We’ve been talking Christmas cakes in the office and have been licking our lips dreaming of delicious alternatives to the classic Christmas cake…
We love this Sparkly Bauble Cake
- 225g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
- 225g light muscovado sugar
- 4 large eggs, beaten
- 225g plain flour
- 2g ground mixed spice
- zest 1 small orange
- 85g pecans or walnuts, toasted, then roughly chopped
For the fruit
- 150ml cloudy apple juice
- 50g unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 5 tbsp dark rum
- 800g mixed dried fruit (the kind that includes mixed peel)
- 175g dried cranberries
To feed the cake (each time)
- 2 tbsp dark rum
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
To cover and ice
- 4 tbsp apricot jam, warmed and sieved
- icing sugar, sifted, for rolling out
- 750g natural marzipan
- cooled boiled water or colourless alcohol
- 750g white sugarpaste (fondant) icing
- small round cutters in different sizes (or you can use the ends of large piping nozzles)
- 200g icing sugar, sifted, plus a little extra
- 1 large egg white
- assorted gel food colourings (I used purple, yellow, pink, green and black)
- coloured sugar balls (you can buy a mix of colours online)
- disposable piping bag
- about 120cm/48in matching ribbon
Start with the fruit. Pour the apple juice into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the butter, let it melt, then take off the heat and add the syrup and rum. Put the mixed fruit and cranberries into a large bowl, pour over the hot rum mix, then cover tightly with cling film and leave overnight.
- The next day, heat oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3. Grease and double-line a 20cm round, deep cake tin with non-stick baking parchment. Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy and pale, then gradually beat in the eggs until light and fluffy. If the mix starts to split or look lumpy, add 1 tbsp of the flour and keep beating. Sift in the flour, spices and 1/4 tsp salt, and fold in using a large spoon. Fold in the orange zest, nuts, soaked fruit and soaking liquid.
- Spoon the batter into the tin, level the top, then make a slight dimple in the middle using the back of the spoon. Bake for 1 hr 30 mins, then reduce oven to 140C/120C fan/gas 1 and bake for a further 1 hr 45 mins or until it has risen, is a dark golden colour and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Put the tin on a cooling rack and leave until warm.
- To feed the cake the first time, use a cocktail stick to poke all over the top of the warm cake. Stir together the rum and maple syrup, then slowly spoon over the cake. Cool completely, then remove the baking parchment, wrap loosely in clean baking parchment and store in an airtight tin. Feed the cake every week to 10 days until you decorate it.
- Now you’re ready to cover and ice your cake. Sit the cake on a large flat plate or board and brush a thin layer of apricot jam over the top and sides.
- Dust the work surface with icing sugar. Lightly knead the marzipan until pliable, then roll out in one direction, turning the marzipan 90 degrees every few rolls and keeping the pressure even. Keep it in a circular shape, reshaping it if needed as you go. When large enough (about 35cm across for a 20cm cake), lift over the cake. Smooth the top and sides with your palms and trim with a knife. If you have time, leave to dry overnight.
- Clean the work surface and rolling pin. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the sides with cooled boiled water or alcohol, then cover with the sugarpaste icing, rolling it in the same way. Lift onto the cake, then work your way gradually around, smoothing out any folds with your palms to avoid wrinkles forming. Polish the icing with the palms of your hands (or a proper cake smoother) for a smooth finish. Trim with a sharp knife.
- Using the cutters, cut out shapes in the icing, pressing down as far as the marzipan, then removing the middles. To make teardrop and bird shapes, use a small sharp knife to cut points above and below or to the sides of the circles.
- Mix the icing sugar and egg white to make a thick but flowing icing. Split it roughly between five pots – leave one white, then colour the others. Flood each shape with a different colour, then add some coloured balls and leave to set. A pair of craft tweezers will help if you want the balls to be in a design rather than just scattered over.
- Add a dab of black colouring to the remaining white icing to make it grey, and add a little more icing sugar to thicken it. Spoon into the piping bag, snip off the end, then pipe on the strings, bows and stars or snowflakes. Tie the ribbon around the base of the cake and leave to dry.
How about Rudolf’s Carrot Cake (thinking about the reindeer), it’s so delicious – and healthy (it has got vegetables in it!) too!
For 12–14 you need
- Two 20cm loose-bottomed sandwich tins, buttered and lined
- 4 medium eggs
- 225ml sunflower oil
- 175g light muscovado sugar
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tsps ground cinnamon
- 300g self-raising flour
- 1tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 50g pine nuts, toasted
- 350g (2–3) carrots, coarsely grated
- For icing and decorating
- 400g full-fat cream cheese
- 50ml double cream
- 75g icing sugar
- choc sprinkles and icing depending on your decoration
- red icing
- Heat oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Whisk eggs, oil, sugar and syrup until creamy.
- Sift flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon, fold gradually into the mixture. Fold in the pine nuts and carrots.
- Divide between tins, bake for 35–40mins or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool for 10mins, then turn out on to rack.
- Beat the cream cheese and cream together until smooth, then beat in the icing sugar until smooth and creamy.
- To assemble, place one sponge top-down on a plate and spread the surface with a third of the icing. Top with the other cake and cover it with rest of icing. Smooth flat with palette knife. Use a cocktail stick to mark out where you want your design. Use chocolate icing to pipe the eyes and the antlers. Scatter with chocolate sprinkles. Use red icing to pipe outline of nose and fill with red sprinkles. Serve.
Traditional Chocolate Log
- 500ml double cream
50g icing sugar
50g cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
5 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 egg whites
4 tablespoons sugar
icing sugar for dusting
Prep: 45min › Cook :15min › Extra time:30min › Ready in: 1hr30min
Preheat oven to 190 C / Gas mark 5. Line a 33x23cm (13×9 in) swiss roll tin with parchment. In a large bowl, whip cream, 50g icing sugar, 50g cocoa and 1 teaspoon vanilla until thick and stiff. Refrigerate.
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat egg yolks with 100g sugar until thick and pale. Blend in 5 tablespoons cocoa, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla and salt. In large glass bowl, using clean beaters, whip egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually add 4 tablespoons sugar, and beat until whites form stiff peaks. Immediately fold the yolk mixture into the whites. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared tin.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched. Dust a clean towel with icing sugar. Run a knife around the edge of the tin, and turn the warm cake out onto the towel. Remove and discard the baking parchment. Starting at the short edge of the cake, roll the cake up with the towel. Cool for 30 minutes.
Unroll the cake, and spread the filling to within 2 to 3cm of the edge. Roll the cake up with the filling inside. Place seam side down onto a serving plate, and refrigerate until serving. Dust with icing sugar before serving.
We have some fabulous kitchens to create the most delicious Christmas meals so if you are thinking about a change of scene, perhaps you feel like spending time in a cosy country cottage deep in the countryside where you can walk to the pub, or listen to the birds tweeting when you wake in the morning. Like the idea of having an Aga to cook on, padding down in the morning to make your first cup of tea? The Aga will welcome you with it’s warmth and cosiness. No need to turn the oven on and wait, it is always hot and ready for anything!
If you like the idea of spending Christmas in one of our self catering cottages – have a look at our Christmas cottages and our late availability cottages. We have fabulous seaside cottages or countryside cottages dotted all over the UK, just give us a call on 01227 464958 or email us by clicking here – we’re here 7 days a week and we’d love to help!