Now that November’s arrived it’s most definitely not too early to be planning your Christmas décor! But with so much to tempt you in the shops, how do you create an attractive, cohesive look for your home? Sometimes less is more, but at the same time if there’s one time you can have some fun with your home décor, the festive season is it – the key is finding a middle ground between smart restraint and extravagant sparkle! In this week’s blog we’re concentrating on your table decorations to give you some inspiration for making your celebrations meals and party buffets really stand out from the crowd.
Before you start, it’s a good idea to perhaps look at the pieces you already have and then plan your décor around those. For example, you may find that most of your existing tree and room decorations are in a silver hue so it makes sense to carry this across other areas of your home, including your table settings. Space is another factor; if yours is limited overly dressed can look fussy and you don’t want your accessories to overshadow your culinary creations! Rather, you’re looking to add a touch of sparkle here and there, or an unexpected, fun element that makes your guests smile. So, while a ‘maximalist’ style might suit your tree, when it comes to tables, less is usually more.
We Brits have developed a real love affair with baking in recent years. Not only has the credit crunch inspired more and more of us to follow the examples of our grandmothers by swapping expensive shop-bought items for thriftier home bakes, but a raft of inspiring TV shows, such as The Great British Bake Off, have shown how easy and fulfilling it is to make your own cakes, breads and puddings. They’re not only cheaper than supermarket offerings, but by making your own sweet creations you can avoid overloading on nasty additives, colourings and unnecessary sugar. Plus processes like kneading, mixing and icing can offer a few moments of calming distraction in an otherwise chaotic world. Cake making can be life-affirming and anyone can have a go, whatever your level of confidence in the kitchen.
They don’t get much easier than a simple fairy cake, the perfect entry-level cake for beginners or children. But while they might be easy to make, you can make your creations taste and look a lot more sophisticated with some simple touches. Add in some unusual flavourings to your mixture, for example – rosewater, vanilla and violet flavourings work particularly well. If you’re feeling a little more confident try a Red Velvet cupcake, a bestselling cake at Hummingbird Bakery, the chi-chi London bakery that helped to spark the cupcake revival of recent years. It’s easy to make your own buttercream icing; simply combine butter and icing sugar till you have a creamy, fluffy spreadable mix, ready for topping with sprinkles, chocolate chips or a dusting of edible glitter. For a special occasion make your cakes look as good as the professionals by displaying on one of our easy to assemble cardboard stands, and top each cake with a cute cake pick. We have ranges perfect for parties, christenings, picnics and weddings.
As ardent cake makers ourselves, we think nothing beats the easy-to-follow, fool-proof cake recipes of Mary Berry. While her books err on the side of tradition, you can expect perfect results if your try her take on popular favourites such as Victoria Sandwich, Chocolate Brownies and Lemon Drizzle Cake. For something a little more contemporary, using exotic flavour combinations and inspirational decorating techniques, take a look at the Primrose Bakery Book or Leon: Baking & Puddings.
If you’re already a confident cake maker you might fancy trying a bigger project. How about taking on the challenge of creating a special occasion cake, for a christening, birthday or even a wedding, perhaps? Professional occasion cakes can come with an exorbitant price tag, but luckily it’s becoming more and more common for modern weddings to integrate the professional with the home-spun, with many savvy brides choosing the charm of a DIY cake over a professionally made creation. Thanks to the help of online tutorials on sites such as YouTube or food websites you can follow tried-and-tested recipes and decorating techniques to help you create a sensational cake on a shoestring. To add extra significance perhaps you could use an old family favourite recipe, handed down through generations – your grandma’s special fruit cake, for example – a lovely way to add the personal touch to your catering. If you’re not sure your icing skills will be up to the job, ready-to-roll fondant icing will create a professional effect. A simple fresh flower arrangement can be provided by the wedding florist to sit on top of the cake, helping your cake to compliment the wedding theme. Display your cake on a gorgeous vintage-style cake stand (perhaps there’s a treasured piece of crockery in your family that would fit this purpose), scattered with rose petals – we have a selection in a range of colours.
When it comes to cutting the cake, you can box up your creation in a specially designed cake box and do it real justice – so much nicer than a soggy napkin! We have a range of cake boxes perfect for weddings and other occasions.
Christmas is such a special time of the year but for many us the panic to ‘do’ Christmas properly can detract from actually enjoying the festivities. So, this year make it your mission to relax by following our short-cuts to having a fabulous Christmas; little tips and ideas on everything from table settings to festive tipples that are big on style but short on effort.
Tempting though it is to splurge on gorgeous new baubles it’s nice to work with what you’ve got and update your decorations with one or two stand-out items. There’s something very special about seeing your children’s excitement as they set to work hanging familiar, much-loved decorations to the tree, decorations that almost become family heirlooms over the years. If you want to keep things a little coherent our bright Rocking Rudolf range sits perfectly with a traditional red and white colour scheme and includes vibrant Merry Christmas bunting that is a cost-effective way to update your Christmas décor. Then add in the co-ordinating wooden reindeer peg set for a new way to display your Christmas cards.
If time’s not on your side there’s nothing like festooning your home with twinkling fairy lights for an instant Christmas fix. Trail them around your banisters, use them to frame a mirror or string them across your mantelpiece. Paper-chains are another low-cost, DIY way to update your decorations. Take a look at our cute Party Penguin paper-chains, or make your own. Cut up some colourful card or scraps of funky wrapping paper and get sticking – a simple, retro-style way to add a burst of colour to a neglected corner.
Christmas tables – whether for a sit-down or buffet meal – are all about embellishment so have fun with your settings. Crackers are obligatory, of course, but if you want to add something a bit different into the mix, how about sprinkling your table with shimmering snowflakes or mini penguins? If lots of guests will be gathering around your table, we love the idea of bauble place card holders or tying a luggage tag around napkins and cutlery. Christmas tables should also be about fun and silliness. For something a bit different to the standard paper hat, add a sticker to each place setting, inscribed with titles such as ‘Washer Upper’ and ‘Prince Charming’. For an extra treat pop a Rocking Rudolf chocolate square on each plate.
Tipples and toppers
Looking for a simple show-stopper to toast Christmas with? Simply top a glass of peach juice with Prosecco to create the Italian classic cocktail, the Bellini – something a bit different to the more traditional Christmas bucks fizz.
Few people can lay claim to doing Christmas completely from scratch, but the secret to making things look special is all in the presentation. Don’t worry if your mince pies are supermarket own brand rather than home-made – removed from their cases and piled high on a cake stand, all you need to do is add an extra dusting of icing sugar and top each pie with a penguin or reindeer mince pie stick to add some festive flourish. We guarantee no one will mind that they’re not home baked!
The clear-up operation
Christmas catering can be heavy on the clearing up so make sure you’ve got a stack of paper supplies to see you through Christmas night and into Boxing Day. Perfectly adequate for cold buffets post-Christmas, our Rudolf and penguin plates take the strain out of clearing up and can even be recycled afterwards, allowing you to sit back, put your feet up and resist the lure of the dishwasher for at least a few hours…
Here’s wishing you a happy, stress-free Christmas!