Some friends made their Christmas cake back in half term, when I assume they had a little more time, and wanted to do something lovely with the children. But the traditional time is the last Sunday before Advent (the time of preparation for Christmas). Of course, this all works very well as it gives your rich fruit cake or pudding time to develop extra deliciousness.
I am a realist though, and know that some of you will much prefer to buy a cake or pudding, so I’d like to introduce you to local cook Inez Rosen, owner of Handmade and Heavenly and recent winner of a prestigious Great Taste Awards Gold Star (2011) for her fabulous homemade Christmas puddings.
Inez makes over 500 Christmas puddings a year, as well as cakes, biscuits, sweets, jams, pickles, and chutneys. Inez uses local ingredients wherever possible, including breadcrumbs from Redbournbury Mill, free-range eggs from Breakheart Hill farm in Flitwick, and apples from the Highfield Trust Orchard. The pudding recipe is her Grandmother’s traditional recipe, so does not include any artificial nasties. They are suitable for vegetarians, and Inez makes gluten- and nut-free versions.
Inez started by making puddings for family and friends, and then was asked to make them for a restaurant in Brighton. She now takes orders for other places in Brighton and sells at the St Albans and Harpenden Farmer’s markets in the run up to Christmas. You can also find Handmade and Heavenly puds and cakes in Willows Farm Shop and at Jay’s deli in Harpenden. Jay was selling Inez’s homemade pumpkin cakes there a few weeks ago, which proved very popular.
If you want to buy a pudding, the next Farmer’s Market dates are 27 November for Harpenden and 11 December for St Albans. I would contact Inez first if you can, as they tend to sell out. Go to http://www.handmadeheavenly.com for more details. Prices start at £10 for a medium pudding which will be plenty for four people. A Christmas cake to serve 14 people is £18.00. Jay’s in Harpenden are selling the Christmas puds.
Look out too for her hampers – a really easy present for the foodie in your life. The “Little Cherub” hamper contains a pud, cake, jam, chutney, biscuits and sweets, with everything home-made and presented beautifully for £29. The “Celestial” contains piccalili, cranberry sauce, marmalade as well as everything else, which would mean that you really would not have to do any home-baking yourself this year!
The Farmer’s Markets are brilliant places to pick up hand-made chocolates, fudges, and pots of jam, pickles and other lovely things for pressies or for yourself. The sloe gin stall was very popular last year, and the Country Market stall is always my first stop for marmalades and mincemeat.
Heaven is a Cupcake are also making traditional Christmas fruit cakes, with prices starting from £15, and light fruit cakes from £12. I am sure Lucy will think of some delicious Christmas cupcakes too if you are hosting a party (www.heavenisacupcake.com).
I noticed that Pudding Stop are also taking orders for Christmas puds at the van by St Albans train station.