Feeling Festive

lumber-jack-house-1160x770

My final baking projects of the year are done and dusted and I’m really looking forward to Christmas now. The only bakes left to make are the ones that my family and I are going to enjoy over the next week or so. If you want to give the gingerbread house above a go, this week’s blog has everything you need to know.

waiblingen

This week I got to reveal the gingerbread house in the woods I made a few weeks ago for STIHL, the world’s biggest chainsaw company. I based the house I made on the architecture of Waiblingen in Germany (above), where the STIHL headquarters are based, and the town was the perfect inspiration for the house. A gingerbread house is a fantastic centrepiece for the Christmas table and one that all the family can get involved in making. Everything you need to know about how to make one is on the recipe blog I wrote for STIHL, here. A more simple version is also in my book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself – a great Christmas present if you’ve got anyone left to buy for! Have a look at the video of how I put it together below – it really isn’t as difficult as you’d think.

wedding-cake-with-pillars

Yesterday was my final baking project of the year. I made the wedding cake above for a lovely couple, Melissa and Andres, who were having their reception at the beautiful Brocket Hall. After I constructed the cake, the incredible florist was getting ready to fill each of the spaces between the layers with dozens of ivory roses. I know what it’s like to work with people watching everything you’re doing so I left her to it, but I’m looking forward to seeing how the final cake looked soon. As with last week’s wedding cake, it was four different flavours. This week, from top to bottom: red velvet with white chocolate buttercream; coconut with Malibu Italian meringue buttercream; carrot cake with amaretto Italian meringue buttercream; and Lotus Biscoff sponge with crunchy Biscoff buttercream. For wedding cakes, I always do tastings of seven or eight different flavours but these ones and my lemon meringue cake tend to come out as people’s favourites.

macaron-tower

Yesterday’s wedding couple were really taken with my homemade lemon curd when we did our tasting, so also chose to have two golden macaron towers – one tower filled with buttercream and lemon curd and the other filled with buttercream and salted caramel. A few people have asked me how to make these and I couldn’t find a good guide online myself. You need a polystyrene cone (I bought mine from eBay, here), which I covered in vanilla buttercream and left to dry overnight. These cones were about 30cm high and I used just under 60 macarons per tower. My macarons are all the same size – about 4cm in diameter – as I use these macaron sheets. I made up the macarons as normal (see the filling action here) and then attached them onto the cone with cocktail sticks snapped in half – pointy end facing out. I did the whole bottom layer first, then built them up, deciding where the ‘front’ of the tower would be and working outwards from there. The back of the tower isn’t seen, so it doesn’t matter if there’s a bit of a gap, but I made tiny macarons of about 1cm diameter to fill the spaces at the back of the towers. I then brushed them all with gold lustre dust.

sausage-wreath

My episode of Christmas Kitchen was on BBC1 on Friday and while no one ever enjoys the sound of their own voice played back to them, I managed to watch it again with my kids and laughed almost as much as I did filming it. It’s a cracking episode and one where I want to make every single recipe shown. I’ve been watching the series all week while making wedding cake and it was good to see so many of my Bake Off chums on screen. After a week of sweet bakes from them, Friday’s episode was definitely one for fans of the savoury stuff, with my sausage roll wreath (above – recipe here) and my mate Sabrina Ghayour’s Persian crispy duck, that I’ve just bought all the ingredients to make for Christmas Eve dinner. If you want to see how to make the sausage roll wreath, the whole episode is on iPlayer here and my segment is 44 minutes into the programme.

homepride-trifle

I’ve just done my online Christmas grocery shop to arrive at the end of the week. As well as buying all of the ingredients for Sabrina‘s duck and two of my sausage roll wreaths, I’ve also got everything I need for what I’m making for Christmas Day. I live opposite my parents and they’re hosting me, my sisters, their partners and all our kids for Christmas dinner. I’m usually the ‘Executive in charge of Pork’ so I’m doing my sausage roll wreaths, pigs in blankets, three types of sausage meat stuffing, the Christmas cake, and my ginger and black cherry trifle pictured above (recipe here).  I’ve updated my website with all of my recent recipes here. My brother-in-law is on ham duty this year, but we’ll be doing one in our house too. I have loads of bottles of Coke lying around from various pizza orders(!) so it’ll be Nigella’s Coca Cola ham for us this year – if you haven’t tried it, it’s cracking!

birthday-girl

In between all the wedding cakes I’ve been making this week, our beautiful youngest daughter (above) turned one! I made her my mate Luis’s carrot cake recipe from his book, but added raspberries to the cream cheese frosting to turn it a soft pink (see here).  I really can’t believe the year since she was born has gone past so quickly. For many people, 2016 has been a strange and challenging year. But on a personal level, I am so lucky to have the balance of both building and baking these days, as it’s meant I’ve spent a lot more time at home this year and as a result, a lot more time with Sarah and our kids. I don’t think I’m going to manage to post a Christmas Day blog next week (everyone deserves Christmas Day off!) but I’ll try and do a post before the end of the year and I’ll still be chatting away on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Don’t forget to watch my mates on Christmas Bake Off and send me pictures if you make any of my recipes or get things from my gift ideas list. By the way, if you get any spare time this week, make sure you go and see Rogue One. I took my eldest daughter (who I’ve been indoctrinating with Star Wars for seven years) this afternoon and it was AWESOME! Anyway, however you spend it, I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas! And, as always – Happy Baking!

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