Tag Archives: Recipe

Best Christmas Cake ever!

Deliciousness in a box

This is the best Christmas cake. Ever!

Now that’s quite a claim. Many of my friends have recipe books going back generations and I’m sure there will be a Christmas cake in there somewhere that they will remember as being something special.

But I’m laying claim to this one and ( hopefully) starting a generational thing that will be shared for many years to come. There are many things I would like to be remembered by and this could just be one of them !

It’s a sad sign of the times when most people I know are simply too busy to even think about making a cake at this time of year. Ok, I know it’s not a top priority but that’s the thing. What are the priorities?  I don’t even think it’s the cake that’s the problem. we are all just too busy doing ‘ stuff’ that one more thing to do could just be the step too far.

But tradition is good. It’s a link to our past, our heritage and where we came from. Christmas may be the last bastion of tradition so I for one am keen to keep some of the behaviours peculiar to our family going for as long as I can. And that includes cake.

So, put on some Christmas music, light a candle ( Christmas scent preferable) , pour a glass of egg nog ( ok, wine is absolutely fine as a substitute ! ), switch off the phone and start your own traditions….one slice of cake at a time….:)


 I use a 26cm cake box – lined on the inside and then wrapped in newspaper and tied with string around the outside to ensure it doesn’t cook too quickly on the sides.

  • 2kg mixed dried fruit – raisins, currants, sultanas etc
  • 500g butter
  • 500g brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 125g chopped blanched almonds if you like
  • Brandy  (be generous)
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 500g flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • chopped glacé cherries if you like

Put fruit in covered bowl overnight with generous swigs of your chosen tipple until it’s well sozzled ( not a technical term but you get my drift) .The smell is divine and it will take all your will power not to eat it all there and then and forget the cake!

Next day put the drunken fruit, butter, sugar and golden syrup into a large saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring to stop the mixture burning ( very important!). Add lemon, spices, salt, chopped almonds and a bit more brandy.

Stirring continuously, simmer for 10 minutes, then add cornflour. Mix well and remove from heat. Leave to cool thoroughly.

Beat eggs. Sift flour, baking powder and baking soda, add alternately to cooled fruit mixture. Bake in the middle of the oven at 160˚C for 30 minutes. Then 120˚C for 4 hours. (Cooking times may vary depending on the oven.) Cool in the box, then wrap in greaseproof paper and foil to keep it moist. Put in air tight container somewhere dark and cool.

Bask in the heavenly scent of the cake.

I suggest you make the cake about 5 weeks before the big day and then every week carefully unwrap it and use a skewer to make a few holes to allow a few tablespoons of brandy to soak through it.

Then for the icing. Our family tradition since I was little involved my Dad “making” the cake. Actually what was really the case was Mum doing everything , including making a royal icing but Dad then swirling it on the cake to make snow patterns and placing Santa and decorations on top. His cake 🙂

Whether you have children helping with making christmas biscuits or cookies or whether you gift yourself time to do the whole cake thing in splendid Christmas peace , make time to create and enjoy your own traditions.


The taste of Paradise…in a cake

A taste of Paradise.Thank you to the wonderful people at Delicious for this amazing photo.


If I could sum up my first year in Paradise in cake, this would be it.

I had fully intended to blog are about food and less about drama but drama beat food hands down in the ‘keeping me busy ‘ stakes !

But this gem of deliciousness is worth sharing . And making.

I tasted it – or something like it- at the Marlborough Farmers Market where the lovely Lee works through the previous night in someone else’s kitchen to make some amazing ‘as they used to taste ‘ baking. Then I searched for something similar to allow me to make at home and played around with it until it tasted like heaven on a  plate.

You know how wine tasting can sometimes come up with very poncy descriptions for wines, well this is my equivalent for this marvellous and yummy cake. This cake transports you to a farmhouse kitchen groaning with nature’s bounty. Fresh from the country range. Sitting around grandma’s table. It’s squishy but firm enough to wrap in some greaseproof paper for an al fresco morning tea. it’s a cake to make friends with. Good friends. Long term friends.

But don’t take my word for it. Be good to yourself and have a go. I dare you not to have a Betty Crocker ( or equivalent) moment !



  • 50g each sultanas and raisins
  • 6 tbsp medium-sweet cider ( who am I kidding – be generous here – and one for the cook!)
  • 215g plain flour
  • 15g cornflour
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 300g golden caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 175g butter, softened
  • 2 medium free-range eggs
  • 750g eating apples (about 6-8), peeled, cored and cut into 1cm pieces
  • 100g lightly toasted walnuts, broken into small pieces – from your own trees if you’re really lucky!


How to make Paradise cake

  1. Put the sultanas and raisins into a small bowl, cover with a few tbsp of the cider and set aside for at least 2 hours or overnight.Be generous. And enjoy a glass yourself !
  2. Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/ gas 4. Grease and line a 23cm round, loose-bottomed cake tin. Tie a thick band of folded newspaper around the outside of the tin, so it projects about 8cm above the edge of the tin, and secure it in place with string (this will stop any over-browning). It’s a bit of a phaff but keeps cake nice.
  3. Sift the flour, cornflour, baking powder, salt and ground/grated spices into the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and butter and beat on a medium speed for 1 minute, stopping and scraping the mixture down the sides of the bowl, if necessary, until well mixed. Try not to eat all of this before baking….
  4. Add the eggs and mix on low speed for a few seconds, then increase the speed and beat for 1 minute until light and fluffy. Beat in the remaining 3 tbsp cider.And pour yourself another glass.
  5. Fold in the prepared apples, sultanas/raisins and walnuts. The mixture will look too thick and too appley, but don’t worry. Trust me ! Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and gently level the surface.
  6. Bake for 1 hour 25 minutes ish, covering loosely with foil or a double sheet of baking paper once it’s richly browned on top, until it is firm to the touch and a skewer pushed into the centre comes away clean. Leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack. Remove from the tin to a plate, sprinkle with caster sugar and serve.
  7. Make friends and enjoy your own slice of paradise.




Let’s hear it for the damson

The humble damson.  Sort of like someone’s distant relative that doesn’t get too much attention but is there lurking in the back of your mind somewhere…

The damson has been said to be to plums what port is to red wine. I like that analogy and I get it.

As I’ve just found out, they are more challenging to cook with than their larger stoned fruits cousins due to their compactness and desire to hold on tight to their stones, but trust me – the end results will give you taste sensations that more than compensates for the added hassle.


If you’re interested , damsons are a very English fruit having come originally from Damascus courtesy of the romans. They were a staple of British tea times for many years but have sadly fallen out of favour. In New Zealand they are largely the domain of those with lifestyle blocks and I am hugely grateful that we have inherited the most beautiful mature tree.

But, I digress. It may have taken two hours to make my first damson jam ( and only produced 3 jars) but it was worth it. The deep dark ruby gorgeousness that was the end product is just stunning and has inspired me to do more with this wonderful little fruit.

If you have your own or a neighbour with damsons to spare, make the effort – it will be so worth it !

This blog was sent to me by a friend and has some great recipes. I’ll be giving them a go 🙂








Know your nuts!

I grew up on Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut ( “Everyone’s a fruit and nut case ….”)  and graduated to the subtle deliciousness of pralines as my adult taste buds kicked in.

Nuts have always featured somewhere in my life. But, with the exception of the humble peanut and walnut ( sometimes seen at Christmas), if you asked me to identify them from their tree I would be guessing at best.

Last week I saw something on the ground that reminded me of the man-eating plant from Little Shop of Horrors, but smaller.

Audrey lookalikes!

I sent an e mail around those least likely to laugh at me asking for help to identify it.No luck.

Today, we had a visit from the previous custodians of Paradise. I love seeing them as they share such massive amounts of knowledge about everything and we soak it up. I asked about my alien mystery plant and found that it’s a hazelnut and we have a few producing trees. I must admit to being a little embarrassed not to know this, but then how many of us in our pre-packed city lives ever would??

So next task, what to do with them. I’m determined that nothing will fall idle from our gardens.

Hazelnut praline is my first choice so I found this recipe and I’m going to give a try. Have a go too !

You will, I’m sure have a far easier task of identifying them in the supermarket aisle!


Enjoy !


Hazelnuts or little alien things…?

Plums in abundance

I’ve always admired and been slightly envious of those people who were able to take simple produce and turn it into something delicious. Even moreso if they had the produce to hand – be it fruit, vegetables, milk , honey or any other natural delight.

Part of my search for the good life is doing just that. We are working with the existing produce at the property for time being but have exciting plans to develop more.

This week has been exciting as one of the plum trees, which I still can’t identify, has hit its peak. The plums are firm and look underripe but they are perfect, with an amazing flavour. We’ve got friends coming over the weekend so I thought about doing some stewed plums for putting over muesli as a delicious breakfast treat.

It was so easy. Heat some water, sugar ( sparingly to start as you can always add more to taste later), orange juice and a cinnamon stick until sugar melts. Then add plums and poach on simmer for 15-20 minutes. So easy and so yum!

Enjoy !




Fresh and warm, straight off the tree
Ruby flesh looks as good as it tastes










Stewed plums
Finished ! Plenty for the weekend and the ‘angel’s share for Mum & Dad !)