Baking the Perfect Christmas Cake

A Christmas cake is actually any type of fruitcake served during Christmas time in many countries of the world. Thus, you will often find variations of the staple Christmas cake depending on the country, which can range from diverse cultures as the United Kingdom and the United States to Japan and the Philippines.

As such, a Christmas cake may be dark or light, unleavened or leavened, crumbly and moist or sticky and wet, heavy or spongy, round or rectangular and just about decorated with all sorts of toppings and icings.

No matter the type of Christmas cake baked and served in your family, however, there are certain guidelines that must be followed to make it as perfect as possible. After all, it is Christmas and nothing less than perfect will do for such a special occasion.

Use High-Quality Ingredients

A Christmas cake is only as good as its ingredients. Come to think of it, this applies to all kinds of cooking. Anyways, always be sure that your ingredients are of the highest and freshest quality even if you have to pay a premium for it. Think high-quality candied fruits and brandy, fresh flour and baking soda, good spices and molasses.

Use Superior Quality Baking Ware

You want to avoid uneven baking as well as burning of cakes. Thus, you have to use only good quality bake ware from the pans to the bowls to the spoons. Keep in mind, too, that you have to ensure that these are very clean, dry and hygienic with no traces of oils, grease and dirt. However, it is not just the superiority of the bake ware that is important. You also have to use the right sizes of pans since it can affect the even baking of the Christmas cake. If you must substitute pans, make sure that you have a substitution chart as a guide.

Maintain Ingredients at Room Temperature

Unlike pastries and pies, the ingredients used for Christmas cakes must be used at room temperature. Take out the frozen butter well before you start baking, use lukewarm water and eggs at room temperature in order to get the best results.

Use the Oven to Your Advantage

The oven plays a big role in the making of the perfect Christmas cake. As such, it pays to ensure that it is set at the right temperature, with the right spacing between heat and cake batter, and the right baking load.

To achieve this purpose, you should install an oven thermometer, which should tell you of the precise temperature. If your oven is on the older side, the built-in thermometer may not be as accurate as it was before. You can then adjust the heat of oven depending on the recommended baking temperature for the Christmas cake.

You should also maintain constant temperature while baking the cake. This is necessary so as to ensure even baking, not to mention a nice glossy browning of the cake crust. Of course, it is also important to anticipate the period of time when you will be serving your Christmas cake. Many bakers will start preparing their fruitcakes as early as October although some cakes may require preparation in as little as a week before Christmas Eve.

Christmas Gifts and Its History

The practice of exchanging gifts with friends and relatives on a very special wintry day, called Christmas, began in ancient northern Europe and Rome. These customs were started by people giving each other small presents as a part of the celebrations at the end of each year. And, as we learn more about Christmas gifts and its history, later versions tell of the nature of gifts and gift giving changing during the ages. More current versions have it that the celebrations of Christmas began during 1860s and Victorian ruling era when members of a family would get together and exchange gifts. And, although those gifts were very modest for those days, it was the bonding and love that it fostered that were the most important goals.

Christmas Gifts History

Even in the earliest times, these gifts for Christmas were placed under the Christmas tree. Totally separate and distinct from the enjoyment of receiving gifts, the tastefully and gaily wrapped packages were, even then, a thrill and joy for the eyes. Reading about the history of Christmas gifts ensures we are mindful that there are particular times for offering and exchanging gifts. Typically, these presents are given on the Christmas Eve, Christmas day, or on St. Nicholas Day.

Gifts for Christmas from Around the World

Since Christmas is strictly a religious occasions in many places around the world, like Holland, the giving of gifts to friends and family is done on St. Nicholas day. Other countries like Poland, German, and others, the kids are fortunate since they have two gifts giving occasions. The 1st being on December 5th, when smaller gifts are usually given. However, on the 2nd occasion, Christmas Eve, these countries like Hungary use the same criteria as the U.S., except the gifts are ‘given by Jesus’ and not Santa Claus. Spain, for example, has its tradition of gifts giving on January 6th, which is consider the Epiphany. New Years Eve is the big day for the Russian.

Scandinavian Shoe Gift Giving Tales

In Scandinavia, kids leave their shoes at the hearth, and this custom that can be traced to he long told legends about St. Nicholas. One version of the legend has three poor sisters who had no money for a dowry; therefore they could not marry. So, legend has it that to save them from being sold by their father, Saint Nicholas left gold coins for each of the sisters. It is said that one sister went down the chimney, landing in a pair of shoes left on the hearth, while another sister proceed through a window, landing in a pair of stockings that had been left to dry hanging by the fire.

Saturnalia Roman Ceremonies for Gifts

The festivities of solstice in the Roman ceremonies of Saturnalia were the origin of our Christmas celebrations and where they exchanged gifts. This theory of exchanging of gifts comes from the three magi written about in the Bible, when Christmas was a very solemn event during the previous centuries. The Christians were reminded by religious puritans that the Magi gave gifts to Jesus only and not to family members or to each other. All this has become a commercial phenomenon, primarily because Christmas really became widely popular during the last century and the celebration of Christ’s birth was incorporated with the solstice festivities outside the official church.

Modern Day Christmas Gifts Shopping

For current day Christmas shopping, it has become quite hectic and always a rush for most people. Here’s some interesting facts about Christmas shopping, gift giving, and gift receiving:
* 86% of Christmas shoppers do not begin shipping until December;
* 70% of all shoppers do not save for Christmas giving at all;
* 87% make up their minds only at the point of purchase – only 13% plan ahead for their gifts;
* 30% purchase with some sort of credit card for buying Christmas goodies which is one of the leading causes for non-business bankruptcy; and
* Records reveal that those with low, medium, and high-income groups spend about the same amount on Christmas gifts.

Budget Christmas Gift Ideas

Budget Christmas gift ideas are something that can be fairly closely linked with an earlier article where we saw how to go about achieving an old-fashioned Christmas, after all it’s only within the last few decades that most families have had enough disposable income to buy a lot of gifts at Christmas; not so long ago a fair amount of what you’d have received at Christmas was hand-made.

In this article we’re going to have a look at some of the ways that you’ll be able to get some budget Christmas gift ideas, all without looking as though you’ve done your best to save money along the way.

Budget Christmas gift ideas #1: the hand-made gift.

Hand-made Christmas gifts are a great idea, whether you’re on a tight budget or not. Many people think that if they give something hand-made they’ll just be seen as not having the money to go out and get a ‘proper’ gift, but that’s often far from the truth.

Ok, so they may not cost as much as something new and shiny from the shop, but they’re far more valuable in one term, they cost you the time to actually make them. There are a number of hand-made gifts that you could have a look at making for your simple, unique, and budget gift.

How about a hand-made calendar? Let’s face it; if you’re going to give anyone a calendar, this is the right moment to do it. You can either get the parts that you need from a craft shop, or, if you intend to make this a yearly gift for someone, then you could look at investing in one of the many calendar making software programmes available.

You don’t have to have a picture of every month, but, if you’re sending it to a relative overseas, then getting out and about with a digital camera and taking a few snaps of the places they used to frequent is a great touch for your calendar.

How about giving a gift basket? Do you make a mean range of chutneys or Christmas cakes? If so then you can make up a gift basket and include a lot of the items you may already be making for the Christmas holidays. Not everyone either remembers, or gets a chance to get in some of these things at Christmas, and giving them in a gift basket will not only be a nice thing to give, it’ll also be quite a practical thing to receive.

Another thing about the hand-made budget Christmas gift ideas are the fact that you can get the kids involved. Not only will it give them some pride in the fact that they’ve contributed to the gift, you could give the gift as something that they’ve made themselves.

Budget Christmas gift ideas #2: auction sites.

Most people will know about auction sites, so this may not be a revolutionary idea for getting a budget Christmas gift, but it is one that’s often overlooked.

It’s not always advisable to go to them to look for this year’s Christmas fad, because, if it’s something that’s sold out everywhere else, the price on the auction sites is going to be astronomical. If, however, the person you’re getting the gift for is into something that isn’t such a fad, then auction sites can still be a great way for getting a budget bargain.

Here are a few things to attempt if you’re going down the auction route. Try looking for misspellings of the item. Not everyone gets the spelling right, and not everyone is looking under the wrong spelling, so this can be a good way of finding something that very few other people are going to start bidding on.

Always exceed the next recommended bid by 1 cent – or the equivalent where you are – way? Well most people are going to stick with the round numbers when they put in their maximum bids i.e. $10 instead of $10.01, how does that help? If you bid $10 and it matched the maximum of the other person you’d have to bid again at $11, but, if they bid at $10 and you put in $10.01 you’d be the top bidder, and would have saved yourself 99 cents on trying to outbid them at $11.

Always wait till near the end of the auction to bid. Bidding too early attracts other buyers, and it accelerates the bidding far too early.

Budget Christmas gift ideas #3: manufacturer’s and warehouses.

Often a manufacturer will be able to sell directly to the public, which saves you having to pay the extra to the reseller, and a similar thing happens with warehouses. You may not be able to find what you want, but it is a good tactic to be aware of if you’re following up on your budget Christmas gift ideas.

Budget Christmas gift ideas #4: cards.

While these aren’t the gifts themselves, they certainly can take a lot out of your Christmas gift budget. Have you ever sat down and worked out how much the cards you use actually cost? It can be quite scary if you have a large family and circle of friends.

Hand-made cards aren’t difficult to create, and, as earlier, they’re a great thing to get the kids involved in. They can either be done individually, or, if you’re a bit of a techno wiz, you can have them created on the computer and just print them out.

There we have it; four budget Christmas gift ideas to get you through the tough times.

Hand-made gifts are a great place to start for anyone on a budget, and you can get the whole family involved. If you want something that’s ‘shop bought’ then have a look at either the auction sites, or possibly go direct to the manufacturer. Then have a look at making your own Christmas cards, not only do they have the personal touch, they will save you a fortune over buying the from the shops.

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