Christmas lights are being switched on all over town, but it is the ritual of making the Christmas Cake which marks the crossing over from autumn to winter for me.
So we've assembled our long list of ingredients. We hunted around for dried peaches and pears, decided that actually it was not compulsory to include glace cherries (I've never liked them) and substituted dried cranberries, forgot that we still had half a bottle of metaxa to use up and need not have bought more. We've weighed and chopped and measured and stirred, sipped beer and slugged brandy, tested and tasted and sniffed.
I've been making this boiled fruit cake for years, not always successfully. One year I forgot to put in the butter, so immersed was I in the weighing and chopping of the long list of ingredients. Most years I scorch the top of the cake, so long does it take to bake.
The first batch of ingredients have been boiled and spiced and filled the kitchen with their lovely, wintry scents. It's steeping in our chilly kitchen. If there aren't too many stolen spoonfuls, just to see how it's maturing, and if I get the rest of the ingredients weighed up properly and if I use the right size tin, maybe, just maybe, this will be the year it comes out perfect.