December is the busiest time of a year for a baker like me, who is a cat with petite paws. I’m Clementine. I’m a cat baker. So I really cherish the relaxing little walk in parks between baking piles of mince pies, creating armies of gingerbread men, and feeding Christmas cakes with brandy or sherry.
So, I was enjoying the crisp fresh air and soft winter sunshine in Hyde Park when I saw this big fat old man on a bench. He looked like a human balloon blown to the max. His red trousers and jacket and black belt were on the verge of bursting. He had very long white hair and very long white beard like one of those homeless people on the street, and he had a funny pointy red hat with a pom pom on his head. He was sucking big candy cane. He was drooping his head low and stared at the ground sadly, sighing. I had never seen anyone who eats candy as miserably as the fat man did.
‘Hello, sir,’ I said to him. ‘Are you alright? Anything wrong with your candy?’
‘Huh?’ The fat man looked at me, a little taken aback. ‘Oh, no. This candy cane is fine. Actually this is
my twelfth today.’ He looked at the candy cane, then sighed deeply.
I examined him from top to toe, and suddenly realised he looked familiar. ‘Excuse me, sir. Are you who I think you are?’
‘Oh, yes. I’m Santa,’ said the fat man, meekly.
‘But I thought Father Christmas is a jolly old man. You know, ho-ho-hoing all the time…’
‘Yes, it’s me alright, but I’ve got a big problem… ALL MY REINDEERS HAVE GONE ON STRIKE!’
‘Oh dear!’ I exclaimed. ‘That’s not good. Christmas is only a week away! What happened?’
Santa looked sheepish. ‘They don’t want to draw my sleigh because I’ve got too fat… I’ve become too heavy for them to pull… Since shops has started selling Christmas food in November, I eat a dozen of gingerbread biscuits with a pint of milk for breakfast, a box of mince pies with a big mug of eggnog for lunch, a big piece of Christmas cake with a jug of mulled wine after dinner, and candies and cookies and chocolate in-between every day…’
Just listening it made me almost sick. ‘Clearly you’ve got a MASSIVE problem, Santa. I don’t blame your reindeer. Imagine you need to pull you along with loads of presents all night long. And this is not good for your health either! You need to lose weight.’
‘I know,’ said Santa with deep sigh. ‘But I don’t know what to do!’
‘Well,’ I said, ‘first, throw the candy in the bin to start with, and no more sweets from now on. You need to go cold turkey.’
Santa gasped, looking horrified by the idea. ‘I can’t!’
‘Think about kids who have been good this year and are looking forward presents from you!’
Santa went silent for moments, then he said hesitantly but sincerely, ‘You’re right, cat. I will do anything to shed my weight by Christmas. Will you help me?’
‘Of course! I’ll be a your secret helper. Come with me!’ I said confidently, and tugged his trouser with my mouth. He stood up and followed me, waddling and shaking his big flabby tummy.
For the next 7 days we exercised day and night. We started every morning with a hot yoga class. I can’t get enough of yoga. I do it all the time. Hot Yoga is yoga performed in a super-heated room. I love it. However, Santa had never done yoga before, so he screamed every time I put him into pretzel-like poses. He sweated like a pig, and made a pool of sweat around him every morning.
In the afternoon, we went for a long jogging in the park. I made him pull a sleigh with me and some of his reindeer on. We did pullups on trees too. Santa snapped a couple of branches, but don’t tell anyone.
In the evening, we played squash. I’m so good at hitting bouncing balls. They are nothing compared to flies. On the other hand, it was much harder work for Santa to run left and right and jump up and down with his big tummy. He tumbled and slipped and crashed into walls so many times…
And every time he tried to sneaky snack on sweets, I scratched his hand without mercy. I gave him vegetable sticks and fruits instead.
On the night of Christmas Eve, Santa looked fabulous as he had lost a few stones! His tummy was still big, but no longer flabby. It’s as firm as a punch bag. His hair and beard were still long and white, but he looked much healthier and even a little younger with glowing pink cheeks!
‘I have a good news, Clementine,’ said Santa with big smile. ‘My reindeer have called off the strike. We’re back on business!’
‘Hurrah!’ I exclaimed with joy.
Then Santa climbed on his sleigh full of presents. All the reindeer were itching to start the most anticipated delivery in the world. Santa was about pull the rein.
‘Wait!’ I shouted. ‘Take this with you.’ I gave Santa a box of Christmas Pudding Cupcakes I had baked. ‘You have been a good boy. I think you deserve this.’ It’s a cupcake made of light sponge full of spices and fruity mincemeat, frosted with a bit boozy brandy buttercream. ‘Christmas can’t be Christmas without Christmassy cake. These cupcakes are lighter than normal Christmas pudding, so you feel less guilty. Don’t be greedy though. Share them with your reindeer.’
Santa’s face brightened up. ‘Thank you, Clementine!’ He couldn’t help himself and bit into one of the cupcakes. ‘Ohhh! This is delightful! Tastes even better after all those sweaty hard workouts!’ The reindeer grumbled, stomping their feet impatiently.
‘Oh! Sorry, sorry. Here are yours,’ said Santa, giving the cupcakes to each one of them. They swallowed the cupcakes in one gulp and neighed with pleasure.
‘I think we’re fully charged and ready to work,’ said Santa. ‘Thanks again and have a merry merry Christmas!’
‘Merry Christmas to you too, Santa!’ I said.
Santa pulled the rein, and his sleigh shot into the starry winter night sky. I saw off them until they became too tiny to see. Then something fell from the sky and hit my head. It was a tiny present box with my name on. I opened it and found cat-shaped cookie cutters inside - each cat was doing different yoga pose. I heard distant jolly ho ho ho.
Christmas pudding is something you can’t miss during the holiday, but we have to admit it could be too heavy after the massive Christmas dinner. Also no one wants to be fat like the greedy Santa. But don’t worry. This light sponge filled with mincemeat and spices, topped with brandy buttercream frosting is a perfect alternative.
CHRISTMAS PUDDING CUPCAKES
Makes 12 large cupcakes (base size: 5cm)
(FOR THE SPONGE)
80g unsalted butter
220g light soft brown sugar
240ml whole milk
240g plain flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tbsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
150g good quality mincemeat
(FOR THE FROSTING)
160g unsalted butter
500g icing sugar
2 tbsp single cream
1-2 tbsp brandy
Christmasy sugar sprinkles to decorate
- Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4* and line a 12-hole muffin tin with muffin cases.
- Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl with a whisk until pale and fluffy (this is the key to the fluffy sponge). Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Then add the milk. Don’t worry if the mixture curdles. Adding flour will fix it.
- Mix the flour, spices, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl, and sift into the wet mixture, then fold in using a rubber spatula. Do not over mix if you want light and fluffy sponge. Just gently fold. Stir in the mincemeat.
- Spoon the cake mixture into the prepared cases until ⅔ full. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until a stick poked into middle comes out clean. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin and cool completely on a wire rack.
- Meanwhile, to make the frosting, cream the butter, and add the icing sugar little by little until well combined. I promise you that this will make everything in your kitchen covered with icing sugar. Annoying but unfortunately this is unavoidable.
- Then add the single cream and brandy, and beat until smooth and creamy.
- When the cupcakes are cool, frost the cupcakes and sprinkle the decoration on top before the frosting dries.
*Every oven is unique. Know your oven and adjust the temperature and baking time.