I’m not usually one for novelty shapes but when Nordic Ware sent me a six hole snowflake baking tin I couldn’t resist (it is Christmas after all). Chocolate fondants never fail to make me happy so I thought a simple festive twist on the classic melt-in-the-middle puddings was in order; the snowflakes themselves taste predominantly of dark chocolate, spiked with a little clementine zest, but the honeycomb really makes for a well rounded dessert full of flavour and texture. Add ice cream too for optimum indulgence.
Makes 6-8 puddings
1-2tbsp cocoa powder, for dusting
140g 70% dark chocolate
140g butter, plus extra for greasing
140g golden caster sugar
3 eggs, 2 egg yolks
125g plain flour
Zest 3 clementines
For the honeycomb
100g caster sugar
2 1/2 tbsp golden syrup
1tsp ground cardamom
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
Brush the moulds inside with melted butter then coat in cocoa powder, tap out any excess and set aside.
Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, then leave to cool a little.
Place the eggs, yolks, sugar and clementine zest in a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment and whisk until pale and thick.
Add the flour and mix together briefly, then add the chocolate mix, a quarter at a time. Mix well between each addition. Split the mix between the moulds then chill for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180c.
Meanwhile, make the honeycomb. To do this line a medium high sided baking tray with baking paper then place the sugar, syrup, salt and ground cardamom in a small saucepan. Heat until the sugar has dissolved and you have a golden, slightly simmering liquid, then add the bicarbonate of soda, remove from the heat and mix (just a few seconds, until the bicarbonate of soda has disappeared.). It will rise up quickly and go foamy. Tip into the prepared tin and leave to set hard.
Take the puddings from the fridge and bake for 9-11 minutes for the perfect saucy middle. Break up the honeycomb and serve a few shards with each pudding.
Cherry, super-sweet white chocolate, earthy pistachio; a pretty fool proof combination of flavours which marry together beautifully in these enriched sweet buns. I’ve added Arabica’s Cherry Molasses which they kindly gifted to me a couple of weeks back, and it brings a real tang to the overall flavour- delicious! I couldn’t resist adding cardamom to these as well; not only is it my favourite spice but it pairs really well with all three base flavours.
One thing to note before you embark on this recipe: while possible to make these by hand, it’s much easier with the help of a stand mixer and dough hook.
For the dough
140g room temperature unsalted butter
100g plain flour
150g strong white bread flour
½ tsp salt
50g caster sugar
1 sachet fast action dried yeast (7g)
For the filling
4tbsp cherry molasses
50g unsalted butter
60g soft light brown sugar
100g white chocolate
1 1/2 tbsp ground cardamom
150g pistachios, ground
For the topping
1 egg, beaten
Extra handful chopped pistachios (optional)
Place the milk and 40g of the butter in a saucepan and heat gently until the butter melts. Set aside to cool a little.
Meanwhile mix the flours, salt, sugar and yeast together in the bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook attachment.
Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the warm milk mixture and the egg. Mix briefly with a wooden spoon to combine then switch on the stand mixer and beat at a medium speed for about 10 minutes. Once the dough seems smooth, increase the speed and add the remaining butter in cubes, waiting for each one to be incorporated before adding the next. You should be left with an elastic, very soft dough. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with oiled cling film. Leave to prove for 1 hour, then chill for 45 minutes (this controls the rise and allows the dough to firm up a little).
For the filling, roughly chop the white chocolate and tip into a bowl. Place the butter, light brown sugar and ground cardamom in a saucepan and gently heat until the butter has melted and the sugar has almost all dissolved, then pour it over the white chocolate. Let it sit for a moment, then stir together. Set aside (don’t worry if it’s grainy).
Roll the dough out into a large rectangle (about 30x50cm) and, making sure you’ve sat the dough landscape, cover 2/3 with the white chocolate mixture, leaving the right hand side bare. Sprinkle the pistachios on top and drizzle over the cherry molasses, then fold the uncovered dough over the top and the remaining left side on top of that, pressing down firmly to form another rectangle. Roll out to around 1.5 cm thick.
Using a sharp knife, slice the rectangle lengthways, into 2cm wide strips. Take each strip and twist it several times, then wind it around your fingers to form a bun shape, finally taking the end over and under to conceal it. Place each bun on a lined baking tray, leaving room for the second prove. Once all the buns are assembled, cover with a damp clean tea towel and leave to prove for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 170c (fan) and brush the proved buns with the beaten egg. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through and golden brown. Garnish with chopped pistachio and serve warm or cold (best enjoyed on the day or the day after, reheated to refresh).
As the temperatures drop and the evenings draw in, I’m getting really into making ice cream… I know, such a maverick, what will I do next!? I jest, ice cream can be enjoyed all year round in my opinion, especially when you create flavours which feel Autumnal; this chai variety is a great example of that. It’s cold, of course, but the hint of black tea and hum of warming, peppery spice is really comforting, plus it pairs beautifully with hot puddings, rich chocolate desserts and baked fruit.
600ml double cream
600ml whole milk
225g golden caster sugar
5 black tea bags
10 cardamom pods
1 vanilla pod
2 cinnamon sticks, split in two
1 1/2 tsp black peppercorns, roughly crushed
1tsp fennel seeds, roughly crushed
2 inches fresh ginger, chopped
6 egg yolks
Place the cream, milk and 100g of the caster sugar in a large saucepan along with the tea bags, spices, ginger and vanilla. Heat to scalding point (just before it boils) over a medium heat, stirring to ensure the sugar has dissolved, then set aside to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, chill for at least an hour or overnight to allow the flavours to develop.
Drain the infused cream into a large clean saucepan and heat to scalding point once more. Meanwhile, place the egg yolks and remaining 125g caster sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment) and whisk until pale and thick. Remove the cream mixture from the heat and allow to cool slightly for a few minutes, then pour gradually into the yolks, whisking constantly.
Once the mixture is combined, return to a clean saucepan and set over a low/medium heat. Stir until it has thickened to a custard consistency (do not be tempted to increase the heat or it will curdle) then leave to cool completely.
Once cooled, churn the custard until thick and creamy (about 25 minutes) then scrape into a container, cover and chill for at least 4 hours.
This four layer ginger cake filled with lightly salted toffee sauce and tangy cream cheese frosting is a great alternative to the classic Christmas fruit cake, and is usually the preferred option in my house.
The Scandi-style flowers I’ve used for decoration were sent to me by Bloom & Wild, a brilliant flower delivery company who focus on carefully selecting the best seasonal blooms. The bouquet I received ( the Sadie)is part of their Christmas range and I would definitely recommend you check out their other options; I don’t know about you, but I find it tricky to find a wide range of good quality cut flowers outside of London (I know, first world problems), so it’s great to know I can choose more unusual varieties online and have them delivered straight to my door the next day by Bloom & Wild.
I hope you like how I’ve made use of the flowers and perhaps this could inspire some other botanical themed Christmas cakes!
220g black treacle
80g golden syrup
340g dark brown soft sugar
380g self raising flour
3tbsp ground ginger
2tbsp ground cinnamon
60g soured cream
6 pieces stem ginger, grated (from a jar)
For the toffee sauce: 50g butter, 50g dark brown soft sugar, 50g golden syrup, 75ml double cream, large pinch sea salt
For the cream cheese frosting: 200g unsalted butter (soft), 250g cream cheese, 900g icing sugar, seeds of 2 vanilla pods
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
Place the butter, treacle, syrup and sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a standing mixer). Beat together until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs in one at a time along with a little of the flour to prevent curdling. Mix well between each addition. Once the eggs are fully incorporated, sift in the remaining flour, cinnamon and ginger. Fold gently then finally stir in the stem ginger and soured cream. Split between the 2 prepared tins and bake for 30-40 minutes.
While the cakes are cooking, make the toffee sauce. Place the butter, syrup and sugar in a saucepan and melt over a medium heat. Once melted pour in the cream and add the salt. Mix to create a smooth sauce then set aside to cool and thicken.
Now make your cream cheese frosting. Put the butter in a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until fluffy and light in colour. Add the cream cheese and vanilla and beat once again until well combined. Now, still beating, gradually add the icing sugar. Once all the icing sugar has been added increase the speed and mix until the consistency is light, thick and spreadable.
When the cakes are ready, a skewer should come out clean when inserted. Rest in their tins for 10 minutes then remove and leave on a wire rack until they are completely cool.
Now you are ready to assemble your layer cake. Level off the sponges as best you can then slice in two (you should be left with 4 layers). Place one layer down on your plate or cake board. Secure with some cream cheese frosting if it’s a little slippy. Now spread over a few tablespoons of the toffee sauce. Allow it to sink into the sponge then apply a thick even layer of cream cheese frosting. Top with the next sponge and repeat until the sponges are used up.
With the remaining cream cheese frosting, cover the cake all over and smooth down with a cake scraper. Decorate with fresh flowers dusted in frosty edible glitter or get creative and come up with your own design to suit the occasion.
More decorating ideas:
Leave the cream cheese frosting rough and decorate with mini gingerbread houses to create a snow drift scene.
Top with traditional/vintage Christmas cake decorations.
Make little white meringue kisses and cover the top of the cake with them, then dust with gold edible glitter.
This cake is super easy to bake and is great if you’re looking to experiment with different flavours; the cardamom adds a distinct hum of spice to the light sponge which pairs really well with the earthy pistachios and super sweet white chocolate topping.
For the cake:
350g soft butter
350g caster sugar
375g self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds, crushed to a fine powder
100g chopped pistachios
For the topping:
150g white chocolate, chopped into small pieces
a few crushed pistachios and some dried rose petals (optional)
Preheat the oven to 160 (fan). Generously grease a bundt in with butter then sprinkle over some flour. Shake to coat the edges completely then tip out any excess (this should ensure that the cake doesn’t stick).
Cream together the butter and sugar with an electric whisk (or a stand mixer) until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each addition (add a little bit of the flour each time if you’re worried about curdling!).
Once the eggs are fully incorporated and you have a smooth mixture, add the (remaining) flour, baking powder, salt milk, and cardamom. Whisk until light and well combined.
Now fold in the pistachios and scrape the batter into the prepared bundt tin. Even out and bake for 30-40 minutes.
When your cake is ready a skewer should come out clean when inserted. Once cooked, rest for 5 minutes in the tin then turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
While your cake is cooling, melt the white chocolate gently in a heatproof bowl above a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool.
Once your cake and topping have cooled you’re ready to decorate. To do this drizzle the white chocolate over the bundt and let it drip down the sides. Sprinkle with pistachios and rose petals for a simple but elegant finish.