12 Fool-proof Ways to Get into the Festive Spirit

In just two more weeks, Christmas will have come and gone. But weirdly enough, the closer the C-day gets, the less it really feel like Christmas to me…

Maybe it’s a case of early cranberry & cinnamon tiredness (in which case I would have no choice but to plead guilty) or my brain’s last desperate attempt to slow time down (so I actually have time to get everything done), but the fact is, my Christmas spirit-o-meter has been running low for the past few days.

But I simply love Christmas too much not to fit as much as possible into this whole month, so something had to be done.

So if the festive cheer hasn’t quite reached you yet (or if it’s trying to leave early), then here’s a checklist of tried-and-tasted ways to get into the festive spirit.

12 ways to get into the festive spirit | Cake + Whisky

1. Decking the halls.

Whether you go all out, put up a tree with lights, bobbles, garlands and then some, or the less-is-more way with a little festive corner, any amount of hall-decking will do wonders for your Christmas spirit-o-meter!

12 ways to get into the festive spirit | Cake + Whisky

2. Festive baking

The more of them you make/eat, the merrier you get. Trust me, I have the experience to back this up. Nothing like mixing, baking, icing and sprinkling to get into the festive spirit!

3. Opening your advent calendar.

Counting down days, building anticipation AND getting treats along the way… So, so much better than regular calendars!

4. Cinnamon anything everything.

Cinnamon roll, cinnamon cookies, cinnamon chocolate truffles, cinnamon granola, cinnamon-scented orange salad… Don’t miss any opportunity you get to make every single bite you take ’til the 26th a festive one!

12 ways to get into the festive spirit | Cake + Whisky

5. Hot chocolate with little marshmallows on top.

With cream on top, obviously. Everyone knows that Christmas calories don’t count, so better make the most of it while you can!

12 ways to get into the festive spirit | Cake + Whisky

6. Taking yourself on a lil’ Christmas lights/windows tour.

Wrap up warm and take yourself on a walk/drive around the ‘hood to see the twinkly lights in all their twinkly glory. Do not however sing ‘Twinkle Twinkle little star’ as you go or it’ll be stuck in your head forever (you’re welcome).

7. ALL THE MULLED DRINKS!!

Wine, cider, fruit juice… Whether you’re off the booze or very much on it this Christmas, a mulled drink of some sort is an absolute must to get the ho-ho-ho vibes going.

Most supermarkets sell spice mix you can warm up over the stove with your poison of choice, or you can easily mix your own.

8. Peeling an orange.

There’s something about the smell of citrus that makes everything feel super merry. Aromatheraphy? Magic? Who knows / cares?!

10. A visit to your local Starbucks.

Because gingerbread-toffee-eggnog filled red cups and the most festive of Chrismas playlist are absolutely the way to get even the Grinch-iest of people have a Christmas movie marathon.

12 ways to get into the festive spirit | Cake + Whisky

11. Do some Christmas shopping.

Nothing will warm your heart the way buying something you know will put a big smile on your fave faces will.

Remind yourself of that when you have to elbow your way through the Oxford Street crowds. And also of the fact that, despite it sounding all Agatha Christie-esque, a Christmas Murder would sort of get in the way of all the eating, drinking and being merry.

12 ways to get into the festive spirit | Cake + Whisky

12. If all else fails, just switch off & spend time with your loved ones.

Because that (and a brilliant excuse to eat cookies for breakfast, lunch and dinner) is what Christmas is really all about! 

Actually, that’s what I’ll be up to for the next two weeks or so, so things might slow down a bit over here and on social media. In the meantime, you guys have the most festive of times!

What are you favourite ways to get festive? Anything I definitely need to try to go back to my cinnamon-fuelled, extra merry self?

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12 Fool-proof Ways to Get into the Festive Spirit

Spiced chocolate truffles

The plan for this year’s festive recipes was to give old favourites a fresh twist.

But despite having won bit battles on the brussel sprouts, snacking nuts and dessert fronts, there are still some classics I’m reluctant to let go off.

Spiced chocolate truffles | Cake + Whisky

Every year for as long as I can remember, my family’s Christmas feast has started with a plateful of oysters, continued with smoked salmon in one form or another, and finished with a cup of coffee and a couple of homemade chocolate truffles.

And if I’m not really big on the first one, the other two are absolute Christmas must-eat in my eyes.

Spiced chocolate truffles | Cake + Whisky

So this year, much like last year, I will be making a few versions of my failproof recipe besides the obligatory cocoa- and coconut-coated ones.

Spiced chocolate truffles | Cake + Whisky

Super easy to make, delicately spiced, and utterly irresistible, these cinnamon spiced chocolate truffles are sure to make an appearance!

What can I say, that’s just how I r-ho-ho-oll!

Spiced chocolate truffles | Cake + Whisky

Spiced chocolate truffles (makes about 25)

Ingredients:

  • 200g good quality baking chocolate (I usually go for Nestlé’s or Green & Black dark baking chocolate)
  • 100ml crème fraîche (about 3 big tbsp)
  • a little knob of butter (about 20g)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon powder (or any other powdered winter spice of your choice)

1. Chop the chocolate and tip into a large bowl. Place the bowl atop a pot of boiling water (double-boiler) and stir the chocolate until fully melted.

2. Take off the heat, then add in the butter, cream and half of the cinnamon. Mix well, then add the egg yolks and mix thoroughly.

3. Pour the chocolate batter into a bowl, cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 2h.

4. Mix together the cocoa powder and the remaining cinnamon powder. Shape the truffles using your hands or a spoon dipped in hot water, then roll each of them in the cocoa and cinnamon mix until evenly coated.

Store the chocolate truffles in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week.

What are your Christmas food essentials? Anything you simply can’t do without?

Spiced chocolate truffles

Christmas Granola

In case you haven’t already guessed, I love Christmas. As in LO-O-OVE it.

As far as I’m concerned, December is all about packing in as much of the festive spirit as possible.

Christmas Granola | Cake + Whsiky

Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and every meal inbetween is basically one long succession of warm, spicy, festive goodness.

This Christmas granola is no exception.

Christmas Granola | Cake + Whsiky

Full of crunchy, nutty, fruity goodness, it’s as festive as the smell of pine trees and the taste of the season’s first mince pie.

Christmas Granola | Cake + Whsiky

It’s packed full of Christmas spices, and the maple syrup gives it a lovely crunch without the overly-sweet taste of most granolas.

Christmas Granola | Cake + Whsiky

This Christmas granola the perfect thing to have in the cupboard to keep the festive spirit alive from breakfast onward.

If you are hosting people over the festive period, make an extra-big batch so your guests can help themselves to brekkie even if you’re still in bed.

Christmas Granola | Cake + Whsiky

Presented in Kilner jars decorated with pretty ribbons and handmade labels, it also makes for a great gift.

Oh, it’s the quickest way to make the whole house smell like Christmas. Win-win-win!

Christmas Granola | Cake + Whsiky

Christmas Granola (for one big batch, about 6/8 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 200g rolled oats
  • 50ml maple syrup
  • zest of 1 organic orange
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg powder
  • big handful almonds
  • small handful walnuts
  • handful raisins
  • handful dried cranberries
  • 1 tbsp chopped dried apricots

1. Pre-heat your oven to 180°C (gas mark 6).

2. Using a mortar & pestle or a big knife, roughly chop the nuts.

3. In a big bowl, mix together the oats, nuts, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange zest. Pour in the maple syrup and mix until it just about gets together (add a bit of water if necessary).

4. Place the mix onto a big oven tray and bake for about 20 min or until golden.

5. Sprinkle the dried fruit on top and let it cool completely before transfering into an air-tight container.

Christmas Granola

Christmas Orange Salad with Spiced Cranberries

Roasts with rivers of gravy, creamy cheese, followed by a big batch of cakes and puddings… Christmas food is nothing if not indulgent.

But it absolutely doesn’t have to be like that all the way. As for most things in life, it’s all about balance.

Christmas orange salad with spiced cranberries | Cake + WhiskyChristmas orange salad with spiced cranberries | Cake + Whisky

A crunchy brussel sprout slaw with the turkey. Plenty of fresh and dried fruit on your cheese board. And a tiny slice of pudding with this little wonder of a Christmas orange salad on the side.

Christmas orange salad with spiced cranberries | Cake + Whisky Christmas orange salad with spiced cranberries | Cake + Whisky

Bursting with festive flavours, yet still zesty and fresh, it’s the perfect way to end your Christmas meal…

So squeeze your chance & make this Christmas meal your zestier yet!

Christmas orange salad with spiced cranberries

Christmas Orange Salad with Spiced Cranberries (serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • 6 oranges or 8 tangerines
  • 1 big handful fresh cranberries
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 green cardamom pods or 1 black cardamom pod, slightly crushed
  • 1 small handful raisins
  • 5 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 300ml water

1. In a small saucepan, place the cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, raisins and water. Bring to a small boil and simmer for 10 min. Add the sugar, reduce the heat and cook until it start thickening.

2. Add the cranberries into the syrup and cook until they just start to rumple. Remove from the heat and let it cool completely.

3. Using a knife, cut off the peel and white pith from the oranges. Cut them in thin slices and arrange on a serving dish.

4. Top with the spiced cranberries and raisins and drizzle with a bit of the spiced cooking syrup. Serve immediately.

Christmas Orange Salad with Spiced Cranberries

Cinnamon & Ginger Thumbprint Cookies

J-23 guys! 23 more days til the most wonderful time of the year and I cannot wait! And really, what better way to get in the festive mood than a plate of spicy, cinnamon-ey cookies?

Cinnamon & ginger thumbprint cookies | Cake + Whisky

Nothing. My point exactly.

Cinnamon & ginger thumbprint cookies | Cake + Whisky

For me, that first bite of something sweet, crumbly and unmistakably cinnamon-ey is what marks the official start of the festive season.

Cinnamon & ginger thumbprint cookies | Cake + Whisky

Most years, mince pies are the way this happens (and I absolutely love it that way!).

But this year was different. This year, that ‘first bite’ was one of these gorgeous, homemade Cinnamon & Ginger Curd Thumbprint Cookies.

Cinnamon & ginger thumbprint cookies | Cake + Whisky

Flavoured with the warm aromas of cinnamon and ginger, they are the super Christmas-sy version of the already quite Christmas-sy jam thumbprint cookies.

They’re super easy to make (absolutely no need to be a smart cookie!) and with all these spices, they definitely make for the perfect seasons’ greetings!

Cinnamon & ginger thumbprint cookies | Cake + Whisky

Cinnamon & Ginger Thumbprint Cookies (makes 30)

For the cookie dough:

  • 200g flour + some for dusting
  • 100g granulated sugar
  • 125g soft unsalted butter
  • 4 egg yolks
  • a small pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

To garnish: 

1. In a big bowl, whisk together the egg yolks with the sugar and salt until it becomes fluffy and doubles in volume.

2. Add in the flour and cinnamon and mix. You should get a crumbly texture, not dissimilar to that of crumble, only much finer.

3. Incorporate the butter and knead lightly until the dough comes together, adding more flour as you go if necessary.

4. Wrap the dough in greaseproof paper and let it rest in the fridge for about 30 min.

5. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Take the dough out of the fridge and shape into balls the size of a large cherry.

6. Place the balls about 5cm apart on prepared baking sheets. Press a thumbprint into the center of each ball, about 1 cm deep.

7. Bake for 15 min.

8. Let the cookies cool entirely. Fill each indentation with about 3/4 tsp ginger curd, then dust the cookies with ground cinnamon.

 

Cinnamon & Ginger Thumbprint Cookies

DIY Christmas Bingo cards

THE CHRISTMAS COUNT DOWN HAS STARTED!

(sorry about the all caps, but not sorry because OMG SO EXCITED!!)

Time to get wrapping & sticking & enveloppe licking, hosting, toasting & turkey roasting, baking, dishing & mistletoe kissing… and then some!

Christmas Bingo cards | Cake + Whisky

Because as much as I LOOOOVE the festive season, there’s just SO MUCH to do before Christmas Day!

Christmas Bingo cards | Cake + Whisky

Decorate the tree, wrap the presents, fill the stockings… the list goes on and on and managing to get it all done is often a challenge.

Unless of course you turn the whole thing on its head and into Christmas Bingo cards!

Christmas Bingo cards | Cake + Whisky

Because what’s more satisfying than popping golden stars onto a beautifully festive card and shout BINGO! once you complete a vertical, horizontal or diagonal line? Nothing. Exactly.

I pre-filled them with festive chores & treats and left some polka-dotted spots empty for you to fill with your own Christmas traditions.

DIY Christmas Bingo cards | Cake + Whisky

Save the image above, print a bunch of Christmas Bingo cards and share them at home, at work, between friends… After all, there’s no gift like the gift of festive productivity (plus this one is free!).

Christmas Bingo cards | Cake + Whisky

…so get gold-star-sticking and don’t forget to shout BINGO! (and maybe treat yourself to a couple of chocolate truffles) as soon as you have marked five consecutive squares on your card!

DIY Christmas Bingo cards