Wedding favours are not a modern invention. Centuries ago, European aristocrats would send their wedding guests home with a small gift called a bonbonniere. This was a beautifully crafted porcelain box filled with a sugar cube (sugar was scarce and expensive in those days).
As sugar became more readily available, the tradition evolved to filling trinket boxes with sweet treats such as candied almonds. Today, many centuries later, sugared almonds are still a popular traditional wedding favour, and are given in sets of five to represent fertility, longevity, wealth, health and happiness. The taste is said to represent the bitter-sweet experience of married life.
Today couples have so many choices for what to give as wedding favours – it all comes down to how much you can afford to spend.
To save money, you might think of making your own wedding favours. With a bit of planning and help from family and friends, you can make them well in advance at a fraction of the cost of something you would buy. They would also feel special to your guests as they would know how much trouble you took to make them.
GINGERBREAD PEOPLE and HEART BODICE AND TUXEDO
Makes 20-30 biscuits depending on the size
250ml castor sugar
2 eggs, beaten
5ml vanilla extract
2 egg whites
500-600ml sifted icing sugar
15ml lemon juice
Cream butter and sugar well. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. Sift in flour, mixing to make stiff dough.
Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to about 5mm thick. Cut out desired shape, place on greased baking tray and bake at 160°C for 15-20 minutes.
Remove and cool.
TO DECORATE: Lightly whip the egg whites and gradually add enough icing sugar to make a stiff icing that will make a peak when lifted with a spoon. Beat in the lemon juice. Colour as desired with a few drops of food colouring.
Place some icing in a piping bag with a plain, thin nozzle and outline the edge of the biscuit. Allow to dry.
Thin the remaining icing by adding water, a drop at a time, to achieve a thick consistency.
Pour into an icing bag without a nozzle. Cut off the point and squeeze the icing on the outlined biscuit. Use a toothpick to spread the icing to cover.
Allow to dry.
If you are using two colours of icing next to each other, allow one colour to dry completely before adding another colour or they will run into each other.
You can also use thicker icing in contrasting colours to decorate the top of the flooded icing.
1 litre water
grated rind of 1 large lemon
250ml fresh lemon juice
250ml cranberry juice
Combine the sugar, water and lemon rind in a saucepan and heat until sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice and cranberry juice. Chill well. Serve diluted to taste with still or sparkling water and lots of ice.
NOTE: You can either give your guests bottles of the concentrate as a wedding favour which they will take home to enjoy, or you could serve the concentrate to each guest with bottles of cold sparkling water.
MINI FRUIT CAKES
Makes about 16 small squares
250g butter, softened
5 extra-large eggs
1kg mixed dried fruit
200g cherries, halved
5ml ground cinnamon
3ml ground mixed spice
100g ground almonds
grated rind and juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange
warmed apricot jam
icing flowers, bought or made
Grease and line the inside of a deep, 23cm-square cake pan with baking paper. Secure double newspaper or brown paper around the outside with string, so the cake is well protected from too much direct heat. Set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and creamy. This should take at least 3 minutes.
Gradually add the eggs, beating well after each addition. With the last egg, add 30ml of the dry ingredients that you have sifted. The mixture may look slightly curdled, but don’t worry as that is correct.
Stir in the fruit followed by the sifted dry ingredients and almonds. Mix well and add the orange and lemon rind and juice. The mixture will be stiff and difficult to stir.
Carefully spoon the mixture into the cake pan, smooth the surface and bake at 150°C for an hour, then reduce the heat to 140°C and bake for a further 1½ to 2 hours or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Pour over the brandy. Leave to cool in pan.
Once cool, remove from pan and wrap in foil. Store in an airtight container.
TO DECORATE: Cut the cake into 16 5cm-square pieces. Brush each with melted apricot jam. Roll out the marzipan icing and cover the cakes. Allow to dry for a few hours or overnight.
Brush the marzipan with a little beaten egg white. Roll out the plastic icing and cover the cakes. Decorate with ribbon and bought flowers.
Package in a gift box and either give one cake a couple or one a guest.
NOTE: Fruit cake can be baked at least three months in advance. Store well wrapped in an airtight container and douse regularly with brandy to keep it moist. The cake can be cut and individually covered and decorated up to two weeks in advance.
SALTED CARAMEL FUDGE
Makes 20-30 squares
25ml golden syrup
385g can of condensed milk
5ml vanilla essence
7ml sea salt flakes
Combine the sugar, water, butter and syrup in a heavy-based saucepan and stir over low heat until the butter is melted. Stir in the condensed milk.
Brush any sugar crystals off the side of the saucepan with a pastry brush dipped in water.
Bring to boil and boil slowly, stirring occasionally, until the soft ball stage is reached or a sugar thermometer has reached 120°C.
To test for soft ball stage, drop a small amount of mixture into a glass filled with ice water. If it forms a soft but firm ball, it is ready.
Remove from heat and let bubbles subside before stirring in the vanilla essence and salt. With a wooden spoon, beat the mixture well for about 5 minutes, until it thickens.
Pour into greased 18 x 28cm baking tray. Sprinkle lightly with extra salt before the mixture sets. Cool before cutting into squares.
Package in gift boxes or cellophane packets.
Fudge can be made up to two weeks in advance and stored in an airtight container until you package it.
Makes about 750ml
50ml lemon juice
7ml pectin powder
Put the blueberries, water and lemon juice in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 6-8 minutes or until the fruit is soft.
Combine the sugar and pectin and mix well. Add to the blueberries. Stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved.
Boil rapidly until the setting point is reached, stirring frequently to prevent the mixture catching the bottom. Remove any scum that forms as the jam boils.
Bottle and seal in sterilised jars. - The Star