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
- pinch salt
- 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
- 150ml milk
- 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)
- 1 egg
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
- Pinch salt
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
- pinch salt
- 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 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
- pinch salt
- 140g cubed butter, cold
- 2 egg yolks mixed with 2tbsp cold milk
For the spiced fig compote
- 300g figs
- 2tbsp honey
- 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
- 3 eggs
- 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!
- 380g butter
- 220g black treacle
- 80g golden syrup
- 340g dark brown soft sugar
- 6 eggs
- 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.
- Top with frosted fruit and rustic greenery.
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
- 6 eggs
- 375g self raising flour
- 1tsp baking powder
- pinch salt
- 1 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds, crushed to a fine powder
- 150ml milk
- 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
- 7 eggs
- 450g self raising flour
- 2tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 3tsp ginger
- 3tsp cinnamon
- pinch salt
- 1/2 grated fresh nutmeg
- 250g sultanas
- 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.