Monday, 19 December 2011

5 Ways to Add a Vintage Touch to Your Christmas - Without the Stress!

Christmas is only a few days away. Whether you're a cool customer on the preparations front, a last-minuter, or in fact, you're adopting a low-key attitude this year and couldn't care less, there's still plenty of time to add a few vintage touches to your festive atmosphere.

If you consider that vintage is a part of your personality, it makes a great way to radiate that personality onto your surroundings, making you more relaxed at what can be a stressful time of year.

1. Make paper chains. A quick, cheap and simple way to add a little festivity to any room; paper chains were first made by the Victorians, who used household items to decorate their homes at Christmas. That Prince Albert must have been a real hyper over-excited Christmas animal to have in the royal household, eh?! Use any colour paper you like, cut into thin strips and glue together in linked loops. Those thrifty Victorians also used to string last year's Christmas cards through with thread. The original recyclers. Quick and easy, and bound to keep the kids quiet for an hour.

For long-lasting chains you can also use scraps of fabric.


2. Have a go at Jane Asher's Last Minute Christmas Cake. Thanks to the Cake Queen it's never too late to bring some homemade comfort to your yuletide food by making your own Christmas cake. You can read about the history of the Christmas cake here. 

    Jane Asher's Last Minute Christmas Cake
  • 750 g mixed dried fruit
  • 150 g glacĂ© cherries
  • 225 ml stout, (Guinness, for example)
  • 100 ml whiskey
  • 75 ml orange juice
  • 1 orange, zest only
  • 2 tbsp black treacle
  • 200 g butter, slightly soft
  • 200 g muscovado sugar
  • 250 g plain flour
  • 1 heaped tsp baking powder
  • 5 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 75 g brazil nuts, or almonds, chopped
To cover the cake (optional)
  • 450 g marzipan
  • sifted icing sugar
  • sieved jam
1. For the cake: place the dried fruits, cherries, stout, whisky, orange juice, zest and treacle into a large pan and bring to the boil, stirring. Simmer gently for 10 minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. Preferably, transfer to a bowl and chill overnight - but don't worry if you can't: just leave it soaking as long as you can.

2. Preheat the oven to 140C/gas 2.

3. Lightly grease a 20cm round cake tin and line with baking parchment or a shaped silicone sheet.

4. Place all the remaining ingredients except the nuts in a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly (I do mine in the electric mixer when I'm feeling lazy). Beat until smooth, then fold in the soaked fruit and the nuts.

5. Spoon into the prepared tin and level the top, making a slight dip towards the centre. Bake for 3 hours, then check and cover the top with more paper or silicone if it is over-browning. Bake for a further 30 minutes-1 hour, or until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.

6. Allow to cool for 10 minutes or so in the tin, then turn out and allow to cool completely on a rack.

7. Wrap the cake in baking parchment and then in foil, and store in a tin somewhere cool and dry until it's time to decorate it. Every couple of weeks (or more often, if you're short of time), unwrap the cake, make a few holes in the top with a skewer, spoon a little brandy or whisky over the top and let it soak in. This keeps the cake moist - and makes it taste even better. You can use orange juice if you're avoiding too much alcohol. Rewrap the cake and store.

8. To cover with marzipan: with a sharp, serrated knife, trim the top of the cake if necessary (or turn it upside down, trimming the underneath to give it a firm base) until it's flat.

9. Knead the marzipan well until soft. Roll it out on a work surface or silicone baking mat dusted with a little icing sugar. Measure the circumference and the height of the cake with a piece of string, and cut a strip of marzipan to these measurements, allowing a little extra for safety. Brush the side of the cake with a little sieved jam (apricot is traditional, but use whatever flavour you like), then roll the marzipan strip onto the rolling pin to pick it up. Hold the rolling pin upright against the side of the cake and unroll the marzipan onto it, smoothing with your hands (or a side smoother). Trim the top edge as necessary.

10. Roll out the remaining marzipan into a rough circle, slightly larger than the cake. Brush the top of the cake with jam, and then turn it upside down onto the marzipan. Trim round the edge and then turn the right way up, smoothing as necessary.

11. Wrap the cake loosely in baking parchment and leave for a day or so before icing.

Your cake will look wonderful on a paper doily, and you can use small wooden tree decorations on top of royal icing to create a festive tableau. Or for a quick solution shun candles as a birthdays only cake decoration and pop a few on your Christmas cake. You can usually pick up gold and silver candles from the baking section of your supermarket.

A glass cake stand can add instant vintage feel to even the simplest of cakes

3. Candles and Firelight. You can't get much more cosy and homely than a crackling fire at Christmas. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire and all that. But not so many of us are lucky to have an open fire these days, or even a fire at all. Candles add instant warmth and atmosphere to any mantelpiece, festive table or relaxing bath. They remind us of church choirs and were, of course, the original form of tree lighting. Don't worry about expensive candles - the simpler the better.

A few simple candle add an instant ethereal atmosphere to any room

4. Go red! Okay, so the cake is sorted and the atmosphere would make even Scrooge feel at home. But what about you? Yes, you! If you don't wear red lips and nails the rest of the year round, Christmas is the perfect time to add a little Hollywood glamour to your look. Spending Christmas Day in your pyjamas? Even more perfect.

OPI Nail Colour
 For vibrant reds that dry quickly and are easy to remove I love OPI nail lacquers. They have a great range of reds available, so whether you want to sparkle or go with a more traditional finish your nails will match that Christmas jumper beautifully.

Rimmel's new Colour Show Off is causing quite a stir in beauty circles, and I've always liked the brand for lippie.

Georgia Jagger models Shade 230 Red Fever

5. Cocktail Time! ...or your chosen tipple. You're all done! It's time to snuggle up in front of that fire (or candles), enjoy the flickering light on your decorations, have a sneaky munch of cake - or let it sit resplendent ready for the arrival of admiring family, and relax with a drink. Or, put yer slippers and pyjamas on, bung The Muppet Christmas Carol on the box and get a drink down your neck.

For that vintage feel, you might like a Martini.

Or for some other retro cocktail ideas pay a visit to this blog.

And there you go! Christmas can be celebrated in many ways, but a little touch of vintage here and there should have you feeling more relaxed and into the swing of things.

Have a classic Monday,

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