It's official - we've only got one month until Christmas! That means, if you haven't already, you better get on and make a Christmas Cake. If you've never made one before it can seem daunting but actually it is very simple, it just takes time.
Christmas Cake recipes come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but fundamentally they are all the same - a rich and densely fruity cake. You can find a recipe to suit you and adjust it to your tastes by adding different spices, adding or leaving out nuts, and changing around the dried fruits. This is a family recipe, written by my Great Aunt Nell. It is probably 100 years old or more so it is very much a traditional recipe.
The method I like to use to make my Christmas cake is simple.
Weigh all the dried fruits, nuts and other extra ingredients like citrus zest. Then make the cake batter by creaming the butter, and sugar, then adding the eggs and the flour and spices.
Then simply mix the two together. You will need a really big bowl! We use our old TG Green ceramic mixing bowl and it is traditional to get all the family to give it a good stir.
Next prepare your tin. I like to use a springform (not very traditional I know, but some modernity comes in very handy!) I line it with greasproof and wrap the outside several layers of brown paper. This is to help it to cook more evenly and not burn in the long cooking time. Pour your batter in and then pop in the oven for the required cooking time at the temperature suggested in your recipe. You may find yours takes a shorter time or even longer than the recipes suggests. Mine took 2 hours 45 mins at 160ºC. A cake tester should come out clean when you test the centre of the cake, the top should also hold its shape when you press it with a fingertip.
Leave it for around half an hour to cool in the tin.
And then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely, before storing wrapped in paper in an airtight tin. You can see mine isn't perfect looking, but you once it is covered in icing it will look fab! It smells completely delicious. One other tip I recommend is cooking a mini version at the same time so you can try some right away without having to wait until Christmas! Sneaky, perhaps, but it saves the big cake from being nibbled!
So there you have it, my traditional Christmas cake from a vintage recipe. Have you made yours yet? What recipe did you go for?
Check back in a few weeks for some vintage Christmas cake decorating inspiration.
We are very excited that Cambridge Vintage Fair returns to the Guildhall tomorrow. If you are looking for the perfect dress for the party season, then this is the event for you. And also the perfect place to do some Christmas shopping if you are looking for one of a kind gifts.
Here are the top three vintage party dresses I will be bringing along to the fair.
Asymmetric 1960s Cocktail Dress. This gorgeous vintage piece has a perfect hourglass shape and is so very unusual with its gold embroidery and half cape.
1950s Chiffon Party Dress. If you are looking for something with Mad Men style this classic 50s shape dress is just the ticket.
1960s Cheongsam Wiggle Dress. And if you fancy something a bit different, this original oriental dress, made from a beautiful woven satin, is sure to impress.
If you've already found the perfect dress for the winter season, but need the perfect accessory to go with it, then we've got plenty of exquisite vintage bags too!
And we will also have our vanity case full of elegant and kitsch vintage brooches. These little beauties make lovely presents, whether for yourself or a vintage loving friend!
Hope to see some of you at Cambridge Vintage Fair tomorrow! You can check out the Facebook Event page
for details and to let us know you are coming.
This is a recipe close to my heart, as it is one I inherited from my Nan. I have many fond memories of the teatime treats she used to make and I treasure all her handwritten recipes. This 'Uncooked Chocolate Cake' is one I use often and is a favourite of my Dad's, he even remembers having it when he was a boy.
Ingredients for Uncooked Chocolate Cake
6 oz biscuits ( I use digestives and rich teas)
2 oz walnuts (optional)
3 1/2 oz butter
1 oz caster sugar
3 oz golden syrup ( well heaped tablespoon)
2 oz cocoa
The method is really simple. Crush you biscuits with the end of a rolling pin (this happens to be rather fun and a good stress reliever!). Then mix the butter, sugar and syrup together before sifting in the cocoa powder to make a dark and deliciously chocolatey mixture.
Then simply add in the biscuits and the optional chopped walnuts and give it a good stir, before pressing the mixture into a round tin. Easy, right! The hard bit is waiting for it to set in the fridge overnight!
If you don't hide it well in the fridge, you may find that some is missing in the morning. Two pieces of mine were snaffled before I even had a chance to take a photo! Proof that it is somewhat irresistible...
So there you have it - a family favourite for teatime. I'd love to know if you try the recipe. It's super easy and lends itself to experimentation - you could try adding fruit, nuts, or even some cheeky marshmallows!
Well it certainly is getting chilly now! The arrival of winter is something that I definitely don't look forward to, but if I had to choose one redeeming feature, it's that the time has come for our vintage winter wardrobe to be unearthed.
And one of my favourite winter garments is a good old fashioned cape. They are wonderfully warm and are great for a splash of uplifting colour. Coats are all well and good, but with a cape you don't have the problem of getting a chunky vintage knit jumper into the arms, and you could even wear a cape over a coat if it is exceptionally chilly! At last years Mill Road Winter Fair
I had an outside stall and my vintage wool cape was a life saver.
Here I am wearing my vintage cape on an autumnal day at Wimpole at War
. It is by 'Foxhunter' and is all wool in a striped pattern. It looks brown and green from a distance, but when you get close it is an array of orange, pink, green and brown, so perfect for a colour addict like me. It also has a fabulous twisted fringe. I inherited it from my Nan too, so it is extra special to me.
If you fancy getting yourself a vintage cape (or even another one, like I do!) then here are my favourites that are available on Etsy. The tartan ones are rather brilliant, and are very on trend right now. If I had to choose one of these for myself I'd go for the green one with the silky lining - what about you?
Stay warm and have a great day!
October was a busy month here at Retrovert, it started off with a good old fashioned road trip, and then we had stalls at two fabulous local events. Here are the highlights of our month:
A Road Trip
The beginning of the month saw a mother and daughter road trip through the countryside of the south west. There is such a wealth of naturally beautiful and historic places in that part of the country and we visited many of them. Here I am at Tarr Steps in Exmoor. The unusual stepping stone bridge dates back to medieval times, though I was rather more channelling the 1960s in my Bernat Klein hat and Liberty print skirt.
We sampled the delights of many tearooms. Some were a big disappointment, but two stood out for delectable teatime treats and customer service: Woods Cafe near Bodmin, a chocolate box cottage in the woods which offers up creative and delicious food and even serves Cornish tea; and Periwinkle Tea Room in Selworthy, a picturesque thatched National Trust property which serves all its home made goodies on vintage china, and even had its own matching traycloths and tea cosies!
Cambridge Vintage Fair
October 13th saw the return of Judy's Vintage Fair to the Guildhall after the long summer wait. And boy did it come back with a bang. Thousands of vintage seeking students and locals came in search of fashion bargains. And judging by the increasing number of happy faces and shopping bags I saw throughout the day, it seems they were in luck!
This 70s lurex number was snapped up from our stall before the fair even opened - a fellow stallholder just couldn't resist. She was just the perfect person for it, so I was delighted.
From Cambridge With Love
A week later, we also had a brilliant time at From Cambridge With Love
in the Guildhall.
We met and chatted with so many wonderful local handmade and vintage fans, and it was a joy to help our customers find the perfect pieces for them. Our vintage china went down a treat and it is nice to know that lots of it is now being used for a good old cup of tea and cake in their new homes. I can't wait for the next From Cambridge With Love event. Bring on November 30th!
My Favourite Vintage Purchase
Trading at so many vintage fairs makes it hard to resist the temptation of buying something for yourself when you are there. I picked up this 1950s circle skirt at Cambridge Vintage Fair and also found an original net petticoat to go under it. I'm addicted to bold and colourful prints and just love twirling around in a circle skirt (and if you do too, then check out my How To Make a Circle Skirt Tutorial
So that's a snapshot of our October here at Retrovert. I hope you had a good month too! November already looks to be full of promise, with skirts flying out of our Etsy shop
and two more events
to look forward too, and at home, plenty of crafting and Christmas cooking to be getting on with!
Recently I went to the National Trust's Wimpole Hall for their 6th wartime event. The house and grounds was transported back to the 1940s and brought to life by reenactors and authentic period touches.
This dashing pair cycled all their way from Cambridge with all their camping gear on the back of their vintage tandem. Isn't that bicycle just great! If like me, you fancy riding a ride on a vintage bike then you are in luck - they are setting up their hire business Tommy Vintage Cycles
so you too can have a chance to cycle in vintage style.
There were also plenty of uniformed reenactors. Here's the Suffolk Home Guard's outpost.
Lots of people went to great efforts to make their encampments authentic. This man's array of 1940s goodies, was even all edible. I was pleased to see the bottle of Camp coffee as it brings back childhood memories of baking with it. You can tell this one is a original bottle from the label, which was revised to become more PC! You can read more about the design over on the BBC's History of the World
It was a joy to see the fabulous members of Cambs and Beds Lindy Experience again and to see if we could remember the steps of the Palais Stroll that we learnt with them at Twinwood Festival
The Hall itself had also been taken back to what it might have been like in the 40s. An original newspaper with the latest stories on the war effort was laid out for reading over tea, and there was a basket of wool in the living room for the women to get on with some making do and mending, as well as authentic games for the children to play.
I particularly liked below stairs, which gave a glimpse into the life of the servants. Best thing was I could pretend I was on the set of Downton Abbey :-)
So I had I thouroughly enjoyable day out at Wimpole at War and look forward to next time!
Have you been to any reenactment events recently?
Those of you who have visited us in person at one of our events will probably have met my Mum, as she often helps out on Retrovert's stall. Well she is not only fabulous for that, but she has also generously handed down to me the few items of clothing that she had back in the 60s and 70s.
I treasure each item and I wanted to share with you my absolute favourite. It's a check top and maxi skirt ensemble which she probably bought in 1970 when she was a student in Oxford. Here I am wearing it at my visit to Anglesey Abbey
It has really nice detailing, with broderie anglaise edging, an unusual shaped waist and a line skirt complete with a ruffle.
The absolute best thing about it though has to be that my Mum wore it for her going away outfit after her wedding. Isn't this a such a wonderful photo! (And don't you think my Dad looks a bit like Austin Powers!)
Do you have any clothes that were passed down to you?
I recently paid a visit to the beautiful Anglesey Abbey. It is quite different from other National Trust properties as it has been preserved as a home which was a condition when the last owner, Lord Fairhaven, bequeathed it. This means that the house gives a startling insight into the life and personality of the half American aristocrat who bought the Abbey in 1926.
Lord Fairhaven was an avid collector of treasures from around the world. Here a few of the items that stood out for me:
Venetian 16th century metal and ceramic hanging. Such an unusual object, I am amazed it has lasted for so long.
Exquisite raised beadwork on an antique fire screen.
Painted mirror headboard and beautiful printed bedding to complement it.
Art Deco travel clock. Such a simple design, but ever so striking.
I always love a sunburst clock and this one, with its pendulum design, is certainly the most impressive I've seen.
As you walk around the house, you feel like you gradually get to know the personality of Lord Fairhaven.
This charming sketch on his desk gives you an insight into his sense of humourous observation.
And here, a peak into his wardrobe gives you a chance to picture him getting ready for his many social engagements and outdoor pursuits. Aren't those 1930s correspondent shoes so iconic of the era (just like from the intro of Boardwalk Empire!).
And in his bedroom notice the care he takes to keep his shoes in shape...
... but when it comes to his slippers hiding under a chair, you can see he wasn't so fastidious all the time!
You can also tell he was a modern minded man by the amount of bathrooms fitted in the house, unusual for the 1930s.
If I had to choose my favourite piece from the house, it would be this curtain fabric hanging in one of the bathrooms. Not the most splendid or extravagant item, but such a striking novelty fabric and so evocative of an era gone by.
Next year they've got plans to open up more of the Domestic Wing, and are restoring below stairs back to the 1960s. You can read more about this exciting project on the Cambridge News
. Lino, retro kitchenalia and colourful cookware - sounds right up our street!
The house is still open for a couple more weeks if you fancy having a wander in its splendour. The gardens too are renowned for being spectacular in the winter. Visit the National Trust website
for more information and, of course, have a fabulous time if you do go!
For my most recent vintage cooking experiment I wanted to share with you a new (old!) recipe book in my collection. The Encyclopedia of World Cookery is a 1950s gem by Elizabeth Campbell with over a thousand recipes from around the world. According to the sleeve 'You do not need to be an expert or a genius to succeed with these wonderful dishes, for they were created by housewives for family meals and everything is clearly and simply explained' Well I think we will see if that is really the case!
For my first ever attempt at making soomething from the book, I decided to try my hand at something simple sounding, and perfect for this time of year - Blackberry Pancakes from the Australia and New Zealand section.
And here's the recipe! Simple right. Well I thought so, but of course when you read it there is no mention of the milk, which is in the ingredients list, so I had to guess when to add it. I went for at the end as thats what I usually do when making pancakes.
I used freshly picked blackberries foraged from our local hedgerows. I've frozen loads to for use later in the year.
The author extols the virtues of the Tala measuring cone, instead of scale so I was pleased to have an excuse to get mine out.
My super retro flour sifter also came in handy.
Now it said to put the blackberries in before folding in the butter and egg. This was not very successful in my view. And resulted in a rather unpleasant grey looking gruel! Much better to add them in after the batter is mixed for a prettier result I think.
The cooking instructions as ever are brief, but I cooked spoonfuls of the mix in a pan with a little butter on a medium heat, and turned them when bubbles formed on the top.
Now these little pancakes certainly wouldn't win any praise from Paul and Mary, with the Bake Off's obsession for everything to be uniform, but I rather like these random splodges! The could definitely do with out the off putting grey colour though. Blackberries in at the end is the way to go.
They may not look like much, but I can tell you they were completely delicious. Light and crispy and bursting with berries. I could happily wolf down a plate of them for breakfast! A perfect recipe for Sunday brunch.
So with a few modifications I think this Blackberry Pancake recipe is a winner. I'm looking forward to trying out a few more from this book, French Onion Soup, Jamaican Dump-And-Stir cake and Polish Babas all sound good, though I think I might give the Mexican tortillas involving slaked lime a miss!
It's tomorrow! Come and join us at the Cambridge Guildhall this Saturday 19th October, for another fabulous event.
I had a brilliant time at the last fair - check out my post Favourite Finds at From Cambridge With Love
to see what delights were on offer. I'll have even more vintage clothing, accessories and homewares at Retrovert's stall this time and the event looks to be even better than the last, with even more local businesses, workshops and hopefully no snow!
Here's what the organiser's say "At From Cambridge With Love
you can meet the city’s finest artisans, independent fashion designers, foody businesses, retro homewares traders and much more! Handmade meets vintage is our theme with an emphasise on locality! Think fun, unique, affordable and VERY VERY inspiring! As well as the fabulous stalls, you can devour yummy cakes in our gorgeous vintage tearoom, get crafty in our 3 great workshops (crochet for beginners, felted earrings and vintage corsage brooches - as well as sourdough demos through the day), live music and lots more!"Check out the Facebook event page and let us know you are coming. Hope to see some of you there :-)Have a great weekend,