Posted by: lucylastic | November 18, 2010

Stir-Up – It’s time to get baking!!

Though Stir-up Sunday is traditionally the day to mix your mincemeat and plum pudding, I’ll also be ‘topping up’ my Christmas cake on that day as well – with a couple of large slugs of brandy.  I have ‘free-styled’ my cake this year, following the proportions in my trusty Marks & Spencer cookbook – but using a wider range of fruits and nuts than is usual – including home-candied peel, golden sultanas and chopped pistchios and almonds.  I ended up with a lighter crumb than usual – but this darkened during baking and left me with a lovely rich-looking cake.  It’s already smelling divine when I unwrap it for another dose of brandy!!

The stirring-up of mincemeat, puddings and more recently, cakes, is associated with the last Sunday before the Christian season of Advent.  Over time, the words from the traditional ‘collect’ for the day – Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. – which would have been spoken at every church in the land, have been intrepreted as a call to get cracking in your kitchen with fruit, suet, and brandy!  It was also the day when ‘staff’ were allowed home from the ‘big house’ to help with their own Christmas preparations.

From the moment mincemeats and cakes were stirred-up and in the weeks that followed, the fruit plumps up in the alcohol and absorbs moisture and spices from the rest of the mixture – time mellows the alcoholic kick to a pleasant background warmth.  The pudding, even when sealed tightly, always loses some moisture – but the flavour intensifies and the cake crumb gets darker and more compact.  Both develop a richly complex texture and an aroma that is heady and decadent when eaten.  

So, put on your pinny, roll up your sleeves and get baking!  It’s very rewarding and will cost a fraction of what you pay for even a fairly standard pudding in the shops – and if you like to treat yourselves to a ‘luxury’ version, you can probably make 2 or 3 puddings at home for the same price.  My top tip is to soak all the dried fruits overnight in something like Port or Marsala – they plump up beautifully and help keep the mositure locked in.  Cheers.

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Responses

  1. Oh how funny Lucy – I just wrote my own piece about Stir Up Sunday and then came to your blog and saw you’d beaten me to it! Your lighter cake sounds divine.


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