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Simply Christmas

R

eturn to the simple things this festive season: a table decorated to evoke a sense of comfort and nostalgia, a humble colour palette, and homespun decorations that weave in the wild spirit of nature

“I find that big holidays and events make me a little anxious. So I like to break them up a bit over a couple of days and leave space for serendipity.” This is Cape Town-based Stephanie Wolhuter Inggs’ serene and sensible philosophy to surviving the silly season. No pressure, no expectations, no disappointment. “For instance, take Christmas. It can be a Christmas Eve dinner with a few friends and family, a large Christmas Day brunch with family, or just a simple Boxing Day lunch with one or two friends… There’s no pressure for one day or one meal to be extra special. If the cake flops I can always serve it the next day for breakfast with lots of yoghurt!”

Bureaux Christmas Stephanie 25

It’s an approach that is part temperament (friends and former colleagues will all attest to Stephanie’s composed nature) and part of the legacy of her professional past—one that required a balance of creativity and pragmatism during a career that spanned clothing designer, fashion editor and stylist, as well as head fashion buyer and marketing manager for a leading local retailer. 

The interiors in Stephanie’s beautiful heritage home are reflective of her fashion choices, which she describes as “plain and understated but with unexpected cuts or proportions.” It is filled to bursting with stylish ideas, personalised elements, and reams of character. 

“My daughter, Alice, describes my house perfectly as being full of lots of nice stuff that’s being rearranged all the time,” she laughs. There’s also the presence of Stephanie’s menagerie of “very important animals.” Animals, more specifically birds, play a leading role in Stephanie’s next creative phase; one that also involves writer/editor/daughter, Alice. 

Bird-Dog-Bokkie (the Afrikaans diminutive for deer) is her self-described ‘side hustle;’ a creative project that’s “mainly just for fun” encompassing her many passions including styling, sourcing, antiques hunting, baking, and sewing. “Alice embroiders these lovely, intricately detailed birds on linen that I bought from The Cloth Shop in London.”

As it turns out, Stephanie has a special affinity for our fine-feathered friends and has made birds the central theme of her Christmas decor in the form of embroidered napkins and decorative cushions, hand-carved wooden figurines and ornaments, as well as printed place and gift cards. These have been set alongside simply wrapped gifts, found bird nests, a vintage tablecloth, and beautiful vintage glassware filled with gold-tinged Sauternes, a sweet French wine that is the perfect accompaniment to Stephanie’s signature spiced pear-and-apricot cake. 

The colour palette has been kept warm and neutral—inspired by old-school tradition, winter woodlands, and a rustic farmhouse aesthetic. As is her way, Stephanie has effortlessly woven together a fusion of homespun and sophisticated, timeless and fresh. You might just say it’s a Christmas celebration that’s practically (im)perfect in every way. 

Bureaux Christmas Stephanie 30
SPICED PEAR-AND-APRICOT CAKE

FRUIT FILLING
* 6 pears with pips removed (use a melon ball scoop)
* 12 dried apricots softened in boiling water 
TIP We used Beurré Bosc (also known as Kaiser) pears which are particularly suited to baking.

CAKE BASE
* 4 large eggs
* 1 cup plain yoghurt
* 160ml vegetable oil 
* 80g melted butter
* 1/3 cup milk
* 2 ½ cups self-raising flour (two and a half)
* 1 cup Muscovado sugar
* 1/2 teaspoon salt

Bureaux Christmas Stephanie 28

SPICY GINGER TOPPING
* 3 large eggs
* 100g melted butter
* 3/4 cup Muscovado sugar
* 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
* 3 tablespoons chopped glacé ginger 

METHOD
* Set the oven at 170 C (338F or Gas Mark 3)
* Lightly butter a 26cm springform tin and line the bottom and then sides with a high collar of baking paper
* Wash and dry but don’t peel the pears. Remove the pips with a melon ball scoop
* Slice the bottom of each pear so that it will sit flat and not fall over
* Stuff the hollow of each pear with two soft apricots
For the cake base:
* Whisk the eggs in a bowl and then add the yoghurt, vegetable oil, melted butter, and milk
* In another bowl, sieve together the flour, sugar, and salt
* Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until combined
* Whisk together all the ingredients for the spicy ginger topping
* Pour the cake base into the baking tin and arrange the pears to sit upright in a circle
* Pour on the topping beginning at the outer edges of the cake and working towards the middle
* Bake at 170C for approximately 1 and 1/4 hours or until a skewer comes out clean

TrooRa Magazine | December 2021
Written by Mandy Allen/Bureaux
Styling by Shelley Street/Bureaux
Photo Credit: Warren Heath/Bureaux
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