Stir it up Sunday – Christmas cake AND Pudding

Today is Stir It Up Sunday.

What is Stir it up Sunday I hear you cry?  From what ive found out it is a victorian tradition which gets the whole family involved in making your festive pudding for christmas day.  Traditionally, families gather together  to mix and steam their Christmas pudding and this is how children learned to make the pudding, with everyone taking a turn to stir the mix as it is supposed to bring good luck.

I loved the idea of this tradition and whilst there are only 2 of us in this house I thought it was one that needed reviving. I also took the opportunity to make my christmas cake as this too needs feeding before the big day!

When looking for recipes for both these beauties I checked out lots of different sources, old recipe books, my favourite chefs and even google!!  What I ended up with our my two favourites – Nigel and Nigella.  I loved the simplicity of Nigel’s Christmas cake and the opulence of Nigellas christmas pudding and have been making these over the years – tweaking the recipe as I go.

What you have below then are my interpretations of these wonderful  recipes.  I hate candied peel so you wont see it anywhere, and much prefer more exotic dried fruits so you will see sour cherries, apricots and even some papaya in place of some of the more traditional options.

In terms of the booze I adore cointreau and think it lifts the christmas pudding to something truly spectacular and the addition of spiced rum to the cake, instead of brandy, added an almost smokey quality.

My Nigella inspired Christmas pudding

you will need

  • 100g currants
  • 150g sultanas
  • 100g roughly chopped prunes (drained from a tin)
  • 50g sour cherries
  • 50g papaya or apricots
  • 175 ml cointreau
  • 100 grams plain flour
  • 125 grams fresh breadcrumbs
  • 150 grams suet
  • 150 grams dark brown muscovado sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 medium cooking apple (peeled and grated)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 125 ml vodka
  • a 1.7 litre/3 pint/heatproof pudding basin

to make this baby…

The night before,

  • Put the currants, sultanas  cherries and scissored prunes into a bowl with the cointreau, mix well, then cover and leave to steep overnight

To make the pudding,

  • Heat some water in a steamer, and butter your heatproof pudding basin
  • combine all the pudding ingredients except the fruits in a large mixing bowl
  • Add the fruit and liquor mixture,  making sure you get every last drop, and mix to combine thoroughly, this is the point where everyone in your house gets a go at mixing.
  • Next transfer all your mixture to the greased pudding bowl. push it down gently then cover with the lid of greaseproof paper.
  • now create your larger lid of greaseproof, creating a fold so it has room to expand as it steams.  this is much easier than it looks. simply take a large circle of greaseproof paper. fold in half  so you have a semi circle. next from the straight end fold down a flap of 2 cm then flip open the back of the semi circle again.  this should give you a neat fold that will expand when steaming.
  • when you have your lid – lay it on top of the basin and then tie around the lip of the basin with some string –  I do this a couple of times round then create a string handle so that I can easily lift it in and out of the steamer.
  • Next  put the wrapped pudding  in the top of a lidded steamer and steam for 5 hours, topping up the water regularly so it doesn’t boil dry.
  • when its done let this cool then remove from the steamer and wrap in clingfilm.  Nigella doesn’t but I do feed my pudding on a weekly basis – just a couple of dribbles of cointreau and boy did it taste diving on christmas day.
  • talking of which on christmas day as you sit down to eat (or earlier if you can face dessert straight after christmas dinner) pop the pudding back on to steam for another 3 hours.

To serve, unwrap the greaseproof (its like another present!!) then pop your serving plate on top, turn it upside down and give the basin a little tap to help unmould the pudding.

Serve with a sprig of holly and whatever festive cream takes your fancy – this baby was so boozy I served with thick double cream and was immensely satisfied. I don’t flambe our pudding as a rule but if you do then use a little heated vodka and pour over before bringing to the table.

My Nigel Slater inspired Christmas cake

you will need

  • 900g dried fruits
  • 6 tbsp spiced rum
  • the grated zest and juice of 2 clementines
  • 250g butter
  • 140g light muscovado sugar
  • 110g dark muscovado sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 140g walnuts
  • 80g ground almonds
  • 250g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Small pinch of allspice
  • Cointreau to feed the cake

To make this baby…

The night before,

  • Empty the dried fruits into a bowl and pour over the brandy, zest and juice of the orange.
  • Tumble the fruits in the liquid – it won’t cover them – and set aside. Give them another stir in the morning.

To make the cake,

  • Set the oven at 160C/ gas mark 3.
  • Beat the butter and sugars till fluffy, using an electric mixer. Nigel says you should be looking for a latté coloured mix here and hes right
  • Meanwhile, double line the cake tin with baking paper. The paper should come at least 2 inches above the edge of the tin. this will allow the cake to rise fully and should help avoid burning
  • Break the eggs one at a time into the creamed butter and sugar. ensure each egg is fully combined before adding the next.  to avoid curdling mix in 1 tbsp or two of the flour.
  • Next add the dried fruits, ground almonds and whole walnuts.
  • Mix the flour, baking powder and spices, then add , a heaped tablespoon at a time, to the cake mixture.
  • Spoon into the lined cake tin, then bake for one hour without opening the door.
  • Turn the temperature down to 150C/gas mark 2 and let the cake continue cooking for a further 1½ hours.
  • If it appears to be browning a little too quickly, place a piece of foil over the top.

Once cooked remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in its tin. When the cake is cold, wrap the greaseproof around it then wrap again in cling-film and leave in a cool place.

To feed your cake every week unwrap the clingfilm and peel back the paper, then pierce the underside of the cake with a metal skewer in several places, then spoon over 2 tbs of rum. Once thats absorbed wrap it up again.

icing – now thats a whole different post!!!

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Thats a lot of cooking, great stuff! I still haven’t participated in stir up Sunday but love the tradition. MUST do it next year! Hope you enjoy your Christmas pud on the big day 🙂

    1. It looks like a lot but in reality was only about an hours work, just spread out thoughout the day.

      The results are SOOO worth it xx

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