Last Minute Christmas Baking

 I know, I know, it’s nearly Christmas and time is running out for Christmas preparations. I also know that in a recent post I wrote by my very own hands that I wasn’t going to do any Christmas baking this year. I also wrote that if I should change my mind I’d let you know. Well I have thought about it, spoken about it, huffed and puffed about it and come to a very sound decision. And now I am letting you know. There will be some last minute Christmas baking!

The Good News

Yes, the news is good. The grocery shopping has been done, the wooden spoon is out, the recipes selected and the neighbour’s children beside me, hands washed and aprons on.

So why this change of mind?

Firstly I want you to know that I will always love baking (and Christmas!). It is therapeutic, creative and fun. However, as you will so easily recall (I wasn’t called a Christmas humbug in a tweet by a certain HuffPost for nothing), my reasons arriving at such a miserable decision was nothing to do with a sad crackdown on the spirit of Christmas; it was far more scheming. In my home I’m the only one with a sweet tooth (this is the downside of sharing a home with men, gorgeous as they are). Lucky they that don’t crave fruit cake, mince pies and sticky toffee Christmas Pudding. I do and that was the issue. If I baked it, I would eat it. If I didn’t bake, Christmas would be, well different, without the over indulgence in sweet treats. So the choice between tradition and rational was easy to make – a month ago.

Now a few days to go, I have had a change of heart. I’m about to bake just as I do every year, only this year it’s a month later. And with the festive mood, I’ve decide to share my baking skills with my best friend’s children. This will give her a few hours to herself at such a busy time and all my baking will be distributed to friends and family who I know will have a house full of guests this Christmas. In addition, I’ve decided to have a little Christmas tea party for my girl friends who, like me, love cake and even more cake. It will also give me an opportunity to show of my heavenly vintage tea set I know I’m getting for Christmas from my sister. No secrets there!


Here are my recipes.

Christmas Porter Cake


It is too late to bake a traditional Christmas cake but that doesn’t mean we still can’t enjoy this festive treat. We just to have to use a different cake making method.

The porter cake is ideal as it uses the melting method and for that reason is even quicker to make and bake. No tying brown paper around the outside of the tin and placing cardboard underneath to prevent burning. I have often baked this cake just two days before Christmas Day and it is always delicious.

I usually make my own almond icing, but in recent years have used commercial fondant icing. If you prefer royal icing, don’t forget to add a teaspoon or two of liquid glucose to prevent having to hack into a rock hard icing.

This recipe makes a decent 20cm (8’’) cakes.


  • 175 g butter (or Flora Green)

  • 175 g Soft Brown Sugar

  • 450 g Mixed dried fruit

  • 40 g Glace Cherries (Chopped in 1/4 )

  • 400 mls Guinness (or any stout)

  • 4 Medium Egg (medium)

  • 1 Lemon zest

  • 1 Orange zest

  • 50 g Chopped Almonds

  • 300 g Plain flour (Sieved)

  • 1 tsp Baking Soda (Bicarbonate of Soda)

  • 3 tsp Mixed Spice (Sieved)

  • 3 tblsp Apricot Jam

  • 250 g Almond paste (or make your own)

  • 1 pack Fondant Icing


  • Oven Temperature: 275ºF – 140ºC – Gas Mark 1 – Cool

  1. Preheat oven

  2. Line the base of a 2 x 2lb loaf or 1 x 9″ square (22.5cm) or 10”(25cms) round cake tin in with greaseproof paper

  3. Melt butter, sugar, dried fruit, cherries and guinness in a large saucepan, bring to boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

  4. Leave to cool for at least 20 minutes.

  5. Beat eggs and add to cooled mixture, add zest and chopped nuts, mix well.

  6. Add all dry ingredients and stir until well mixed.

  7. Place in the prepared cake tin and into the oven for approximately 50 minutes -1hr for the loaf tins or 1hr 40 minutes for the round tin.

  8. Reduce heat after 45 minutes if cake is getting brown. Test with a skewer

  9. Leave in the tin overnight. Remove from tin next day but do not remove greaseproof paper until ready to ice.

  10. To store – wrap in greaseproof paper and then tin foil. Will freeze for up to 3 months like this.

  11. To decorate: Brush with melted jam. Cover with almond icing (not necessary if using fondant icing). Leave to dry for 2 -3 days.

  12. Cover with jam and fondant icing or royal icing (without the jam stage.) . Decorate and Enjoy


Sweet Pastry


This recipe from the Sian’s Plan collection is more like a shortbread texture; crumbly and crispy and is one of the few pastries that tastes as delicious cold or hot. It is excellent for making mince pies, cold tartlet cases, pastry bases and, of course, all sorts of pies.

I have found that the butter is best taken out of the fridge for a few hours before use and if you prefer to use flora margarine or alternative spread which I do, take it out of the fridge just before using.

Tip: Roll out large circles of pastry between two sheets of cling film (without a dusting of flour).


  • 225 g butter (or Flora Green)

  • 350 g Plain flour (sieved)

  • 50 g Caster Sugar

  • 1 Egg Yolk


  1. Rub butter into flour until similar to the consistency of breadcrumbs.

  2. Mix in sugar. Add egg yolk and a little water.

  3. Using hands or preferably a food processor, bring the ingredients together to make the most delicious pastry.

  4. Pastry will be like shortbread dough.

  5. Knead gently in hands until soft and smooth. Leave to rest in the fridge for 15 minutes. Roll out between two large sheets of cling film.

  6. Use to make 18 small traditional mince pies or 30 open mince pies or any dish requiring sweet pastry.


Mince Pies


Grease patty tins. Using ¾ of the pastry, form 24 small balls of pastry and line the patty tin with each ball, making sure to go up the sides. Try and keep the pastry fairly thin (less calories per mouthful). Roll out the remaining pastry and cut out stars or bells etc.

Fill the pastry with mince meat, preferably home made (but at this point, realistically, commercial – just watch the additives). Top with pastry shapes. Bake in a pre heated oven 180C for 10 minutes. Serve warm or cold dusted with icing sugar.

Tip: do not overfill the cases.


  • Sweet Pastry (as above)

  • Jar of Mincemeat (If buying watch for preservatives)

All that is left to say now is Happy Baking and a very Happy Christmas from me and the team at Sian’s Plan.


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About the Author


Sian Breslin is a qualified home economist, Mum of 3 boys and teacher for over 25 years. She is founder of Sian's Plan and believes that healthy eating can be made convenient with a little organisation.
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