Three Christmas Cakes You Simply Must Bake!
Spiced Stollen Plait
Love Stollen? This spicy, fruity remix will have you smitten.
450g strong plain flour
225ml full-fat milk (although semi-skimmed is fine)
3 tablespoons of honey (clear is preferred)
85g butter, cut into small cubes
140g mixed dried fruit
4 tablespoons brandy or orange juice (for tee-totallers)
7g sachet quick-action dried yeast
A a nutmeg, grated finely
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 large egg, beaten, plus another to glaze
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of an orange
Dash of oil (rapeseed / vegetable / sunflower) for growing
A handful of flaked almonds
Some icing sugar for dusting
Mix the dried fruit in a bowl with the brandy or orange juice, cover with cling film and microwave on High for a minute. Place out of the way to cool down.
Mix the milk and honey in a saucepan and heat (medium) on a hob until they just come to the boil. Remove from and add the cubes of butter. Stir in until the butter melts.
Mix the flour, yeast, all the spices (inc nutmeg and cinnamon) and the t tsp salt in a large bowl.
When the milk mixtures has cooled to body temp, add it all to the flour bowl. Mix in the egg and zest with a spoon and then with your hands until it forms a dough. Add a little extra flour if it's really sticky.
Tip out the dough onto your work surface (make sure it's lightly dashed with flour as not to stick) and knead for 10 mins or until smooth and stretchable. Place dough in a clean, lightly greased bowl and cover with greased cling film. Leave it to prove for 2 hrs or until it has doubled in size. The dough can now be kept in the fridge for up to 2 days; just make sure to let it warm to room temperature before continuing.
When the dough has doubled in size, place on your work surface and massage out the air bubbles. Add the soaked fruit and knead it all in.
Roll the dough into a square, roughly 40 x 40cm and then cut into 3 long strips. Divide the marzipan into 3 balls and then roll each to the same length as the strips of dough. Put a marzipan "sausage" on top of each strip of dough, then pinch the sides of the dough together to encase the marzipan – so you have 3 long "sausages" of marzipan-filled dough. Flip the dough over so the seams are underneath, then pinch the 3 ends together. Tightly plait the dough, pinching together to seal when you finish. Place the plait on a baking tray lined with baking parchment, tucking the ends under for a neat finish. Cover loosely with a sheet of oiled cling film, leave to prove for 30 mins-1 hr or until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 190C (170C for fan) / gas mark 5. Take the cover off the plait, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle on the flaked almonds. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 30 mins until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer to a wire rack (or similar) to cool and dust with icing sugar before serving. Will keep for up to 5 days in an airtight container.
Spicy Christmas Cake
Your traditional Christmas Cake given a spicy twist (we can see a theme appearing here …).
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
1 teaspoon rosewater
3 tablespoons of clear honey
200g Glacé cherries
200g of mixed peel
Zest of an orange plus 100ml of its juice
Zest of 2 lemons plus 100ml of their juice
200g dried apricots, sliced
175g golden sultanas
140g dried cranberries or sour cherries, or a mixture of the two
100g dried mangoes, sliced
280g butter left out of the fridge until room temperature, plus a little extra for greasing
140g golden caster sugar
140g light muscovado sugar
4 large eggs, beaten
2 tsp ground cinnamon
250g plain flour
100g ground almonds
For feeding the cake:
1 teaspoon of orange blossom water
50ml orange juice
Mix the orange and lemon (zests and juice), the orange blossom water (not the part for feeding of the cake), rosewater and honey together in a large bowl. Stir in all of the dried fruit and cover. Leave overnight to soak in a cool room.
When you're ready to proceed the day after, preheat the oven to 160C, 140C for fan or gas mark 3. Grease and double-line a 20cm round or square tin (for a nice deep cake – you can use a slightly larger one for a shallower cake) with baking parchment. In a separate big bowl, beat the butter and both sugars together with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, fold in the flour, almonds and cinnamon. You'll start to recognize the "classic" Christmas cake mixture.
Add the soaked fruits and any juice left in the bowl, stir in smoothly. Spoon the mix into the prepared tin and level the top.
TIP: For a flat cake rather than slightly rounded, make a gradual dip in the center of the mix with the back of a wooden (and slightly floured) spoon.
Bake for 1 hr 30 mins at the preheated temperature then turn the oven down to 140C / 120C for fan / or gas mark 1. Bake for a further one 1 hr 50 mins for 22cm cakes, anything larger will probably only take 1 hr 30 mins . To test, a knife poked into the center should come out clean.
Cool in the tin, sitting on a wire rack or heatproof surface.
The feeding ingredients then need to be mixed while the cake is still a bit warm. Using a thin skewer or knife, pierce the cake around 10 times and spoon over the liquid (which can then see in).
Inside an airtight container, this cake can keep up to 1 month.
If you're making the cake ahead of time, feed once a week for up to 4 weeks.
Ice and frost the cake as you please – try a cinnamon icing for that extra Christmassed kick.
Choc Cranberry Macadamia Brownies
Okay, so it's not a traditional Christmas cake as such but it'll help put that left left Cranberry sauce to good use! Have them hot with some cinnamon ice cream for a true treat! It's also a lot simpler than the previous two, but just as tasty!
150g of dark chocolate, smashed into pieces
40g cocoa powder, seived
3 large eggs, beaten
200g soft brown sugar
150g self-raising flour
50g dried cranberries
100g macadamia nuts
60g cranberry sauce (or less, depending on what's left over from Xmas day)
Preheat the oven to 180C / 160C for fan / gas mark 4 and line a 20cm x 20cm baking tin with baking parchment / paper.
Melt the dark chocolate with the butter in the microwave or in a heatproof bowl over just simmering water.
Mix the sugar, flour and cocoa powder together and slowly add / stir in the melted chocolate and butter mixture until smooth. Stir in the eggs, also until smooth and then stir in the dried cranberries and macadamia nuts and cranberry sauce.
Pour the mixture into the tin (resisting the urge to eat it all there and then) and smooth the surface with a flowered wooden spoon or plastic utensil. Bake for 25 – 30 mins (depending on whether you like them a bit gooey or not). Slice the brownies when they've cooled and enjoy!