‘Tis the season to dust off your festive cookie cutters and bring your favourite bakes and desserts to the table. To help make this season less stressful, we have a few tricks so that you can enjoy your time in the kitchen.
1) Make a plan
If Santa can make a list (and check it twice) you can apply this very same rule to your baking! Make a plan for the recipes you want to bake in advance and note down the ingredients needed along with any wrapping required, if you’re baking to give as gifts.
Some ingredients you might be able to get cheaper if they are bought in bulk and some ingredients such as essences may need to be ordered online in advance. If you’re super organised or baking several things on one day, you can make a written timeline for timing of the method and preparation.
2) Do a cupboard inventory
There’s nothing worse than running out of ingredients when the supermarkets are closed for Christmas. See if you have the right supplies for the baking you have planned already in your cupboards. Check you have the correct ingredients in the correct quantities and that nothing will go out of date before it is needed.
Eggs, unsalted butter and milk are fresh essentials to have in generous quantities at Christmas if you plan to bake. Have a look at your dry ingredients and raising agents and check their use by dates.
3) Check your equipment
Have a look in your cupboard and see if you have all the necessary equipment to hand. This includes tins in the right sizes, cupcake cases, cake tins, airtight containers and any extras you may need such as piping bags, piping nozzles, baking paper and cling film.
We can tend to lend our equipment out over the year, so it’s worth shepherding back your bakeware flock in time for Christmas!
4) Get an oven thermometer
We can’t stress the usefulness of this cheap and cheerful kitchen gadget enough. Bake at the right temperature and you won’t be guessing whether your oven is too hot or too cool.
Things will bake on time (essential if you’re working to a timeline) and you can avert a host of baking disasters.
5) Use your freezer
Wrap unused pastry and cookie dough in clingfilm and freeze until needed. This means you can do lots of your baking prep long in advance and enjoy fresh baking all Christmas.
Read our blog on baking in advance for tips on how to freeze your sponges and frostings.
6) Don’t experiment if you’re serving to guests
Now is the time to stick to tried-and-trusted recipes if you’re catering for guests, for your own sanity!
Most recipes will indicate their difficulty level in the notes and instructions, so it’s perhaps best to save anything overly tricky for a less stressful time in case of mishaps.
7) Buy decorations ready-made
There’s no shame in buying edible cake decorations already made to save time and there are so many cute designs out there to choose from. Sprinkles and edible glitter are simple to use, just shake sprinkles straight over your cakes or apply glitter by loading a clean cake decorating brush and tapping against your finger to create a fine dusting.
If you don’t want to spend much, a grater is the perfect way to add lemon or orange zest or grate chocolate shavings over cupcakes and cakes. Ready made Christmas sweets and candy canes are also no fuss to use.
We use ready-made gingerbread man sprinkles to top our Gingerbread Cupcakes and we can’t think of anything more adorable!
8) Use icing sugar stencils for easy decoration
Cake icing sugar stencils are so easy to use and can create beautiful effects simply. Just position over cakes, tray bakes, brownies or cookies and create your design by dusting a small sieve of icing sugar over the top until the design shows.
Metal cookie stamps are also an easy way to imprint your cookie dough before baking, no icing required.
9) Keep presentation simple
If giving as a gift, you can package your cookies, bars and sweets simply in cellophane bags and tie with some festive ribbon. Even a bundle of cookies tied with ribbon and a gift tag looks pretty, you can use squares of baking parchment in between to stop them from sticking.
Clean jars with festive labels and ribbon are great for mini cookies or small sweet treats. Cupcakes and cakes can be transported carefully in airtight containers or arranged in metal cake tins as a gift.
10) Clean down as you go
It’s something we insist our bakers do, not just for safety and hygiene around the kitchen, but to keep organised and to give ample space to work.
Have a washing up bowl of warm soapy water to hand once you start baking and you can clean up as you go along, freeing up bowls, whisks and measuring spoons for when you need them.
11) Put on some Christmas music
Nothing gets us in the spirit quite like baking with our favourite Christmas songs in the background. Crank up the radio or have a festive playlist on in the background. This, and maybe a glass of mulled wine, is our Christmas baking essential!
Happy baking and Merry Christmas! x