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  1. One of my absolute favourite Christmas traditions is baking our cake and planning it’s final decoration.  I normally try and bake it around the beginning of November however a rotten cold left me with a severe lack of enthusiasm and today I finally had the desire to get in the kitchen and get my favourite cake in the oven.

    You could probably buy a cake of this size cheaper in a Supermarket but I can assure you it won’t taste as nice and the compliments you’ll receive will have you grinning from ear to ear. 

    I’d love to be able to credit the person who wrote this recipe but I wrote it down on a sheet of paper about 7 years ago and actually have no idea where I got it from.  I do know though that it has never let me down.

    blog christmas cake ingredients

    Ingredients;

    225g plain flour

    1/4 tsp salt

    1/2 tsp ground ginger

    Grated fresh nutmeg or 1/2 tsp nutmeg

    1/2 tsp mixed spice

    1 tsp ground cinnamon

    200g unsalted butter

    200g brown sugar

    2 tbsp black treacle

    1/4 tsp vanilla essence

    4 eggs

    800g mixed dry fruits

    100g chopped mixed peel

    150g glace cherries halved

    100g blanched almonds, chopped

    Brandy (or other if you prefer)

     

    Heat oven to 150c fan, (slightly higher for non fan) and then grease and line a 20cm round or 18cm square tin.

    Sieve flour, salt and spices into a bowl.

    In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar together and then add the treacle and mix until light and fluffy.

    Beat in the eggs alternating with a little flour mix so it doesn't curdle.

    Fold in the rest of the flour and then add the fruit and almonds.

    Pour in the tin and make a slight hollow in the middle.

    I always put greaseproof paper around the outside of the tin and put a piece on top of the cake tin to stop it burning around the edges.

    blog christmas cake raw

    Whack in the oven for a good 3 hours (the smell is AMAZING!). After 3 hours you'll have to keep testing it because sometimes it takes longer, check every 15 - 20 mins.  (This year mine was bang on 3 hours).

    Take out of tin after 15 mins and once cold use a skewer to put holes all over and spoon a few tablespoons of brandy in (if applicable).

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    Make sure the cake is completely cold and then wrap it in greaseproof paper and then foil and put in an airtight tub or cake tin.  Once a week from now until Christmas I’ll open it up and prick it again and put a couple more spoons of Brandy in.

    We seem to play an annual game in this house called ‘Hide the Brandy so hubby doesn’t drink it’.  Each year before I’ve finished feeding the cake my darling husband has found it and enjoyed a tipple or 2 and as I only ever buy a little bottle I’ve had to go out and buy another.  Every year I hide it somewhere new and now my husband actually enjoys the challenge of trying to find it and drink it!  (I would hide it in the car if I wasn’t worried about being pulled over by Dorset Police)!

    Christmas cake for me has to have marzipan and crunchy Royal Icing but I normally use fondant for ease and add Royal Icing here and there if I can.

    Before I had my Son, the cake was always simple for the family coming over but now I really try and get a ‘wow’ factor and love the decorating part.

    Last year’s cake was my favourite so far with a simple white decorated cake which was topped with a homemade ginger bread house.  I especially loved this one as I gave it stained glass windows and then put battery operated fairy lights inside which I turned on just before bringing it in with coffee and desserts and the kids mouths truly fell open.  I’ll never forget my Son looking at me with pleading eyes and whispering "can I eat it"? 

    gingerbread house cake

    I’m thinking this year I might try and make a brick fireplace with Santa’s legs hanging down and maybe a tree and presents to the side.  Here's a couple from previous years..............

    christmas chimney cake 

    christmas penguin cake

    Thanks for reading, if you have a go at making your own Christmas cake then I’d love to see your pictures!

    Love

    Dorsetmums.xxx

    PS, I feel I should have some sort of disclaimer, like 'I hold no responsibility for any cakes burnt or undercooked'.  I've had plenty of disasters in the kitchen and like to have someone to blame when I get caught up watching something juicy on TV! :)  Just remember every oven is different so just do the skewer test a few times before taking it out of the oven for good.  (Oh and don't be alarmed if you can smell a burnt raisin, there's bound to be one that'll catch).

  2. In October I was approached by a lovely lady from the RSPB Centre at Weymouth Radipole Lake.  They were looking to promote the children’s activities they offer and asked if myself and other Dorsetmums would like to have a little tour of the Reserve followed by some yummy tea and cake.  I was pretty much sold on the word ‘cake’ but I was also very intrigued to see what was there and jumped at the chance to explore somewhere new.

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    I was a little nervous that myself and my son would be on our own but lucky for us 8 lovely Mums and their babies/toddlers arrived and everyone was in a great spirit and instantly started chatting to each other.  Once we had everyone our organiser started to lead us out of the Centre and we went on a fantastic 1 mile circular walk around the Reserve.  It seems very odd to see so much wildlife and then look up to see the Weymouth buildings in the distance.  It really is a little haven in the middle of a great seaside town. 

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    We were told all about the birds and other wildlife which can be seen and shown other routes we can take should we wish to walk further next time.  The toddlers all seemed to love the boardwalks and areas where they could look out on to the water plus we also found the most amazing little picnic spot with wooden tables, chairs and sculptures. 

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    An hour or so later we arrived back at the Centre and all sat down for some delicious goodies.  Myself and my Son shared a delicious hot buttered tea cake and a piece of Dorset Apple cake however there were other cakes to choose from plus scones and other savoury food.

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    You can tell they have thought very hard about what they can offer children to teach and entertain them.  While we were there they had a table set up with play doh and some fantastic artwork on display plus a corner full of books and toys. 

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    On the other side of the room they had a display cabinet full of exciting finds like bugs, butterflies bones, feathers and snake skins.  My Son was absolutely engrossed while the lovely volunteer talked and showed him each and every one (while I quietly prayed that he wouldn’t crush whatever it was in his hand)!  He also loved the huge telescope although we told him about 10 times that he was looking through it the wrong way but he kept saying that’s how he liked it!

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    Good to know………………

    The Centre offers free pond dipping, bug hunting and binocular/nature detective backpack hire for children all year round plus free children’s activities and books/games are in the Centre every day.

    The Centre is available for hire in the evenings and they can also run educational sessions for schools/groups (costs apply).

    Maps and leaflets can be found in the Centre should you wish to take a longer walk and read all about the area.

    There are toilet facilities within the Centre including a Baby Change table.

    You can purchase duck food from the Centre which the children will love.  Be warned though, they are hungry and the birds will do what they can to get to it first! (I was tempted to get the camera out when a bird landed on my son’s head but thought it best to try and shoo it off instead).

    Baby Wipes and Anti Bac hand gel are advisable for walking around the Reserve.

    The pathways are perfectly accessible for pushchairs so you may wish to consider taking one if little legs get tired easily.

    Location – Head to the pay and display Swannery Car Park in Weymouth which is opposite the Jubilee Retail Park and you will see the Centre at the far end.  A more detailed map can be found on the Website.

    Please check out the Website for details on how to join the RSPB plus future events at the Reserve.  Some of the upcoming events include a children’s Christmas Decoration class, a Christmas Cake Decoration masterclass (one for Mums and Dads), a Family Otter Day and Bird Watching for beginners. 

    Thank you again to the lovely staff and volunteers at the RSPB Radipole Lake Centre, all of the Mums told me they had a wonderful time and we look forward to coming back again next year.

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    Love

    Dorsetmum & Dorsetson

    xxx