Sugar and Crumbs are THE place to go when you're wanting a bit of Christmas advice! As a mother of four and grandmother of eight, Carol McFarland’s family are this year all assembling round at her house on Christmas Day for a traditional dinner with all of the trimmings. As you can imagine, catering for so many can be very demanding, require some serious planning and take a lot of time, and by Carol’s own admission she’s “never that well organised,” however she does love home baking with a rustic touch and playing hostess to an event that will be talked about for years to come. Here are a selection of Carol’s tips, hints, tricks and simple recipes to get you through the season.
Hostess with the mostest
Send out your invites nice and early, and get confirmation too! Don’t assume that they are coming, it will save a lot of upset.
Once numbers are confirmed, make sure your table/s is big enough, and if you have to, bring in the garden furniture. As much as I would love to have a large matching table and chairs, it’s really not feasible for one day!
Table decorations - think of your colour theme
I tend to use the same gold and silver decorations, with lots of fairy lights on the table. I always use my favourite place mats too. They’re glittery gold which I bought on the high street a few years ago. I never use candles for fear of knocking them over.
Make a Christmas playlist and start playing it on heavy rotation a few days before the main event. I love listening to Christmas carols (excuse the pun), they make me feel really Christmassy and brings back so many memories of when I was younger.
Involve the family
Due to the amount of people attending it takes a long time to pass around the food. We now have everything laid out on our kitchen worktop, this way everyone can choose what they want to eat before settling down. It’s always a good idea to share the load too. Laura, my daughter makes all the desserts. Husband John cooks the turkey and my sons help with the veg, pigs in blankets and soup. We’re all partial to carrot and coriander with a spoonful of creme fraiche and my beloved recipe by Delia Smith is a classic.
Dress for the occasion
We all love wearing daft Christmas daft jumpers, the sillier the better. And we now have a collection of silly hats which the grandchildren absolutely love.
My biggest tip is to stay calm and it took me years to realise this. Just play those Christmas tunes all day long and smile, hence you often hear me use the word rustic, the reason is, nothing needs to be perfect, it's about everything being made with love!
Invite friends round for tea and nibbles, the more the merrier! You will have far too much food, food you’ve not even touched. There’s nothing better than a turkey and stuffing butty in the evening.
Things to do with the children
I just let them play, and allow them to rob the Christmas tree of its chocolate decorations, although they are told they can only eat them if they eat all their Christmas dinner. Things have changed now with my children as we loved playing board games, and we still do, but the grandchildren just want to be on their tablets!
Once I start the cleaning process, I tend to scrape plates, sort and stack everything. All of the rubbish is separated in bin bags or recycling bins and excess food is replaced, covered and refrigerated ready for the evening snacks. I have to be honest, I do not wash up until Boxing Day. Boxing Day is my day to sit on the settee and do nothing, then in the afternoon I start to go through the washing up.
I’ve got recipe books from all of the celebrity chefs, my favourite will always be Delia Smith, her recipes are so easy to follow.
I love picking up bundles of soaps and toiletries from the high street, then giving them out as stocking fillers, they always wrap up so nicely, it saves so much time. With all of my children now married, I tell them to buy for the grandchildren. I transfer the funds, and get them to wrap it and bring it on the day. Thankfully, the days of physically going out and searching for presents is long gone. My fondest memory of Christmas are my children’s Christmas stockings, which I have kept and now use for the grandchildren. On Christmas Day everyone puts in the gifts for each child from them. I remember as a child receiving a tangerine, a selection box, a book, and a big gift. That was it. Things have changed, children get so much even now though they still prefer to play with the boxes and the wrapping paper!
Laura loves making up bags of sweets and fudge which I love to receive on Christmas Day too. Her Black Cherry Marshmallows are amazing! Check them out.
My favourite Christmas recipes
I love this very easy Christmas cake recipe. You cake make it seven-ten days before Christmas, and it’s so moist, with no need to feed. Remember you can adapt recipes to suit, if you don’t want to use alcohol, then use fresh orange juice. If you want to keep it nut free, don’t include the nuts, the same for any other ingredients that aren’t popular. If you are looking for gluten free flour, try Dove Farm Gluten Free Flour. Here’s a Christmas cake to please everyone. As I’ve said, I really don’t have time to prepare and feed for three months, I really am so last minute. This Christmas cake is nut and alcohol free, simple to make and tastes delicious. Check it out!
These easy shortbreads are delicious, you can whip them up in no time, using our flavoured icing sugar and your kitchen will smell divine. However, bake them when no one is home and stash them away for yourself! Try them out.
Try swapping flavoured icing sugars, you really could go wild. It couldn't possibly be Christmas without eggnog. These seriously festive recipes are made with Sugar and Crumbs Gingerbread Natural Flavoured Icing Sugar and a generous helping of whisky or brandy. Guaranteed to warm your cockles on the frostiest of days!
Merry Christmas from the Cake Decoration & Sugarcraft team!