Christmas has now well and truly come to Edinburgh. Santa has been sighted, it’s brutally cold and sleigh bells can be heard. But I’m going all out this year and want to ignite all the senses – so taste and smells are also important.

Rather than having a never ending stash of scented candles this year I’ve turned to a bit of cooking.

To fill your home with the most amazing smell try simmering combinations of natural aromatics like cranberries, cinnamon stick, pine, orange peel, nutmeg or cloves. You just need to add the ingredients to a couple of cups of water, bring to the boil and then let simmer for as long as your desire. Such a simple way to make the house smell AMAZING.

Aside from making dried orange garlands, I’ve also been using oranges in my cooking. This spiced orange cake is moist yet crumbly and is amazing with a cup of tea. Here’s how to make it…

Spiced Orange Cake

-Serves 8-

1 small orange

280g self-raising flour

3 level teaspoons baking powder

280g caster sugar

230g baking spread – straight from fridge

4 eggs

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon mixed spice

For the filling

50g butter, softened

175g icing sugar – plus some for the top

2 large tablespoons orange pulp – reserved from the cake


Preheat the oven to 180oC/Fan 160oC

Grease and base-line two deep 8 inches tins with greased greaseproof paper. Be careful not to have clumps of butter on the side or it can over cook the sides of your cake.

Place the whole orange in a small saucepan, cover with hot water from the kettle and simmer until soft for about 20 minutes.  You need to set this aside to cool – I usually put it in the fridge to speed things up!

When the orange cool, cut it in half and remove any pips. Process the whole orange, including the skin, until medium chunky. I do this in my Nutribullet which leaves things a bit chunky and I have to bash it about to get the whole thing blended – I sometimes add a splash of orange juice to get things going too!

In another bowl throw all the other ingredients together and mix the whole lot together with the orange pulp. You need to keep back about two tablespoons for the icing – but I don’t bother with any stages – the whole lot just gets mixed. That said, don’t mix it for too long – you just want it smooth.

Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins and chuck in the oven for around 25 minutes – preferably sticking both tins on the same shelf. You’re looking for the cake to be slightly comping away from the sides of the tins but a nice golden colour.

Once out of the other, leave to cool in the tines for about 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.

To make the filling, cream the butter, sifted icing sugar and the rest of the orange. Sandwich the cake together with the icing and then sift sugar on top. I used little wooden stars on top of the cake, sifted the sugar, and then took the stars away. You could also use a stencil or paper stars but I just had these to hand.

Do make sure the cake is cool before adding the filling or it will end up running off! It doesn’t look quite as as attractive spilling out the sides – but I guess it still tastes good!

The cake keeps pretty well but it’s best eaten within three days or so.

Overall, it’s really very straight forward and the lack of precision means it’s great for the kids to help out with. Do you have any favourite Christmas recipes? Please do share!


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