Serves 4 

This is a hot roast beef sandwich that I came up with to use up some leftover brisket last week.  I though to myself why not use yorkshire puddings instead of bread.  Why not indeed?  Delicious!  

about 1 pound of leftover roast beef, thinly sliced
a quanitity of leftover cooked veg (I used mashed swede/rutabaga) 

For the gravy:
560ml beef stock (3 cups)
35g plain flour shaken with 120 ml cold water (1/4 cup flour shaken with 1/2 cup cold water)
(Shake together in a jar until smooth)
salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 tsp each onion, and garlic powder
1 TBS red onion chutney or something comparable
1 TBS creamed horseradish sauce 

For the puddings:
2 large free range eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp salt
1 1/3 cups milk, at room temperature (308ml)
1 cup flour (140g)
a little oil or dripping
To serve:
cooked vegetables
fat oven chips or leftover roasties

If you are baking oven chips, or making your own, put them into the oven with the oven for about 15 minutes before you put in your yorkshire puddings.

Preheat your oven to 230*C/450*F/ gas mark 7.

To make the puddings - Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature before beginning.  Beat your eggs together in a large measuring jug until very light.  Whisk in the milk.  Sift the flour into a bowl along with the salt.  Make a well in the middle and add the wet ingredients all at once, pouring them into the well, and then whisk them in, slowly incorporating the dry mixture from the sides until you have a smooth batter.  Now, this is the important bit . . . COVER IT AND LET IT SIT ON THE SIDEBOARD FOR ONE HOUR.

Place a small amount of oil or dripping into each cup of 2 yorkshire pudding pans, each with 4 holes. (Alternately you can bake it in a large shallow roasting tin as one piece which you cut into squares later).   Place the tins into the hot oven to heat up until the fat is hot and sizzling.  Remove from the oven and quickly divide the batter amongst each hole, filling them about 2/3 full.  Return to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until well risen, browned and crispy, reducing the oven temperature by 5*C/10*F every five minutes. 

While they are baking make the gravy and heat the meat and vegetables.  To make the gravy bring the beef stock to a simmer.  Whisk in the flour/water mixture.  Cook, whisking constantly until the mixture bubbles and thickens. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Whisk in the onion powder, garlic powder, horseradish and onion chutney.  Add the cooked beef and heat gently.

To serve place one yorkshire pudding onto each of four heated plates, cup side up.  Fill with a portion of leftover veg and some of the meat and gravy. Place another yorkshire pudding on top and ladle a bit of gravy into the cup until it spills over a bit.  Lay the chips and additonal vegetable aside the puddings and serve immediately.

Its very easy to make your own oven chips.  Just peel some large potatoes and cut into large wedges.  Shake them together in a bag with some seasonings (I use seasoned salt, garlic and onion powders and black pepper) and then throw them onto a lightly oiled baking tray spreading them out.   Bake for about 30 minutes at a high temperature until golden brown, giving them a stir every now and then.

Altogether this is a really delicious way to make leftovers taste even better than the original meal.  You will find your family really loves these!  If you don't want to make your own yorkies from scratch, then use a good quality already baked one that you just re-heat.  But do try to make your own. They are not all that hard. I promise!  You could also use leftover gravy if you happen to have any instead of making your own.  This is really good anyway you make it!  Bon Appetite!

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Marie Rayner

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