Christmas baking stress: Help! I got the wrong cherries!

PUBLISHED: 11:00 23 November 2018 | UPDATED: 11:00 23 November 2018

Mrs H's chocolate log

Mrs H's chocolate log


Neil Haverson has found the Christmas cake baking has led to anguished cries from the kitchen

Phew! I thought.

We should be in for a relatively stress-free Christmas.

Mrs H is not doing lunch this year, her sister will take the strain.

The alternate year rota also sees Brats M and M having Christmas dinner with their respective in-laws.

This all means the Fortress oven won’t be put to the test.

We still shudder at the memory of last Christmas Day when it packed up halfway through the great cook-in.

But the family will descend on Fortress H later in the holiday for one of Mrs H’s sumptuous high teas.

She is already planning the catering which will include her Christmas cake and chocolate log.

These are legend in the family. It’s a bit like Coca-Cola, she has never revealed the recipes.

When our children lived at home, they and their mates would miraculously appear on Christmas Eve when the chocolate log was being made.

They hovered in the kitchen, fingers snuck into mixing bowls and it was all Mrs H could do to stop the log being turned into kindling.

So popular was it that I remember a couple of the friends turned up at Fortress H one Christmas afternoon, abandoning their family celebrations so as not to miss out on a chunk of log.

As for Mrs H’s Christmas cake, this magnificent delight is equally popular.

She decided not to produce one last year. Brat Major reported that Bond, her husband, was “devastated”.

There would be no cake for tea and none to take home for his lunchboxes.

But this year, Mrs H is in the throes of making the hallowed cake.

She was a bit late in starting so there was a scramble to stock up on ingredients.

Of course, everybody is in full Christmas bake mode so the shelves were nearly bare.

She got most things but still needed a few items. I was sent to get them.


I returned with the wrong type of glace cherries.

“You just don’t listen!” Mrs H berated me. “I told you not to get these ones.”

I must admit she had a point. They weren’t just cherries. They contained sweet potato, apple and, wait for it, radish! Radish in cherries? It’s a fruit cake not a salad cake. And that’s not to mention the preservatives, sulphur dioxide and glucose-fruitcose syrup.

Also on my shopping list was salt. She didn’t need much but I returned with a packet that would sustain a chip shop through a heavy Saturday night.

Just as Mrs H was about to start on the cake I heard an anguished cry from the kitchen. She appeared clutching a box of eggs.

“I forgot to get these out of the fridge,” she wailed. “They’re supposed to be room temperature. I’ll have to put them in the airing cupboard.”

I fully expected to open the airing cupboard door and find half a dozen chicks scampering over my clean shirts.

I am relieved to report that the cake is made and being fed regularly with a slug of brandy. My next involvement will be to attend the icing ceremony under the pretence of washing up. This will leave me feeling decidedly sick having cleaned the mixing bowl with my finger rather than Fairy Liquid.

The chocolate log will not be made until just before it is to be eaten. This has become easier now the phantom flake pilferer is no longer in residence.

To achieve the wood effect, chocolate flakes are cut and stuck on the log with chocolate icing. There was a time or two when Mrs H reached for the flakes only to find most of them had vanished. Brat Major was identified as the culprit.

Perhaps as a sign of penance, this year the flake bandit has volunteered to make the sausage rolls. With me on hand as kitchen labourer Mrs H should find providing tea, well, a piece of cake.

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