44. A Healthy Christmas Pudding? – a very English recipe

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Can this be real? Is there such a thing as a healthy Christmas Pudding when you soak your fruit in booze and add copious amounts of sugar? Well according to the Great British Bake Off (series 2 cookbook) it is. So what’s the difference you may wonder? It’s breadcrumbs, would you believe and no suet!!

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Obviously I can never leave a tried and tested recipe alone so I accidentally modified it… I decided to make it nut free, adding the equivalent amount of dried fruit in place of the nuts to soak in the booze. Then promptly forgot about my decision and added the nuts as well. This will surely be an extra fruity pudding!

I have only attempted one Christmas Pudding, an original Bero recipe, full of suet and other wonderful stuff. However it didn’t cook all the way through despite it’s聽initial聽3 hours of steaming and the additional steaming on Christmas Day itself.

I got a bit carried away when purchasing fruit for my enormous wedding cake 聽 (which actually turned out to be a good thing – it’s a LONG story- but in a nutshell I ruined 3 cakes in the process of baking my 5 tiers so had to bake 8 fruit cakes in the end!) Even with the additional 3 cakes bakes I still had enough dried fruit to bake 2 Christmas Puddings! Hurrah! (I also have plans for my rather sad 3 wedding cake tiers, they will not go to waste!)

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As with all good festive fruit recipes I started with soaking the fruit in Booze, Brandy to be exact, along with some lemon juice. The recipe only requires a soak over night but I decided to soak it in a tupperware pot in the fridge for a few days instead.聽Surprisingly the most effort in this entire pudding is the weighing of ingredients and bread crumbing. (Totally discounting the watching of the pot bubble for 3 hours of course…)

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The breadcrumbs required a little preparation so a quick blast in the hello kitty toaster and a whizz with the blender makes some lovely breadcrumbs and decorates the kitchen beautifully in bread dust.

Whilst the bread is toasting you have time to whisk together the butter, honey and sugar until light and fluffy. Then to whisk in each egg individually. The more you whisk the lighter the pudding, so whisk away!

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Whisked up and fluffy butter, sugar, honey and eggs with a smattering of grated apple

Then to stir in the grated apple, spices, (nuts) and brandy soaked fruit.

Stirring in the spices, nuts and grated apple

Stirring in the spices, nuts and grated apple

With the grand finale stirring in the toasted breadcrumbs along with the dried fruit.

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This forms quite a pale and loose mixture Once it’s all mixed together well it’s ready to be spooned gently into your pre prepared greased pudding bowls.

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This recipe is enough to make two Christmas puddings. I used a 1lb bowl and a 3/4 1 lb. bowl.

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Fill the pudding basins until at least 3/4 full and make sure the pudding is level by pushing the mixture level with a spatula and tapping the bowl gently on the worksurface to release any air bubbles.

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Then for the exciting bit! I’ve read so much about wrapping puddings in greaseproof paper with a pleat (a double fold about an inch wide) in it to allow room to expand as the pudding steams, but never before have I actually had a go at it!

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Both puddings needed a lid made out of a layer of greaseproof paper and tinfoil (both with wonderful pleats) before being trussed up like a turkey in lashings of my trusty cotton string.

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There is definitely a knack to this technique. My theory is always to tie stuff as tight as possible, it needs to be water tight, (you don’t want to drown your pudding when you submerge it in your pan of boiling water) and when in doubt add more string and tin foil. I added a full coat of tin foil, wrapping the pudding basin from the bottom to ensure the water couldn’t seep into the pudding. It seemed to do the trick. I added an additional length of string, tying it to the string around the edge if the puddings to create a handy handle for lifting out in and our of the pot too.

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Dinner plate face down in the pan

I had planned to economise and steam both puddings together however I failed to measure the pan…. So 2 separate pans were required to steam the little beauties.

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Pudding basin balanced on top of the plate inside the pan

I popped a dinner plate (face down) into my largest pan and a saucer into my smaller pan to balance the puddings on. I boiled the kettle and carefully poured the boiling water into each pan until it reached 2/3 of the way up the side of the pudding basin. Then to pop on the pot lid (an essential bit of the steaming process to keep the heat and moisture in) and let the puddings steam gently in the simmering water. It’s a good idea to allow some of the steam to escape by creating a vent (I tilted my pan lid and as my other pan lid was broken many moons ago I used even more tin foil with a hole in the top to create a lid) This takes about 3 hours on a low heat. I had to keep my eye on the pans and top up the water a couple of times as a pan should never be left to boil dry (this can cause the pan to explode!). So please be careful! My pans and plates made a few worrying noise over the next few hours, clattering about so perhaps a smaller plate would be a better idea to avoid the rattling!)

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Double Bubble – 2 pans steaming 2 puddings simultaneously

After 3 hours remove the puddings from the pans and allow to cool. Take off their tin foil and greaseproof paper and wrap them with a fresh coat. This will help to create a seal and prevent any mould from forming on your lovely puddings. I placed a clean saucer on the top of mine to weigh down the paper and create a good seal.

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Freshly steamed and cooled pudding. Ready for a tin foil coat and a sleep in the fridge

These puddings will keep for up to a month in the fridge or up to 3 months in the freezer, but once defrosted they will need to be eaten within a week. If you were making a traditional pudding with suet they can be kept for about a year to mature so you can make them well in advance! I’ve just read that freezing your pudding helps to speed up the maturation process. So this could be a good option if you haven’t had a chance to prepare it in advance. My puddings are currently having a snooze in the fridge until 15th December as we’re celebrating Christmas a little early in the Prince household! I may even give them both a little drink of brandy to help keep them warm for the next 3 weeks. 馃檪

The puddings looked a little paler than I expected after their 3 hours in their steam bath, I think this is due to the breadcrumbs and lack of flour. But I could tell that they were done as one pudding had shrunk back slightly from the side of the basin. 聽Unfortunately I can’t tell you how they taste yet, as I need to steam them for 3 more hours on Christmas Day (or 15th 聽December in my case – some of us have a wedding to prepare for and a 5 tier cake to finish decorating!) I will pop back to let you know how they turn out

Things I used to make Healthy Christmas Puddings聽

  • 70g dried apple
  • 330g sultanas
  • 200g mixed peel
  • (total 700g of dried fruit – any combination could be used! I added more fruit to replace the nuts if you wanted to make a nut free version just omit the nuts below)
  • Zest of one grapefruit ( I had ran out of oranges so replaced this with the only citrus fruit I had to hand…)
  • 5聽dessert spoons聽of Vanilla Brandy (to soak the fruit in)
  • Juice of 1 lemon聽(to soak the fruit in)
  • 50g sliced blanched almonds (I accidentally added the nuts which I had added more fruit to compensate for -you could reduce the amount of fruit you use by 100g if you would like to include the nuts?!)
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 75g brown sugar
  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 75g runny honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 medium apple grated (with 聽the skin on)
  • 125g toasted white breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon all spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger

(I heavily adapted this recipe to suit what I had in my cupboards. The original included pine nuts and fresh figs, so feel free to play around with the ingredients, your favourite fruit and nuts and what you can afford to include!)

  • 2 pudding basins (1lb each)
  • tin foil
  • greasproof paper
  • 2 saucepans and 2 saucers
  • Steam for 3 hours on a low heat
  • Refrigerate聽for up to one month or freeze for up to 3 months
  • On the day you wish to eat your pudding steam for 2 hours on a low heat before serving

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Experimental Chocolate Chip Polvor贸n – Spanish Christmas Cakes or Mexican Wedding Favours

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I adore聽Polvor贸n and wanted to have a go at creating a nut free version. What other flavours could I incorporate into this delectable sweet treat and not diverge too far from the traditional ethos of the the聽Polvor贸n which mainly consists of nuts…? What else but chocolate and cinnamon!

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Using the same method as my original聽Polvor贸n attempt I replaced the nuts with dark chocolate and added a generous dose of cocoa powder.

And here we have it… a flatter chocolatey and chewier version of聽Polvor贸n!

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Perhaps because they lack the nuts to hold them together and chocolate (unlike nuts) makes when baked, the little chocolate balls spread into perfectly round chocolate chip cookies.

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I chose to use caster sugar rather than icing sugar to enhance the crunchy texture. It also added a wonderful chewiness to the cookie, with the sugar and chocolate combining to create a toffee in the centre of the crumbly cookie! Yum! They have been very popular in my house!

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With a light dusting of icing sugar they look very Festive. The hint of cinnamon conquers up Christmas.These are would make a perfect homemade present, or to be eaten by the handful with a large bucket if tea. I really rather enjoyed making this Spanish Christmas cakes/cookie recipe up!

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I’m looking forward to my further Polvor贸n flavour experiments!

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Things I used to make Chocolate Polvor贸n

Makes about 40 small biscuits

Preparation: 15 minutes

Chilling time: 30 minutes

Baking time: 18-20minutes at 170degrees c

  • 220g butter (1 cup or 2 sticks) 聽room temperature
  • 250g caster sugar (2 cups or 240 grams) – rather than icing sugar to add an extra crunch that the nuts would normally add
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 250g all purpose flour (2 cups or 240 grams)
  • 100 g (1 cup) dark chocolate coarsely ground/chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • icing sugar to dust the biscuits with

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I’m entering these experimental聽Spanish Polvores into Chris’s Cooking Around the World Spain Round up. Pop on over to his blog for a round up of some inspirational international cooking! Thanks for reading!

43. Polvor贸n – Spanish Christmas Cakes or Mexican Wedding Cakes

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Polvoron – you are always on my mind

I’ve had Polvor贸n on my mind for some time. I read about these crunchy little biscuits bites, months and months ago and they’ve been sitting patiently in my ‘Things to bake’ pile ever since.

They are quite an unusual discovery, something I had never heard if before. Traditionally Polvor贸n聽are eaten as wedding 聽cakes in Mexico made with pecans or as Christmas cakes in Spain, kind of like a Spanish Shortbread. Now I’m planning my own聽wedding聽I thought perhaps now is the time to incorporate an international flair into the festivities. Intrigued I launched into my own interpretation of the traditional recipe, basically determined by whatever ingredients I have in the cupboard.

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Chopped up dried coconut

I don’t usually buy pecans or walnuts so they had to be substituted for good old almonds (a nut which is ever present in my cupboard and life…) and chunks of dried coconut roughly chopped.

Due to the speedy baking that was necessary (and seems to be happening more and more often in my house) I聽improvised yet聽again. No time to assemble to food processor so I grabbed the nearest heavy item (a glass jar), threw the almonds into a sturdy sandwich bag and hammered them with the jar until they were delightfully smushed. Feel free to use a pestle and mortar if you wish to be a tad more refined than I.

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Beating the butter to a smooth paste

The ingredients are very similar to basic shortbread, with flour, butter and sugar.

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Thoroughly whipped butter

This is another brilliant biscuit for busy bakers as I managed to whip up the dough first thing on a Saturday morning, chill it whilst I showered. I used my trusty hand held electric whisk to beat the butter and icing (powdered) sugar together. Then to whisk in the flour and vanilla extract.

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Whisking in icing sugar, vanilla and finally flour

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My combination of ground almonds, chopped blanched almonds and chopped coconut.

And finally the nuts of your choice.

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The dough looks a bit scrambled eggy to start with…

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Take a small amount of loose dough in your hand

I completely misunderstood the recipe which calls for the dough to be chilled. I shapped the dough by hand into about 35 mini golf balls.

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squash it together and hey presto you have a ball!

I popped them all onto a greased and lined baking sheet covered them with cling film and popped them in the fridge to chill.

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All the Polvoron lined up in a row – ready for chilling

(I think you’re supposed to chill the whole dough then shape it?!) But this gave me a chance to shower so in effect helped to speed up the process.

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Delicately golden Polvoron fresh from the oven

I then spaced the little balls out evenly to give them room to spread whilst they baked. I popped the tray in the oven to bake it at 170 degree C for about 18-20 minutes, until they took on a delicately golden hue, whilst I applied clothes and make up.

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Cooled and ready for a good dusting of spicy icing sugar

Just enough time to then allow the Polvor贸n to cool on the tray to set their shape for 5 minutes. Then to cool them fully on a wire rack to stop the butter sweating out of them and give them sticky bottoms.

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Fully coated Polvoron

Once cooled fully I rolled the Polvor贸n聽in a bowl of icing sugar swirled with cinnamon giving them a fluffy white coat. As they set the sugar absorbed slightly into the biscuit adding an extra dimension of sweetness to the treat.

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Happy Birthday Mel!

I then quickly bagged them up, tied with a pretty ribbon and dashed off with my pretty packages of Polvor贸n聽to celebrate my friends birthday! With a champagne聽fueled聽(10 minute) train journey to Durham. Followed by more food, cocktails and Polvor贸n.

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Obviously I had to ensure their quality before sharing them with friends… they passed the test! Crunchy and sweet Polvoron

We declared them a tremendous cocktail accompaniment (and that’s not the frozen strawberry聽daiquiris聽talking).

Polvor贸n聽are buttery like shortbread but with an added聽crunch聽as they are smaller and denser than a traditional shortbread biscuit. The almonds brought a subtle creamy yet crunchy texture along with the coconut. I expect pecans would add even more bite to the biscuit. The Polvor贸n remind me a little of biscotti or amaretti聽biscuits which I also adore. What’s not to love about a delicious bite sized treat. Even better, as they’re so small you can obviously eat a whole handful of them in one go!

Polvoron – up close

I love the method of shaping these little biscuits into balls as I find rolling and cutting out biscuits a bit聽laborious聽 I quite enjoyed this hand made alternative and I’m already inventing my own nut free recipe for my friends who can’t eat nuts as I think everyone needs a bit of Polvoron in their lives!.

Things I used to make聽Polvor贸n

Makes about 35 small biscuits

Preparation: 15 minutes

Chilling time: 30 minutes

Baking time: 18-20minutes at 170degrees c

  • 220g butter (1 cup or 2 sticks) 聽room temperature
  • 250g powdered sugar (2 cups or 240 grams)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 250g all purpose flour (2 cups or 240 grams)
  • 120 g (1 cup) almonds/pecans/coconut coarsely ground/chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Thank you to Sourdoughtheangrybaker for inspiring me to bake Polvoron! I had not heard of these聽wonderful聽cakes until you told me about them. Brilliant blog if you haven’t had a look already, I recommend reading.

35. Merry Christmas! Stollen – Germany

Ok, ok, this may have been a long time coming (or perhaps I’m just ultra organised for this coming 聽prepared for Christmas) 聽BUT now it’s Summer it makes perfect sense to stop by Germany for a spot of Christmas Stollen. My wonderful baking friend Julie over at Sweetgum Bakery sent me a copy of her Patisserie course workbook (all the way from Australia I may add) which had this delicious recipe. I love this 聽book. It teaches you the techniques to create beautiful ‘bakery products for Patissiers’ including pastries and breads. I have already had a good go at a few things like 聽pretty聽dinner rolls聽pretending to be a real Patissier. This Stollen recipe 聽encompasses everything that I love about Christmas. Marzipan, spice, RUM and dried fruit. What’s not to love??

Stollen is for life, not just for Christmas

A stollen is a sweet, rich yeast dough laced with almond paste (or marzipan) and studded with dried fruit. Perfect for your Christmas celebrations (or any tea table al year round! Why deny yourself something so gorgeous just because it’s not December?!) 聽I may start just eating this all year round. I bet you could also make smaller Stollen buns or a Stollen Crown loaf, or a Stollen plait, or Stollen cupcakes! I might be getting carried away but the possibilities are endless.

Stollen is a traditional European dish which originated in Germany. You can vary the filling depending on your mood (or what’s in your cupboards) with flaked almonds, poppyseeds, or sultanas and candied peel. Whatever you prefer! Apparently you can also purchase Stollen tins to help keep the traditional shape during baking, but I am yet to find one. Although I’m sure it would be a wise investment indeed as I think mine spread a little on the baking sheet, but this didn’t stop it tasting lovely.

It’s always a good idea to pre soak your sultanas in a generous slosh of rum overnight to plump them up and enhance their flavour. It also adds to the festivities.

As with any yeast based dough it requires some proving time so make sure you have some time to spend with your Stollen. The recipe calls for compressed yeast. I was using instant dried yeast so adapted the method to suit.

Yeasty flour

Mix the 20g of 聽flour, 7g instant聽yeast (normally when I make a loaf of bread 500g of flour requires 7g of instant yeast so I used 1 sachet of Hovis instant yeast) and milk (200g) 聽together. Mix together then leave to prove for 20 mins in a warm place.

Yeasty batter

Add the rest of the flour (380g) to the mix along with an egg, lemon zest, lemon extract and sugar (100g). Mix all of the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl and cover with a tea towel or cling film. Leave in a warm place to prove until it’s doubled in size

Buttery yeasty batter

Add the butter and mix it in until it becomes clear.

Proving time

Cover and leave the dough to prove again in a warm place, for an hour or so until it has doubled in size.

Dough has definitely doubled in size!

Knock back the dough and mix the sultanas, mixed peel (and optional nuts) in carefully, so as to not break the skins of the dried fruit.

Mixed Fruit

I used sultanas and cranberries (what聽I had in the cupboard!)

Fold in the fruit

Leave the dough to prove again for another half an hour, whilst you prepare the marzipan filling.

Making Marzipan Filling

Taking shop bought marzipan (120g) add the lemon zest and 聽an egg yolk and mix together to create a firm paste.

Marzipan paste

Divide the marzipan into 3 and roll into 3 long ‘logs’ (about 30cms long). I found my marzipan was a bit on the sticky side at this point so arranged it onto a sheet of cling film and rolled it inside the clingfilm. This made it a bit easier to move into the fridge to let it firm up a bit more.

Marzipan logs

Chilled Marzipan Logs

Take the dough and roll it out lightly with a rolling pin, into a rectangular shape. Aproximately 30cm long and 15 cms wide.

Flattened sticky fruity dough

Arrange the chilled marzipan logs in the centre of the flattened dough and fold the edges of the dough over to enclose the marzipan. Seal the edges of the dough.

Arranged Marzipan Logs

Place the dough, sealed edge down, onto a baking sheet greased and lined with greaseproof paper. Allow the dough to prove for the final time. Then bake for 25 minutes at 200 degrees C.

Sealed and shaped stollen

Once it’s baked place on a wire rack to cool. While it’s still warm pour the melted butter over the top of the loaf. This step may feel a bit on the odd side, as when pouring a cup of melted over the Herman the German Friendship Cake聽聽but believe me it’s utterly delicious.

Straight out the oven Stollen

After a day the butter seeps into all 聽of the available sweet dough crevices and infuses the Stollen with a gorgeous buttery moisture. It also helps to stop it from going stale so it can keep for a week (if you can bear to hang on to it for that long).

Soaked in butter Stollen

When it has cooled completely dust the Stollen with a generous dose of icing sugar, for added Christmas magic and sweetness. (It also helps to keep your fingers from getting all buttery and greasy.

Snowy Stollen

One of my friends told me this was her favourite bake so far in the aroundtheworldin80bakes challenge. I have to agree. I love the gooey marzipan layer sandwiched into the dough and I love the plump and juicy sultanas.

Snowy sliced Stollen

Although I think my dough didn’t rise quite as much as it should have, as it spread out on the baking sheet, it was most definitely worth the effort. To help spread the Stollen love and festive cheer I chopped it up into Stollen bites and took a batch to work and it quickly disappeared. A good sign indeed!

Stollen Bites

Does it feel like Christmas yet??

Extreme Stollen Close Up

yum yum yum

Just in case you would like to have a go here’s what I used to create this German Stollen

To make the聽initial yeast聽paste

  • Strong plain flour (20g) –
  • Instant yeast (7g)
  • Milk at 30 degrees C (200g)

Yeast Dough (add the yeast paste to)

  • Sugar (100g)
  • Lemon zest (1/4 tsp)
  • Lemon extract (1g)
  • Butter (100g)
  • Strong Plain Flour (380g)
  • 1 egg
  • salt 3g

The Fruity Filling

  • Sultanas (pre soaked in a slosh of rum) (120g)
  • Mixed peel (25g)

The Marzipan Filling

  • Marzipan (120g)
  • 1/2 egg yolk
  • Lemon zest (1/4 tsp)

The Final Topping

  • Butter (melted) 40g
  • Icing Sugar (40g)

28. Jamaican Black (Rum) Cake – The most alcoholic cake I’ve ever baked

Jamaican Black Cake

Officially the most alcoholic cake that I have EVER baked. Jamaican Black cake is most definitely not for the faint of heart or soberest of people. Containing 2 bottles of dark rum and a half bottle of Brandy, the fumes emanating from the cake are enough to make you slightly squiffy, never mind devouring a full slice!

Dark Rum (not just any dark rum but Marks and Spencers Dark Rum)

I happened upon the idea of a Jamaican聽Black cake when looking for Christmas cake recipes and I spotted it for sale at the continental Christmas markets. I required a wonderful cake recipe to bake for my first ever venture into the world of Clandestine Cake Club where the theme was cakes with beverages and also something luxurious for my mam’s mothers day present too. This is how I ended up scouring shops for a ridiculous amount of prunes, raisins, booze and Angostura Bitters. Did you know that they are difficult to find despite their 47% volume and are rumoured to be poisonous in large quantities… Good job this only needed 2 tablespoons of the pink stuff!

rum soaked fruit

I soaked the mammoth amount of dried fruit in an entire bottle (1 litre) of rum for about 2 weeks. I had to split the fruit into 2 jars as I simply did not have a vessel large enough to contain the copious amounts of booze and fruit.

I probably should have read the recipe more carefully as I would then have discovered that this recipe is enough to yield 3 or 4 cakes. I had produced a Jamaican Black Cake factory!! [I’ve revisited this recipe and reduced it down to Just the one Jamaican Black Cake here if you want to bake fewer cakes.]

The recipe also did not specify the volume of the bottles of booze so I shall let you know what worked for me (and as per usual I did end up substituting something for things that I like better. I hope that doesn’t detract from its Jamicanness? (or聽Trinidad – ianness聽origin also).

Rum soaked fruit… how much can I cram in to the food processor?

I figured that soaking fruit in this sheer amount of rum as well as being highly decadent is enough to ensure a good result (or get you very drunk so you no longer care what the cake actually tastes like). The idea behind such a long soak is to help macerate the fruit and also creates a much denser and moist texture than traditional fruit cake/Christmas Cake. I also think that it might make a wonderful Christmas pudding.

Maybe a bit more…

Following the long rum soak the fruit required mushing up. My weapon of choice was my food processor. Rather dangerously I crammed the entire fruit and rum mix into the bowl and forced the lid on. It took rather a lot of whizzing to get the mix to condense down into a fruit paste but it’s a determined little processor and did a wonderful job. Adding the Angostura bitters聽left a pink hue to the mixer bowl for future Jamaican Black Cake memories.

Eeek! Full to capacity but valiantly managed to macerate the fruit fully

With the food processor chugging away I had a chance to get on with ‘browning the sugar’. This is a new technique for me and undoubtedly adds to the depth of the final cake colour. Light brown sugar is heated in the pan until it melts to create a caramel. Adding a little water (in total half a cup) at a time. I struggled to get the sugar to melt and in frustration tipped all the water in, which wasn’t a good idea as it crystalised into chunks and required a much more vigorous heat and stir to get a smoother caramel. And even then it was still on the crunchy textured side for my liking. But I figured the heat of the oven would help to incorporate the crystals into the cake, I’m pretty sure I was right too! No sign of crunchy sugar lumps in the final cake.

Bubbling and browning the sugar to a caramel

Perhaps I was multi tasking to the extreme as I then attempted to beat the butter, sugar and eggs together whilst macerating the fruit and drowning/browning the sugar. But hey I have 2 hands, why not use them?!

Creaming the butter and sugar

After a short while I realised I don’t own a bowl big enough to house all of the cake ingredients in. I now had 3 separate and extremely full bowls which were already overflowing!! Once I stirred the browned liquid sugar into the beaten eggs and sugar I then only had 2 massive bowls of stuff to combine…

Mixing the browned sugar into the mix

Tonnes of butter, sugar, eggs and browned butter!

A spot of logical thinking brought me to the conclusion that this was possible, I just needed to divide the mix in order to conquer it.

Emmmmm how do I combine all of this???

I poured roughly half the beaten eggs, butter and sugar into one large mixing bowl. I then decanted half of the mushed up fruit and rum on top of the batter. This meant I had some space to fold the mixture together with my metal spoon. Although some ingredients fell over board I feel I salvaged the majority of it.

Hope it doesn’t overflow…

I repeated the process in a separate bowl with the other half of the mixture. Although I’m sure my guess work is highly accurate I couldn’t help but notice one bowl of batter looked a bit blacker than the other which worried me that I had put more fruit in inequality bowl than the other but there was nothing to gain by fretting about it and these monster cakes needed a.good 3 hours in the oven so I had to plough on.

It was a bit of a tight squeeze!!

Fully combined all of the ingredients!!

I had already greased and double lined 2 round springform聽cake tins with an extra high collar fixed on the outside with string to prevent the cake top from burning. I used a.22cm tin and a 20cm tin and found I still had cake to spare so quickly greased my favourite bundt聽tin (with a very generous layer of butter as I couldn’t line the moulded tin with paper and wanted to make sure I could get the cake back out again!!) Due to its shape I also couldn’t tie a protective collar of greaseproof聽paper round the bundt tin so opted for a lid of tin foil over the top. This scrunched up edges to create a seal over the top of the tin and stayed put throughout the baking process.

Doubled lined and dressed in collars – cakes ready for the oven

I smoothed the tops of the cakes as flat as I could as I wasn’t expecting them to rise very much.

I did check on the cakes regularly and turned them slightly so as to avoid burning the edges. But I resisted聽opening the oven for at least 2 hours聽to keep the heat in and the cakes rising. No one wants a sunken and heavy cake…

Trio of Jamaican Black Cakes hot out the oven

After 3 hours they were definitely done and the skewer came out clean.

The final touch was to pour half a bottle of rum over the 3 cakes whilst they were still in their tins and warm.

More rum glistening on top

What a wonderful cake! It was definitely worth the extra preparation time and although聽it’s not traditional to ice a Jamaican Black Cake, my Mam loves marzipan and royal icing so I created a Cath Kidston聽-esque star design especially for her using the largest聽of my trio of cakes. This wasn’t the easiest cake to ice as the cake was still rather moist (and full of rum) so I struggled to get the icing to stick. Some say that it is too sweet with the layers of icing, but I actually really quite liked it. It is very similar to a Christmas Cake however it smells so much more of booze and brings a lovely rose to the cheeks.

Cath Kidston Jamaican Black Cake

The second cake which I baked in the bundt tin required some coaxing to remove it from the tin. (I implemented a cocktail stick to loosen the cake around the sides, then I let gravity do the rest of the work, turning the tin upside down on a plate.) I took this to my first ever Clandestine Cake Club and shared the cake with lots of other cake lovers. I will tell you more about this another time 馃檪

Jamaican Black Bundt Cake – note the slight cocktail stick indentations… oops but rum hides all sorts of sins

The more traditional shaped Jamaican Black Cake

The Towering Trio of Jamaican Black Cakes

Things that I used to make Jamaican Black Cake…

An insane amount of dried fruit and alcohol! Although I didn’t stick completely to the combinations below I think you can play around with which dried fruits you use depending on what is available provided it all adds up to the same total amount of聽dried fruit. I also worked from 2 different recipes to make sure I had a good all rounder recipe and that I made it as authentically as possible.

[Since creating this recipe I have revisited it and reduced it so you can also now follow a recipe for Just the One Jamaican Black Cake if you prefer!]

Fruit Puree Base:

Soak the fruit in rum for up to 2 weeks (or at least 3 days) prior to macerating

  • 500g prunes
  • 500g聽dark raisins
  • 750g currants
  • 500g dried cherries
  • 250g mixed candied citrus peel
  • (Total of 5 and 1/4 pounds of dried fruit or 2.4 kilograms)
  • 1 bottle cherry brandy (I had to make do with plain old Brandy and used a 500ml bottle)
  • 1 bottle rum and/or Bailey鈥檚 (I used聽a 1 litre bottle of dark rum. I didn’t include Baileys)聽聽-Other聽recipes also suggest using Manischewitz Concord grape wine which doesn’t seem to exist in England so I just opted for adding a bit more聽rum
  • 2 tbsp Angostura bitters

Browning:

Heat the sugar in a heavy based pan until it melts and then add a little bit of the water at a time until it becomes a dark caramel. Careful not to burn it, but it will come very close to being burnt to achieve ‘browned’ perfection.

  • 500g brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup boiling hot water

Cake:

Beat the sugar and eggs together and then beat the eggs in one by one. (You will need a big bowl as it gets a bit messy with 8 eggs!) Add all the flavours to the egg mix.

Sift the dry ingredients together and then fold it into the beaten eggs, sugar and butter.

Then mix in the fruit puree and browned sugar liquid.

Pour into 3 greased and double lined cake tins.

Bake at 120 degrees celsius (250F) for 3 hours

  • 500g聽unsalted butter
  • 500g sugar
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 tsp lemon essence (I didn’t have this so used lime juice instead…)
  • I used the zest of 2 whole limes (but then realised the recipe said 2 tsp lime rind)
  • 2 tsp almond essence
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 500g plain flour (I used plain white flour but you could make this cake gluten free by using your favourite聽gluten free plain flour or a combination of gluten free flours such as 250g cassava flour + 250g rice flour)
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

The Final Touch:

Pour a generous amount of rum/brandy onto the top of your cake. It should absorb rather a lot of rum at this point. The cake will get darker with the more rum that you force feed it. It may take a day for the cake to absorb the rum but it will get there.

Wait until the cake has cooled completely before removing it from the tin and pop the cakes in an airtight container. I even left one cake in the tin for a week with tin foil over the top while it absorbed the rum (and I had ran out of containers big enough to keep it in!

MORE RUM聽1 500ml bottle of dark rum for pouring on the hot cakes

Keeping Your Jamaican Black Cake:

The cake should keep for (at least) a month in an air tight container. Or perhaps even longer if you can resist eating it as it’s almost pickled with that amount of alcohol in it! Tin foil is also a good idea help seal in the rum and prevent the cake from drying out.

I froze my final cake and I think it will keep for at least a month in the freezer before I decide what to do with it.

This recipe was created using inspiration from Auntie Olga鈥檚 Trinidad Black Cake 聽and the Naparima Girls鈥 High School Cookbook.

Thank you for reading!

From Herman with Love – Herman the German Friendship Cake

From Herman with Love

After many days of feeding and stirring good old Herman II it was time to mix him up into a sourdough frenzy. After halving the original starter and sharing the other half I was at the correct level of Herman to pretend that I had been given a starter by a friend and follow the instructions to create the cake…

Bubbling along nicely

Place Herman in a big bowl, leave him somewhere warm wearing a tea towel (check)
Day 1 – Stir Herman (I used a wooden spoon as I’m sure I read that its bad to mix sourdough with metal but I may have dreamt this.)
Day 2 – Stir Herman
Day 3 – Stir Herman
Day 4 – Feed Herman (I found I had to use a hand whisk to mix in 1 cup of warm milk, 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of sugar and stir well)
Day 5 – Stir Herman (you get the picture…)
Day 6 – Stir Herman
Day 7 – Feed Herman (same as before)
Day 8 – Stir Herman
Day 9 – Stir Herman

Russian Doll measuring cups

Day 10 – Divide Herman into quarters (about 1 cup per quarter) keep one for yourself. Share the other 3 with your friends . (You probably want to give them the instructions too otherwise they might think you don’t like them very much, giving them the gift of smelly fermenting goop)

Recycling every pot in the house

Now I can’t lie and pretend that I followed these instructions exactly聽as I forgot to stir him somedays, which I don’t think he was very happy about, as he became a bit solid and lumpy, in a sourdough huff I reckon. Nevertheless I don’t think it did him any real harm.

I did keep him near the radiator which perfumed the kitchen with a hint of brewery. (Lovely if you like beer?) I’m sure this will be the next big thing in parfum from Paris.

Pre stirring - this is what Herman looked like bubbles that rise to the surface and pop (if the surface is flat and still I'm afraid Herman has passed away)

I did worry that I killed him (again) as he looked a little flat and bubbless聽one day. I thought perhaps sugar would help? (It always helps me when I’m feeling a bit flat) I think it did the trick to revive him somewhat. Then following his first feed he perked up no end! All froth and bubbles. Apparently yeast needs flour to eat so it saved HermanII from a sink funeral.

All of the ingredients!

Then for the cake building! This seemed pretty straight forward. The recipe simply lists the ingredients and says mix it altogether. In reality this produces a tough scrambled egg bowl of sourdough cement.

Worringly solid

Worringly solid (Herman + flour + sugar)

Scrambled Herman - after adding the oil

I had thought “Ooh wonderful I’m going to be all traditional and use a Amish recipe and no electrical gadgets. Just me my bowl and a wooden spoon.” Wrong. I had to resort to the electric whisk to beat the lumps out of the mix. I probably shouldn’t have dumped all the flour in at once!

There's no shame in bringing out the whisk

This is the most scientific yet vague recipe I’ve tried to follow. I do enjoy using my Russian doll measuring cups wherever possible but can’t help but feel that its not very precise. How much is 2/3 of a cup of melted butter? Do you measure it out solid or melted? Am I supposed to squash a solid pat of butter into the cup to measure it out? I’m confused, therefore I guess.

Butter?

Once I worked out the lumps of flour and managed to combine the oil, eggs, cinnamon, vanilla, sugar, and baking powder into my cup of Herman starter I could chop up the 2 apples into bits (definitely the technical term) and stir it in along with a cup of sultanas.

Generous helping of cinnamon

Chunks of apple and raisins

Combining everything together (no whisk required)

Again the recipe was beautifully non specific. “Pour the mixture into a LARGE greased and lined tin” What shape? I hear you cry? (someone already stumbled across my blog having looked unsuccessfully, I’m sure cos I don’t have the answer, for ‘how big a tin do I need to bake Herman cake?’) I selected my second from biggest round tin merely because I’ve used the biggest one before and it doesn’t fit inside my cake box. See that planning ahead? Excellent logic. It maybe about 20cms in diameter. (But then again I am guessing.)

Now I’ve never poured 2 thirds of a cup of melted butter on top of a raw cake before. It felt a bit wrong. But hey that could be because I guessed how much butter to melt, I just chopped a chunk off and melted it in the microwave. Then sprinkled on some golden caster sugar.

Buttery top

Then for the baking. The recipe says 45mins聽at 180 degrees C. I reckon this varies quite a bit on what size tin you use as mine took at least 30 mins more until the skewers came out clean and made the kitchen smell all lovely and cinnamony. Very Christmassy just in time for the February snow.

Mini Hermans - ready for adopting

It seems like Herman has been a long time in the making and has taken on a personality of his own. After聽potting up the mini Hermans and they聽sat looking at me in a row聽I started to feel like I was in The Little Shop of Horrors, Seymour feeding Audrey II only to discover at the end he’s multiplied and lurking in the garden, waiting for the next unsuspecting human to feed him…

I don’t want to burden my lovely friends with a Herman. He’s no Audrey II that’s for sure, just a harmless sourdough! I do have 3 Hermans looking for a good home but I’m also quite tempted to keep one to experiment with, perhaps a chocolate chip Herman or Herman sourdough bread?

Crumbly and moist

What’s not to love about a cake called Herman? A cake with a story! A cake with a real history! A cake with heart and steeped in tradition. Sure it might seem a bit weird taking that first bite of Herman. But he actually tastes really good! There’s a slightly sour initial taste, which makes sense and then a lovely apple and cinnamon sponge. It’s really moist yet crumbly on the top. I will never doubt pouring butter on the top of a cake again!聽Very good served with ice cream or just with a cup of tea! If someone loves you enough to offer you a share of their Herman take it with both hands and pass it on to generations to come!

Crackled effect

It has been a bit of a commitment tending to a cake over the past 20 days (counting the creation of the starter, killing it and starting again). But what a life! Devoting himself to pleasing others. That’s my kind of cake. It feels like I’ve been writing The Herman Diaries and soon there will be a film with Johnny Deep as Herman… yet I digress once more. If you’re given the chance of a Herman give it a go! What have you got to lose?! Embrace the Herman. You know you want to.

image

A slice of Herman

Things that I used…

1 cup (quarter) of the original Herman Starter

2 cups plain flour

2/3 cup of vegetable oil

2 eggs

2 apples

1 cup raisins

2 tsp baking powder

1 cup sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

50g butter (melted)

a generous sprinkling of golden caster sugar for the top

1 “Large” round cake tin (9 inch)

1 hour 15 baking time at 180 degrees C

21. Whatcha cooking Lebkucken – Germany

Lebkuchen

I’ve always loved lebkuchen. It always seem like Christmas when the shops start selling these chewy and crunchy pink and white sugar coated cookies. This year seemed the right time to attempt to make my own. I’ve not visited Germany (yet) but if the continental Christmas markets are anything to go by I know that I will love it.

A quick google later and I came up with a simple yet effective BBC Good聽Food Recipe. (I seem to use this website a lot for my continental recipes!) They seemed fairly easy to make with honey, eggs, spices (cloves, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon) 聽ground almonds, a bit of flour, black pepper and butter. Simple! Although in my case I had nothing to smash up the cloves with, so improvising with a sandwich bag and a jam jar I hammered them into rough chunks. It kind of did the job, but some biscuits were definitely more clovey than others…

Spicy Stuff

This is definitely a different type of gingerbread to the Sunderland Gingerbread, very rich and sweet. But聽like Sunderland Gingerbread you throw this all in a pan and melt it together! Fantastic!

Butter, honey and sugar

Then throw in the dry stuff and spice

It needs quite a good stir to mix it all together..

Seemed a bit sticky but trust in the recipe

At this point I started to get a bit worried as it seemed a bit on the sticky side and I couldn’t imagine how on earth I was a) going to roll the dough out or b) cut it into Christmassy shapes… Nevertheless I continued and read the recipe through again and realised it needed some time to cool down. Throwing it into the fridge I popped the kettle on and had a well deserved rest (whilst starting the washing up!)

Now that's more like it!

In a bid to speed things up I divided the dough in half and froze half for other聽Christmas baking emergencies. I then folded cling film around the dough to roll it out without needing my pastry board and to聽prevent it sticking to the rolling pin.

Cling Film Queen

Choosing my most Christmassy cookie cutters I cut out the festive shapes and popped them into the oven for a mere 15 minutes.

Off to the oven with you

Then all they needed was a glossy sugary coating once they cooled down enough. Whisking an egg white up with some icing sugar to create a聽glaze is something that I’ve never done before. There’s another first to cross off my list.

Glazing

I drizzled it over the biscuits and let them drip dry onto kitchen roll. Once they hardened slightly they were ready for eating and the biscuit tin! They were lovely and chewy on the inside. They aren’t overwhelmingly spicy but rich and I enjoy the kick of the black pepper and cloves. I will be baking these every year from now on. I聽may even try some new variations. I’ve seen some with a much more crispy coating and with a little jam in the middle too to make them extra gooey!

Glazed

I did whip up the second batch in a baking emergency, during a Christmas baking marathon,聽so didn’t cut them into shapes but made a dough roll (using cling flm to roll it up of course) 聽and chopped it up… very quick and easy!

Dough roll (not to be mistaken for a sausage)

Lebkuchen Quick Chunks

20. Chelsea/Belgian/Cinnamon Sticky Bun Hybrid – What’s in a name? A bun by any other name would taste just as sweet

Chelsea/Belgian/Cinnamon Sticky Buns

I truly love cinnamon. When faced with the cake selection in Greggs聽I normally opt for a massive Belgian Bun the size of my face, oozing with icing and raisins. I’m not entirely sure what I can call this bake or which country I can say it’s from as, surprise, surprise, I made it up a bit. It started life as a Chelsea Bun recipe聽from the lovely Marguerite Patten, however I’m not keen on candied mixed peel and聽it had a distinct lack of cinnamon.

The bun is based on a sweet bread recipe and needs some time to prove and unfortunately some planning in advance.聽 I mixed and kneaded this dough rather late one night and then聽let聽it prove overnight in the fridge to slow the yeast development聽a little and I wasn’t too sure about keeping dough enriched with egg at room temperatute overnight. (Don’t want to poison anyone..) Although Marguerite didn’t seem to say anything about leaving it over night, I don’t think it did it any harm

Flour, yeast and sugar

Just the one egg

Drizzle in some milk

Proving itself

The next morning was thankfully a聽Saturday and I had time to play in the kitchen. So out with the pastry board, cling film and rolling pin! I rolled out the dough onto a long piece of cling film, as far as it would stretch. I definitely need more practice with聽a rolling pin聽as this tapered effort was definitely not the desired shape or size of the聽flattened dough.

Roll, roll, roll, your dough

I couldn’t possibly tell you how much sugar and cinnamon I threw onto the dough. (I really should pay more attention in the kitchen)聽I was liberal to say the least. I guessed the amount based on how brown the sugar turned and then added some more spice for good luck. Once the entire flatten dough was coated without any gaps聽in the cinnamon brown spicy sugar I figured I had reached the perfect sugary point.

Spicy Sugar

Then the exciting bit! To roll it all up without putting a hole in the dough. as an added precaution I brushed a little melted butter on the inside edge to help it stick before rolling it and on the final edge too.聽I fought with the dough carefully lifting it up with the cling film then turning the edge over tightly. The cling film had to be peeled away carefully,聽it wouldn’t be a very tasty accompaniment to the roll whilst juggling the聽pliable dough. The raisins needed a lot of attention as they were falling all over the place and dangerously poking through the dough. Patience is the key here and a gentle hand to guide the dough into a swirly log. If only I could get my roulade to roll as tightly as this…

One massive cinnamon log

Wielding a very sharp knife I sliced the log into sections and placed on a greased and lined baking sheet to prove a little more whilst I washed all the sugar out of my hair.

I’m not so sure Paul Hollywood would approve of my consistency in shape and size in this batch, but they tasted great and it meant I could eat 3 little ones instead of one enormous one.

*some teeny weeny rolls on here*

After a quick bake in the oven, Heaven had arrived! (I don’t use that term lightly either!) I’m聽considering making this for聽a perfectly indulgent Christmas morning breakfast, to permeate聽the house with cinnamon and loveliness! It was hard to wait for the them to cool down before devouring them! They just needed a simple icing sugar glaze, which I made in a pan and drizzled over while they sat on ther cooling rack.

The baked rolls

Then I piled them high on my plate and made a pot of tea and ate 3 in one go in front of the TV. Whatever they’re called they were divine and needless to say they didn’t last long in our house, especially when they were still warm out of the oven…. I’ve got to go, must bake some more.

Things that I used to make the Chelsea/Belgian/Cinnamon Buns

Inspired by Marguerite Patten’s Chelsea Bun Recipe

1 quantity of ‘Richer Yeast Dough’

  • 8 oz plain bread flour
  • 7g (1 packet of fast action dried yeast)
  • 3 oz of sugar
  • just under 1/2 pint of milk (at room temperature)
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2-3 oz of butter/margarine
  • 1 egg

Combine all of the ingredients and after kneading allow it to prove

Filling

  • 聽4oz of dried fruit (I used sultanas but you could add mixed peel too if you like)
  • 2 oz brown sugar
  • Lots of cinnamon! (I must have used more than 3 tablespoons of cinnamon)

Glaze

Marguerite uses a simple honey glaze,聽brushed聽over the warm buns but I made a sugar glaze with

  • (about)聽100g icing sugar
  • Enough water to dissolve the sugar into a clear runny liquid

The Caribbean Christmas Cake Collection Continued…

Caribbean Christmas Cake Collection

This post has been a long time in the making. About a month ago I began the Caribbean Christmas Cakes after an extreme test of my patience聽in greasing and lining 14 assorted mini cake tins and baking the little blighters for a couple of hours. I don’t mind this of course as I know the fruits of my labours are worth the effort and the wonderous rum, raisin, cinnamon聽and coconut smell that permeated the entire house let me know just聽how wonderful it will be.

The baked cakes

I’ve tended to my little cakes every week, topping them up with a bit more rum, until they could take no more.聽They still聽required a little house of marzipan聽and another week to dry out all in their specially purchased enormous Tupperware box.

Roll out a lot of marzipan... this has got to fit round 14 cakes

I decided one Saturday night, before heading out for a party to attempt to coat them all in a quick blanket of marzipan. I managed to finish 9 of them before I decided enough was enough and I would very much like to go to have a dance instead.

Firstly they needed to be glazed with apricot jam to make the marzipan stick…

Warming Apricot Jam

Then as all the cakes are very different shapes and sizes, they each needed to be fitted individually for their marzipan house. In an attempt to minimise rolling out marzipan, as it is frankly infuriating with its tendency聽to stick to the work surface just as you get it to the right thickness and it’s perfectly smooth so you have to start again, I squeezed as many on to one sheet as possible and trimmed it so there was very little excess to remove on the cake itself.

cutting each cake its own marzipan house

Once it was face down on the marzipan I had to simply lift the marzipan up and force it to stick to the sides of the cake, achieving a (relatively) smooth finish.聽I’m not too bothered about getting it perfect at this stage as the fondant should cover any major flaws…

Off with its head! (far too wonky)

Occasionally I got too frustrated with the cake being all oddly shaped聽and cut a lump off it. This didn’t really help matters as the cake was no straighter聽after being聽hacked into. I just聽made a big mess and dropped cake everywhere… but it did mean that I had a midnight snack when I got back in later on. 馃檪

Then for the fondant

After a week the marzipan was settled enough to add the final icing layer. I was greeted by a fantastic whiff of almond and rum when I came back to the little cakes. The white fondant icing needed to be kneaded until it was pliable and then rolled out in the same way as the marzipan, however聽a bit more carefully and precisely (if I can ever be precise?!) as this is the layer that everyone聽sees. Cue more irritated rolling pin action.

I didn’t have any vodka to brush onto the marzipan so I used the rum in the cupboard. I’m sure that will do the same job and perhaps enhance the rumness of the cake while it’s at it?

Trim its skirt

The cakes needed a little trim to tidy the edges and I ended up rolling the cakes themselves around like a rolling pin聽(as they’re so small) on the worksurface聽to smooth聽them out and flatten the icing down. It’s impossible, even with my childrens聽sized rolling pin to roll the icing smooth on the cakes. Then they needed a quick polish with the palm of my hand to bring the icing to life.

I love the film Elf. It always makes me think of candy canes so as an homage to Elf I wanted to make Candy stripe cakes. I was very kindly donated a block of red fondant which is amazing!! (Thanks Lucy!) I rolled it out and using many handy palette knife/ruler cut strips of red icing.

Lines and lines and lines and lines

Then I glued them on to the cakes using a dab of water.

Chunky Candy Stripes

Not bad for my first attempt even if I do say so myself (and as I was completely making it up as I went along). Not content with just one design, I had ordered some daisy flower cutters from Ebay and thought I could perhaps christen them and pass them off as Poinsettia?

The daisy/poinsettia flower cutters

Poinsettia Flowers

I added some silver edible ball things (can’t remember their real name) by mixing a tiny bit of icing sugar with water to make a paste then squishing them into the cakes. There’s still 5 more cakes that require some attention and I have some holly leaf cutters and green food colouring to play with 馃檪

All shapes and sizes welcome in this collection of cakes

4 hours of icing later... 9 down, 5 more to go.

I’m also entering this in Vanessa Kimbells’ fantastic Let’s Make Christmas Competition as I will be packing up these mini cakes in cellophane with lashings of ribbon聽and giving them to my friends and family very soon! Have a look at her blog and competition below…