This is a proper grown up spin on the classic Bakewell tart, with chocolate pastry encasing an earthy pistachio frangipane and sweet spiced fig filling. Served up warm with vanilla ice cream or cold with creme fraiche, it would make for the perfect way to round off a late summer lunch or dinner party.
Ingredients (serves 8-10)
For the chocolate pastry
225g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
3tbsp icing sugar
140g cubed butter, cold
2 egg yolks mixed with 2tbsp cold milk
For the spiced fig compote
6-8 cracked cardamom pods
1 vanilla pod, split
1 cinnamon stick
zest and juice 1 orange
For the pistachio frangipane
150g soft unsalted butter
150g golden caster sugar
125g ground pistachios (I just blitz pistachios up in a food processor for this)
25g plain flour
a couple of extra figs
a few pistachios, chopped
50g dark chocolate
Start off by making the pastry. To do this place the flour, cocoa, icing sugar, salt and butter in a food processor and pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg and milk and pulse again until the mix starts to come together and form large lumps. Tip this onto a work surface and shape into a disc, about 1.5 inches thick (handling as little as possible). Wrap in cling film and chill for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 170c and grease a deep tart tin with butter. Once the pastry has chilled and firmed up a little, lightly flour your work surface and roll it out to about 3mm thick. Roll up around a rolling pin then unravel over the prepared tin. Push the pastry down into the tin, using a spare piece to get it right into the corners and grooves (avoid stretching the pastry as this can lead to shrinkage when baking). Once well lined, trim any overhanging excess and return to the fridge for a further 20 minutes.
Now take a piece of greaseproof paper, screw it in a ball and unwrap. Push it down into the pastry case and fill with baking beans. Blind bake for 15-20 minutes or until the sides are set. Once you reach this stage remove the baking paper and beans and return to the oven for a further 15-20 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked through and sandy to the touch.
Make the compote next. To do this just slice the figs into small pieces and place in a pan along with the honey, cardamom, cinnamon, vanilla, orange juice and zest. Cook gently until it forms a sticky jam-like consistency then set aside to cool (you may have to add a little water during this process if the figs get a little dry before softening completely).
By this point your pastry case will be ready, so set aside to cool a little and reduce the oven temperature to 160c. For the frangipane, beat together the butter and sugar until very pale and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Once all the eggs are well incorporated, mix in the pistachios and flour to form a smooth mixture.
Spoon the fig compote/jam into the base of the tart case and spread out. Spoon the frangipane on top and level off, then add a few extra fig slices in a pattern of your choice. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the frangipane is set and golden. Set aside to cool (if serving cold).
To finish the tart, melt the dark chocolate and drizzle all over the top. Sprinkle with extra pistachios and serve with cream, ice cream or creme fraiche.
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.
This cake is the ultimate Autumn centre piece- it combines a moist spiced pumpkin sponge with cream cheese frosting, caramel buttercream, pecans and salted toffee sauce; the best flavours of the season! I decorated mine in a really rustic semi-naked style, but you can refine yours to make it a little more formal if you like.
450ml vegetable oil
450g soft light brown sugar
450g self raising flour
2tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 grated fresh nutmeg
400g grated pumpkin
For the Toffee Sauce: 100g butter, 100g dark brown soft sugar, 100g golden syrup, 100ml double cream, large pinch sea salt
For the Caramel Buttercream: 200g butter, 75g of the toffee sauce, 500g icing sugar
For the Cream Cheese Frosting: 250g cream cheese, 150g butter, 500g icing sugar, 1tsp vanilla extract
Extras: 200g roughly chopped pecans
Preheat the oven to 170c and grease and line three 7inch cake tins.
Place the eggs, sugar, salt and oil in a large bowl then whisk until light and well combined. Sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg then gently stir with a spatula until non-streaky and smooth.
Now add the sultanas and pumpkin. Mix well and distribute the batter evenly between the three tins. Bake for 30-45 minutes. When a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the cakes, they are done. Once cooked, remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack.
While the cakes are cooling, make the frostings. Start off with the toffee sauce. Place the dark brown sugar, golden syrup and butter in a saucepan and melt together. Once melted, bring to the boil then remove from the heat and add the cream. Stir then set aside to cool.
Now make your cream cheese frosting. Whisk the butter with electric beaters or a stand mixer until fluffy, then add the cream cheese and whisk again. Once well combined, gradually add the icing sugar and continue whisking until you have a light frosting. Fold in the vanilla.
Once your toffee sauce has cooled you can make the caramel buttercream. Simply beat the butter until really light, then add the icing sugar gradually until you have a simple fluffy buttercream. Finally, add 75g of the toffee sauce and stir through.
To assemble the cakes just place one sponge on a plate and pipe a ring of cream cheese frosting round the edge. Fill the centre with caramel buttercream and sprinkle over some pecans. Now just top with another layer and repeat until all the cakes are used. Thinly coat the outside of the cake with cream cheese frosting and pipe a design on the top with the caramel buttercream. Pile on pecans for decoration and drizzle generously with the remaining toffee sauce.