Chatsworth Christmas Markets

Christmas is possibly my favourite time of year. For me it all kicks off around mid-November with a visit to the Chatsworth Christmas Markets.

We all pile into a car (including the dogs) and take the scenic route into the Peak District. 

If you love period dramas as much as I do you’ll probably recognise the house… 

It’s perhaps most famous for playing ‘Pemberley’ in the film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (starring Keira Knightley)

We always start our day out either touring the house or exploring the estate. The house is themed differently each Christmas and this year’s theme is Great Expectations

However, on the day we visited the weather was too glorious to spend the morning indoors so we ventured out onto the estate…

Where we attempted to tire this little rascal out…

We climbed up the hill through the ever changing Autumn colours until we reached the folly…

Where we stopped for a while to enjoy the view.

Jacket: New Look
Jeans: Marks and Spencer
Boots: Next (old) similar here
Gloves: North Face

Eventually though it was time for lunch, so we made the somewhat treacherous trip back downhill.

My top tip is to avoid the morning crush on the market. We always have a leisurely lunch in the restaurant, and wait until the sun is setting before setting before heading out to shop.

This year’s markets run until 5th December 2017 and you can find more information here.

Stir-Up Sunday: Christmas Cake

Technically, Stir-Up Sunday was last weekend – the 24th November – but as my laptop has gone to the great scrapyard in the sky *sob* this is the first chance I’ve had to borrow one and start posting again…

For those of you who haven’t heard of ‘Stir Up Sunday’ before, it’s an old English tradition (and one we follow religiously in our family.) It basically refers to the Sunday that falls a month before Christmas. The idea is that you put aside this day to complete all your pre-Christmas baking – thereby allowing a month for your cake and puddings to ‘mature’. On this day everyone who’s present can ‘stir’ the mixture and make a wish…

This year will be the first time the responsibility of the cake has fallen to me, and sticking with tradition, I’m following our family recipe…

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Tools of the trade:
Mixing Bowl (x2)
Cake Tin (20.5cm Square – though anything about that size will do)

Baking Parchment
Wooden spoon/spatula
Ingredients:
400g Plain Flour
1tsp of Ground Cinammon
1tsp of Ground Mixed Spice
Rind of 1 Lemon (grated)
350g of Unsalted Butter
350g of Caster Sugar
6 Eggs (beaten)
500g Currants
350g Sultanas
225g Raisins
100g Flaked Almonds
3/4 of a tub of Mixed Peel
1 tub of Glacé Cherries
2 table spoons of brandy (and more once cooked)

To decorate:
Ready-to-roll Marzipan
Ready-to-roll Icing

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First… grease and line your tin.

Then sieve the flour and spices over a mixing bowl. Ordinarily I’m not one to faff with sieving anything, but there are no raising agents in this cake so it’s important to get air in where you can and keep the mixture as light as possible.

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Next, grate the lemon rind over your mixture, taking care not to get any of the pith.

Then, in a separate bowl (or if you’re lazy like me, a food processor) cream the sugar and butter together.

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Add the beaten eggs to the sugar and butter, a little at a time. If it starts to look like its curdling, adding some of the flour/spice mixture early will help to stop this.

Once all the eggs have been added, gently fold in the flour mixture.

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Then begin to add the dry fruits, starting with the currants and working your way down the list. Again gently fold them in to avoid knocking out the little air there is.

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Finally, add the brandy.

Your cake mixture is now ready to be baked. Put it into the tin but hollow out the centre of the mix so that it will be level when it rises (rather than domed)

Bake for 3.5hrs at 140 degrees Celsius. When it starts to brown, cover in foil so the top doesn’t burn.

After this time take it out of the oven and allow it to cool for 1 hour in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack.

Prick the cake all over with a skewer and spoon brandy over the cake (I’m quite liberal with this as I think it makes for a moister cake).

And now the hard part… DO NOT EAT the cake. Instead, wrap it in baking parchment and leave to mature in a cool, dry cupboard for 1 month (if you like your cake softer/quite boozy you can always feed it with more brandy as time goes on.)

Then, on Christmas Eve, bring your cake out of storage and decorate. Just in time for the big day!