Stir Up Sunday: How to make Christmas cake and mincemeat
Although traditionally Stir Up Sunday, which this year falls on 26th November, is for making your Christmas pudding – the name comes from the tradition of stirring a penny into the mix and whoever got in on Christmas Day could make a wish – nowadays it's understood as a more general day for Christmas baking. I normally buy a pudding, although I have made it in the past. I find this day is useful for making gifts, so as the hectic period approaches you have at least that one thing sorted!
It's lovely (if not a little messy and slightly stressful, as Harriet demonstrates in this video) to get in the kitchen with the kids and prepare some homemade presents in advance. My advice for cooking with kids is: prepare everything in advance (measured in bowls) and don't worry about the mess or it being perfect. Try to chill out and enjoy it.
The ingredients for Christmas cake and mincemeat are quite similar (shopping list for both below); there are a few crossovers, so it's a great idea to double up. You also start both the day before, so it's nice to see this as a whole weekend's activity – maybe do step 1 on Saturday and step 2 on Sunday.
Years ago, when I started making these things, I used Delia Smith's recipes. The below recipes are taken from hers but adapted by me to make them simpler where possible - perfect for making with the kids!
How to make Christmas Cake:
You'll need a 20cm square or round cake tin, greased and lined. You can feed this cake with brandy (or whisky) every week leading up to Christmas, or not, the choice is yours!
The night before:
- 850g of mixed fruit and peel (you can buy it ready mixed: its sultanas, raisins, currants and candied peel)
- 3 tablespoons of brandy (if you don't want to use alcohol, substitute it with orange or apple juice)
- 225g plain flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon mixed spice
- 225g butter (room temperature)
- 225g brown sugar
- 4 eggs
- 50g flaked almonds (or mixed chopped nuts)
- 50 glace cherries, halved (optional)
- 1 tablespoon black treacle
- Splash milk (1 tablespoon)
- 100g whole blanched almonds
- The day before baking (if you have time), soak the fruit and peel in brandy or juice.
- Next day, preheat oven to 130C.
- Mix butter and sugar with an electric whisk or a wooden spoon. Add eggs one at a time and mix in.
- Gradually add flour (plus salt and spice) to the mixture, folding gently until combined.
- Add fruit mixture and other ingredients, and fold again until well mixed – add a splash of milk if the mixture is stiff. Pop in lined tin and level off.
- If you wish to decorate, then do so with blanched almonds, pushing them slightly in to stick.
- Cover loosely on top with a square of baking paper to protect the nuts against burning.
- Bake for 4.5 hours. Let it cool in the tin then remove, take off the baking paper and wrap up well in parchment – can be stored in a cool, dark place for 1 month. Feed weekly if you like with a tablespoon of brandy, or not.
How to make Christmas mincemeat:
Homemade mincemeat is so tasty; if you've never had it you're in for a treat. Even one jar of this stuff mixed into a large, shop bought jar of mincemeat will elevate it. Again, replace brandy with juice if you want to but it won't keep as long. You'll need 6 jars for this amount, plus any ribbons, or bags if you wanted to use for presentation. To sterilise jars, simply wash and then dry in a low oven (140C) for 15 minutes or run through the dishwasher.
The night before:
- 1 large Bramley apple, peeled, cored and diced
- 1.25 kg mixed fruit and peel
- 225g shredded suet (use a veggie one if you like)
- 350g brown sugar
- Zest and juice of 2 oranges
- Zest and juice of 2 lemons
- 50g flaked almonds
- 4 teaspoons mixed spice
- 6 tablespoons brandy
- Preheat oven to 130C.
- Mix everything apart from the brandy in a large bowl. Let it cook together in a low oven, covered loosely with foil for 3 hours, stirring once.
- Remove from oven and stir. The let cool overnight.
- Mix the brandy or juice in and pop in sterilised jars, with a circle of baking paper on top. These will keep for up to a year if you use brandy. If you use juice use within one month.
- I tied a circle of baking paper with string and ribbon on the lid and popped in brown paper bags to give as gifts when school finishes for Christmas.
What you'll need on your shopping list to make both:
- 1 large Bramley apple
- Mixed fruit and peel (2kg)
- Shredded suet (use a veggie one if you like)
- 2 oranges
- 2 lemons
- Flaked almonds (100g)
- Glace cherries (100g)
- Mixed spice
- Brandy or juice
- Plain flour
- Brown sugar
- Black treacle
- Whole blanched almonds (100g)
Wll you be taking part in Stir Up Sunday this year? Let us know in a comment, or share your baking photos with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram! Don't forget to check out our other recipe ideas too.