Cassiefairy's thrifty lifestyle blog

Cassiefairy's thrifty little lifestyle blog – DIY crafts, sewing, food & fashion – what more does a girl need??

Caribbean Christmas Cake recipe-16

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Pieday Friday ~ The ultimate Christmas cake with a caribbean twist!

Today I wanted to share with you the Christmas cake that I’ve made this year. It’s a simple recipe that uses a few ‘different’ ingredients to give a traditional fruit cake a Caribbean twist. I got the recipe from the Bake with Stork website, so please check out the recipe for “Caribbean Style Christmas Cake” and try it out for yourself! Here’s how I got on with my festive baking:Caribbean Christmas Cake recipeThe recipe starts with a week-long soaking of the dried ingredients. This ensures that all the fruit is rehydrated and deliciously soft before it is added to the cake mix. The dried fruit selection for this cake includes tropical fruit mix (the type with coconut shavings and dried banana slices that you’d have on your breakfast cereal) so it’s essential to soak the ingredients to avoid a dry cake mix! Caribbean Christmas Cake recipe-2I didn’t leave it as long as suggested in the recipe (I just couldn’t wait!) but after a few days of shaking the ingredients in a tub full of rum, the fruit had adsorbed the alcohol and had become gooey and squishy – just right for the recipe. I’m sure that leaving the fruit to soak for even longer would improve the flavour, but if you’re in a rush to make a last-minute Christmas cake, it can easily be achieved with a shorter soaking – just keep an eye on the fruit, shake it often and wait until it absorbs most of the rum.Caribbean Christmas Cake recipe-3I was given a tip at a spirit-infusing event earlier this week that the fruit combines well with the alcohol if you tightly seal it into a large jar or tub and put it in the boot of the car for a few days. So even if you forget to turn the fruit or shake the mixture, it will do it’s own thing in the back of the car as you drive around. Just don’t blame me for any spillages and perhaps you could wrap the jar inside a plastic bag, just to be on the safe side!Caribbean Christmas Cake recipe-4I enjoyed mixing up the cake batter because it was one of the most simple recipes that I’ve used. I creamed together muscovado sugar with Stork until it was light and fluffy before adding the treacle and eggs, and then folding in the flour, spices and fruit. It really couldn’t have been easier to combine the ingredients and in no time at all I was tipping the cake batter into my double-lined cake tin and popping it into the oven. Caribbean Christmas Cake recipe-5The only element of the recipe that takes any time is the cooking process at 150°C, and I checked on my cake after about 2 hours, and then every quarter of an hour after that until it was cooked. My tip to stop the top-layer of fruit from getting burnt (which has happened to me many times before!) is to put a disc of greaseproof paper on top of the cake while baking.Caribbean Christmas Cake recipe-6 Caribbean Christmas Cake recipe-7Decorating the cake was good fun, as my husband and I did it together. I put his muscles to work kneading the marzipan and icing until it was pliable while I brushed melted apricot jam onto the cake to make it sticky. I rolled out a disc of marzipan that was large enough to cover the cake and my top tip for this is to roll out the icing or marzipan on a sheet of greaseproof paper that has been dusted with icing sugar. This makes it easier to transfer to the cake, as you can pick up the entire sheet of greaseproof paper and turn it on top of the cake before peeling off the paper and smoothing down the marzipan/icing at the sizes.Caribbean Christmas Cake recipe-8 Caribbean Christmas Cake recipe-9Another tip is to ice the cake while it is placed on an upturned bowl. This makes it easier to trim away the excess marzipan and icing at the bottom of the cake and you can easily pick it up to transfer it to a cake stand or tin afterwards.Caribbean Christmas Cake recipe-10 Caribbean Christmas Cake recipe-11Making caramelised fruits to decorate the top of the cake was great fun because it’s a process that I’ve never tried before and I love learning something new! It sounds really difficult but actually it’s just a case of dissolving sugar in water and then boiling until it becomes a caramel colour. Obviously, boiling sugar and skin don’t mix (and I didn’t fancy getting burnt just before Christmas!) so I used skewers to spike the fruit and dip into the caramel before popping the coasted fruits onto baking paper to cool. Caribbean Christmas Cake recipe-12 Caribbean Christmas Cake recipe-14One thing that I didn’t realise at first was that the sugar would continue to get darker even after I’d taken it off the hob, and each dipped fruit would start to set almost as soon as I lifted it out of the caramel so I had to work quickly. Even so, some of the fruits ended up with a burnt-tasting sugar coating so I started again with a second batch of sugar and dipped all the grapes and satsuma segments really quickly to get a clear golden glaze. Caribbean Christmas Cake recipe-13The cake itself tasted delicious; a slice packed full of fruit with a rich, boozy moistness that wasn’t too strong or sickly. Even with the more ‘unusual’ ingredients, it was still undeniably a Christmas cake and I can’t wait to share it with my family this weekend. Caribbean Christmas Cake recipe-17 Let me know if you try out the recipe for yourself – it’s available on the Bake With Stork website and I’d love to see photos of your festive bakes so please tweet your pics to me @Cassiefairy.

christmas tradition radio times_

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My favourite childhood Christmas memory ~ TV guides

Specifically, the Radio Times. I’m sure that many of you will have had a similar experience to me while you were growing up, of getting hold of the Christmas TV guide as soon as it came out and circling all of the programmes and films that you wanted to watch during the festive period. For me, this is one of my clearest childhood memories and, even now, buying a copy of the Radio Times gets me all excited about Christmas. When that TV guide hits the newsagents’ shelves, it’s officially the start of Christmas!christmas tradition radio times_It even happened this year, when a little squeal of excitement was squeaked while waiting in a queue at the village shop. Yes, there it was… the Christmas Radio Times. A quick check of the dates “20 Dec – 2 Jan” confirmed that it was indeed the hallowed festive TV guide and it was swiftly snapped up and brought home. The coloured pens came out and a whole lot of circling commenced!

As a child I had to share my TV guide with two brothers so we each chose a different coloured fluorescent marker pen to make our selections of festive TV viewing. A double-circled film was guaranteed to be watched, while a single-circled show might be viewed on my 14 inch TV-and-VHS combi in the bedroom. And what about clashing programmes, when a fantastic BBC comedy was scheduled at the same time as a festive film on ITV? In those days, video-plus was the ultimate convenience and we typed the codes into the video recorder to ensure that not one moment of classic Morecambe and Wise was missed. Back in those days we couldn’t have imagined that we would now be able to watch something we’d missed online through a TV player app! I’ve already been keeping the festive films running continuously thanks to tradition radio times_-2But all the advances in technology, TV recording and online catch-up still doesn’t stop me from wanting to pour over every page of the TV guide and circle my favourite in festive red pen. So that’s exactly what I’ll be doing this weekend, with a big mug of hot chocolate and a purring cat by my side. I’ll soon be ready for Christmas to come in all it’s programming glory!

Let me know if you did this as a child… or still do it now?! I’m sure I can’t be the only one still buying the Christmas Radio Times?! Leave me a comment below and tweet me @Cassiefairy with your top picks on TV for this Christmas!


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My ‘All I want for Christmas’ wish list

How are you getting on with your festive shopping? After a full day of high street shopping, a second day of trawling the internet and a final day of visiting the shops in the local village, I think I have pretty-much finished my Christmas shopping. I am delighted, as there is usually a last-minute rush on Christmas eve for one forgotten gift and I’d much prefer to be resting at home with a mince pie and mulled wine on Christmas eve! Just to be sure, I’ve allocated this coming Sunday as ‘present wrapping day’ so that I can wrap, label and double-check all the gifts to be sure that I’ve got everything sorted, which will still allow me a couple of days to buy any missing gifts!

My final online order will be with M&Co who are offering free express delivery when you spend £50 or more.  The last date for orders with this delivery option would be 22nd Dec so that’s ideal for any forgotten last-minute presents! I’ve put together a wish list of my favourite festive items from the website and here’s what I’m planning to buy with my £100 wish-list budget:Christmas wish list from M and coWe have a tradition in my family that we all have a new pair of pyjamas for Christmas. I think it started when my brothers and I were little and even now I wrap up PJs for my husband! My brother has passed on the tradition to his children, who will each receive festive pyjamas on Christmas eve too. That’s right, the PJs will be wrapped up, under the Christmas tree, and it is the only gift that we are allowed to open on Christmas eve. I love our tradition of the Christmas eve bath, followed by new PJs and snuggling down to watch The Snowman while tracking the arrival of Father Christmas on NORAD – it really kicks off the festivities! I chose a traditional checked cotton set for hubby and a very festive reindeer fleece set for myself, so I definitely won’t be getting cold this Christmas!

You may have noticed from my previous blog posts that I am a big fan of festive jumpers and I couldn’t resist adding a few to my shopping basket. Can you believe that all of these jumpers are already reduced in the sale?! I snapped up a skating penguin jumper for hubby at 50% off (I know he’ll love it and wear it all Christmas!) and I chose a scotty dog jumper from the petite range for me. This jumper reminds me of a dog jumper that I used to wear to primary school and I’m such an animal lover that I really couldn’t resist it! While I was browsing the Christmas jumper section, I spotted these gorgeous tiny knitted jumpers for my niece and nephew – they will look so cute in them this Christmas – so I picked out a santa jumper in blue and a red reindeer shawl jumper for the little ‘uns.

Finally, I added a couple of items just for me: I had enough left in my budget to pick up a party dress for Christmas day so I chose this stunning shift dress, which has been featured in Slimming World magazine. It has all the elements that I look for in a going-out dress, including cap sleeves, flattering gathered waist and midi length. At only £14 (better than half price!) I couldn’t not buy it and I’ll be able to wear it to the New Year’s Eve party too! I’ve teamed it with these sparkly teardrop jewel earrings which were an absolute bargain at only £3.20!

Thankfully many of the items I chose were already reduced in the sale so I picked up nearly £170 worth of clothing and accessories for the bargain grand total of just £93.70 for all of these items – and free delivery! AND I’ve finished my Christmas shopping! What could be better than that?! Let me know how you’re getting on with your preparations for Christmas and I’d love to hear what you’ll be buying in the festive sales so please leave me a comment below!

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Christmas jumper craziness!

Christmas jumpers. They are everywhere! I can hardly walk down the street without seeing festive knitwear in every shop window and cosy Christmas cardis worn by everyone I meet. I’m not complaining – I LOVE Christmas jumpers! In fact, I have a whole section in my wardrobe dedicated to festive knitwear and I made my own DIY snowman jumper last week. It’s the fair isle patterns, the cute characters and the bright colours that reel me in and I can’t help investing in more and more Christmas jumpers each year.crazy for christmas jumpers

So far this year I’ve bought this super-cute robins jumper from Asda, which was produced in aid of Save the Children and I’ve hardly stopped wearing it since I got it! I also treated hubby to this crazy jumper from Peacocks. It was a little more than I would usually spend on a festive jumper, but the Christmas tree has flashing fairy lights and jingle bells stitched into the design so I just couldn’t resist it!crazy for christmas jumpers-2

Of course it doesn’t stop at Christmas knitwear; there are festive socks, fair isle slippers, and Christmas party t-shirts all waiting to be worn this Winter. I came across this widget at the weekend and, created by and I just HAD to share it with you. In fact, it’s rather dangerous for someone with such a love of Christmas jumpers like me, because it helps you find the best designs at the lowest prices and I am a real bargain hunter!

What do you think of Christmas jumpers? Will you be wearing one all winter too? Leave me a comment below or tweet me @Cassiefairy with photos your own crazy Christmas jumpers!

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Winter wonderland wedding inspiration

I’ve always loved the idea of a Christmas wedding. Although I got married in the summer, December would have been my second choice. I think that a festive wedding would be great fun to plan; choosing Christmas-themed decorations, using deep red and green colours, and even arriving in a sleigh pulled by reindeer!plant 0396                                                                    Reindeer at Wasing Park in Berkshire

Of course, it would be even more magical if it were to snow on the big day – just imagine how pretty the photos will look. It actually snowed on my parents-in-law’s wedding day, and that was in April! At least if you’re hoping for snow on your big day you can anticipate it and get together umbrellas, snowboots and hot-water bottles to keep you cosy while you and your husband have photos taken in a stunning snow-covered scene.gemmarhys-PRINT-1275BW-(ZF-3222-50916-1-111)                                                               Beautiful snowy wedding photos

Refreshments could also be Christmas themed – after all, Christmas dinner is the best meal of the year! Cranberry champagne cocktails would be perfect, and guests could be greeted by a tray of mince pies and shortbread on arrival. I would also serve a midnight feast of festive leftover sandwiches, because there’s nothing better than a turkey, stuffing and sausage sandwich when you’ve been dancing the night away! gemmarhys-PRINT-1210-(ZF-3222-50916-1-092)                                                                               Festive feast

Of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without a Christmas tree, which would be the ideal centrepiece for your reception hall. Guests could leave wedding gifts beneath the tree and you could decorate it with Christmas photos of the bride and groom throughout their life. The venue could be decorated with hundreds of twinkling fairy lights and you could even hire a snow machine to flurry over the dance floor as you have your first dance.Christmas wedding theme inspiration                                               A venue looks magical when decorated with sparkling lights

Ideas for a Christmas-themed stag and hen party could include visiting an ice bar, wine or whisky tasting tours, or any kind of winter sports, such as skiing, snowboarding, bobsleigh or even husky driving! I’ve love to have a ride in a husky-drawn sleigh and sip vodka in the ice bar – what a memorable experience that would be!

Activity ideas from The Stag and Hen Experience

And a honeymoon in Lapland certainly wouldn’t be out of the question! Let me know what you would do to make your winter wedding feel festive and get in touch with your ideas – I’d love to hear from you!