A very British Christmas

Anna Louise Batchelor - 14 December 2012

Anna's Christmas cakeI recently read in the Guardian Newspaper that we are increasingly forgoing British traditions for the festive season and replacing them with a more Scandinavian approach to Christmas. Now I’m a big fan of the culture that the Scandinavian countries have exported, from Nordic Noir to my ever increasing traditional woolie jumper collection. I also appreciate the very ‘clean’ approach to eating hallowed in Scandinavian culture; lots of fresh fish, great portions of vegetables and complex carbohydrates like rye bread. However, when it comes to Christmas I’m not budging on my tried and tested since childhood traditional Christmas.

To keep the flag flying and to do my duty for Christmas and country I recently attended a festive cookery class at Waltham Place Biodynamic farm in White Waltham, Maidenhead. For the last few years I have been quite spoilt with homemade Christmas cakes being given to me as gifts. This year was a rude awakening to find out I would have to make my own, so under the expert tutorship of Estate chef Adrian Foster I got cooking for Christmas.

This was not the first time I’d been to Waltham Place for cookery training. From making real bread to homemade sausages I have learnt a great deal of my culinary skills from Adrian. The classes at Waltham Place allow you to get hands on with organic foods and they are also really great fun thanks to Adrian.

During the Christmas cookery day we learnt to make all the festive favourites. I now have a Christmas cake and a tried and tested recipe which Adrian has very kindly agreed to share which you will find below.

This blog post is a little tongue in cheek. With an American inspired Turkey lunch and a festive tree that originates from Germanic cultures, what really is a ‘British Christmas’? For me it’s about traditions I have grown up with and supporting the best of British organic agriculture. However you choose to spend your festive season I hope you have a lovely holiday.

Merry Christmas!

You can find out more about the organic cookery classes, seasonal estate walks and gardening courses on the Waltham Place website.

Adrian Foster’s Traditional Christmas Cake Recipe

Anna's mincemeatIngredients:

  • 1lb mixed vine fruits
  • 5oz glace cherries
  • 3oz mixed peel
  • 12oz plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 10oz butter
  • 10oz sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • brandy


  1. Place the vine fruits into a bowl and cover with brandy.
  2. Cover and leave for 24hrs.
  3. Heat oven to 150°c
  4. Double line an 8 inch round cake tin with buttered waxed paper.
  5. Tie a double thickness of newspaper around the outside of the tin.
  6. Into a bowl combine sugar, flour, baking powder, spices and a generous pinch of salt.
  7. Mix butter into dry ingredients and work together as if making a pastry.
  8. Add vine fruits, chopped cherries, peel and extra brandy to the flour mix and combine well.
  9. Beat the eggs in a bowl and add to the cake mixture stirring in well.
  10. Spoon the mixture into the tin and level the top.
  11. Place cake in oven and bake for approx. 3½ hours, covering the cake with tin foil after the first 1½ hrs.
  12. Test that the cake is cooked by inserting a knife in the centre. When the knife comes out clean the cake is fully cooked.
  13. Once cooked remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin.
  14. Once cooled remove cake from tin and waxed paper.
  15. Use a skewer to make small holes all over the top surface of the cake. Then spoon brandy over the holes and allow the liquid to be absorbed.
  16. Wrap the cake tightly in waxed paper and tin foil and place in an airtight box to mature.

Anna Louise Batchelor is an environmental scientist who has worked in academia, government and industry. For the last six years she has been part of Reading's True Food Co-op.

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21 December 2012 05:34

For the ultimate - in my opinion - of Britishness, How about making a Yorkshire Christmas Pie next year?

A Bird
18 December 2012 23:08

What a wonderful article. Homemade Christmas cakes definitely defined my childhood Christmases and I am sad to say that in adult life I have failed to take the baton. I am going to take note of this mouth watering recipe and continue/ start some traditions of my own in 2013 ;)

11 December 2012 22:09

For anyone who hasn't experienced Waltham Place - book on to one of their courses without delay. They are a bargain and Waltham is a wonderful place.

K Walker
11 December 2012 13:16

Cake looks delicious, I will try that recipe next year :-)

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