I know it’s a little late, well let’s face it, it’s very late, to be posting about Christmas cake on Christmas Eve! But I really wanted to show some lovely photos of the cake I made for John, and his charming decorations with a definite Australian touch!
Readers of this blog will have seen a few posts in the past of the recipe for the Christmas cake. It’s a family recipe, handed down through the generations. It’s a dark fruit cake, full of dried fruit and glacé fruit and spices. The full recipe is big: 12 eggs, half a kilo of butter and of sugar, one and half kilos of dried fruit and a kilo of glacé fruit! As well as flour, spices, essences and alcohol etc.
This year I made the big mixture. I was able to bake 2 large cakes from this, and even managed a baby one with some leftover mixture.
One of the big cakes went to John, long time friend and a connoisseur of good food. I ice my cakes with a covering of home made marzipan, then top with royal icing. The cakes are a blank canvas on which you can create whatever decoration you fancy. John had a few ideas, but the lead photos are my favourites, as they feature a beautiful banksia cone as decoration. Banksias are an interesting Australian species, and the startling looking cones were the inspiration for Mae Gibbs’ Big Bad Banksia Men from her wonderful “Snugglepot and Cuddlepie”.
So here is the link to the Christmas cake recipe. This post has the recipes for the big cake, and what I call the medium cake, that is, a cake that is made with half of the ingredients of the mother cake.
And the photos are of John’s cake – well done, your decorations look great!
It’s 14 December. Just 11 more sleeps till Christmas! My Christmas baking is well under way, that is, I have made an awful lot of gingerbread and shortbread this last week, to give as small gifts to friends and colleagues.
I haven’t completely settled on a menu for the day itself. In Australia it’s usually hot, but we have sometimes had a chilly spell taking everyone by surprise. I usually cover both weather situations by having the festive meats hot accompanied by lots of cold salads.
Hmmm. Dessert. What to do this year? I have 4 main Chrissie desserts. Trifle – everyone’s favourite. Ice cream bombe, great for those hot days. A tiramisu style dessert for something a little different. Or the Great Australian Dessert, pavlova! Always a winner in my experience.
I know which way I’m going this year, but you’ll have to wait a bit before the big reveal.
I thought it would be good to recap some desserts that I’ve made at Christmas over the years. Maybe you might even get some inspiration if you’re looking for the perfect end to the meal!
Here are the links to some sweet treats, in no particular order, that I have made for Christmas in the past, or that would be perfect on the big day.
I found this recipe very timely! I wanted to find a different way to turn the Christmas ham into a new and exciting dish. There are only just so many ham sandwiches or ham salads you can eat in the New Year…
So, Jamie Oliver’s 5 Ingredients, a source of a lot of easily prepared and tasty recipes, was consulted. This ham recipe could have been designed for the festive season. It’s pretty simple, and takes only a few minutes to rustle up.
The curry powder and egg do tend to bind together so it looks a bit scrambled! Just scatter a few more spring onions on top if you want to tidy up the dish.
Here is Jamie’s recipe as is. The olive oil is not memtioned in the ingredients list as it is one of the “staple ingredients” of the 5 Ingredients system of cooking.
Ingredients l50g egg noodles 4 spring onions l00g roast ham 2 teaspoons curry powder 2 large eggs
Method Cook the noodles in a pan of boiling salted water according to the packet instructions, then drain, reserving a mugful of cooking water. Meanwhile, trim and finely slice the spring onions, and finely slice the ham.
Place the ham in a non-stick frying pan on a medium-high heat with one tablespoon of olive oil and the curry powder. While it gets nicely golden, beat the eggs. Pour them into the pan, moving them around with a rubber spatula until they start to cook, then stir in the noodles and most of the spring onions.
Toss over the heat for 2 minutes, then taste and season to perfection with sea salt and black pepper; loosening with a splash of reserved noodle water if needed.
Dish up the noodles, scatter over the remaining spring onions and finish with one teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil.
I made this cake/pudding last Christmas, a fabulous Nigella recipe, for one of those celebration meals sometime after the big day and before New Year. I’m posting again for anyone who is looking for a relatively simple cake to make for Christmas or Boxing Day. There’s no baking required, more an assembly of different luscious elements.
It’s a kind of “tiramisu meets trifle”! Layers of liqueur soaked panettone are interspersed with a mascarpone/ cream/egg/sugar/liqueur mixture with glacé fruit, chocolate and pistachios added.
I made a couple of alterations to the original recipe. I soaked the panettone in Cointreau as the specified Tuaca liqueur is hard to obtain. As I was unable to source marrons glacés (candied chestnuts), I used glacé ginger instead.
The other recipe alteration was entirely accidental – the recipe asks for Marsala to flavour the mascarpone mixture. I inadvertently grabbed a bottle of coffee liqueur and used this instead. A happy accident as it turned out as the cake now had a real tiramisu flavour!
The link to Nigella’s recipe is here for the original version.
A couple of points. I think finely chopped chocolate is preferable to chocolate chips as these are a little too crunchy in the cake. The other thing to take note of, is not to overbeat the mixture when you add the mascarpone as mascarpone can easily curdle as I found out to my cost!
Here is the recipe as I made it.
625 grams panettone (approximately) 6 tablespoons Cointreau or other orange liqueur 2 large free-range eggs at room temperature 75 gms caster sugar 500 gms mascarpone cheese 250 mls cream 125 mls coffee liqueur 75 gms glacé ginger 125 gms chocolate chips or finely chopped chocolate 100 gms pistachios chopped Pomegranate seeds from half a pomegranate
Using a serrated knife, cut the panettone roughly into 1cm slices, then use about a third of these to line the bottom of a 22cm springform cake tin. Tear off pieces to fit so that there are no gaps.
Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the orange liqueur over the panettone.
Whisk the eggs and sugar until very frothy and increased in volume and lightness.
Slowly whisk in the mascarpone and double cream, then gradually whisk in the coffee liqueur and whisk until the mixture is thick and spreadable. If you stop every so often you can gauge how thick the mixture is and whether you are in danger of overbeating.
Remove 250ml or a cup of the mixture to a bowl, cover and put in the fridge, for the top layer of the cake.
Chop the glacé ginger into small pieces and then add to the rest of the mascarpone cream mixture. Then add 100gms of the chocolate chips and 75gms of the chopped pistachios, and fold both into the mixture.
Spoon half of the mixture on top of the panettone layer in the cake tin. Put another third of the panettone slices over the cream filling, again making sure there are no gaps. Sprinkle with another 2 tablespoons of liqueur.
Spoon the other half of the cream mixture onto to the panettone. Top with the final layer of panettone, leaving no gaps and sprinkle over the last 2 tablespoons of liqueur.
Cover the cake tightly with clingfilm, pressing down on the top a little, and put in the fridge for at least overnight.
To serve, take the cake out of the fridge, unmould it and sit it on a flat plate or cake stand, then spread with the reserved mascarpone mixture. Definitely don’t try to lift the cake off the base, as the cake is too soft and moist to remove.
Scatter the top of the cake with the remaining chocolate chips and chopped pistachios and the pomegranate seeds. The cake will look a little rustic around the sides but this is part of its charm!
Here’s a fabulous trifle for a festive occasion! I created it for Christmas this year. It’s a lovely celebration of summer fruit, and is a different take on a traditional trifle with the addition of meringue and passionfruit curd.
You need to start with a pretty glass trifle bowl that will adequately display your trifle and its layers. You can really layer it any way you like, but starting with a cake layer and ending with meringue shards and peach slices seems a good way to go.
2 bought sponge cakes (you can make your own but it’s much less time consuming to buy them)
6 yellow peaches, cut into slices
Pulp of 3 passionfruit
1/2 cup or to taste of an orange flavoured liqueur. (I used Cointreau and Orange Curaçao)
300ml whipped cream
Preheat the oven to very slow – 135 degrees C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
Beat egg whites at low speed with an electric mixer until frothy, add cream of tartar and beat on highest speed until peaks hold their shape. Gradually beat in 2 tablespoons of the measured sugar and continue beating for 2-3 minutes. Add all the remaining sugar at once, fold in quickly and lightly with a metal spoon.
Using 3/4 of the mixture, spoon or pipe two discs, each about the size of the diameter of your trifle bowl, onto the prepared trays. With the remaining meringue, colour one half yellow, and put both meringue mixtures into two piping bags. Pipe yellow and plain meringues, as many as the mixtures will make, around the edges of the baking trays where you have placed the discs.
Bake the discs and meringues for 1 1/2 hours. Leave in oven for a further 1/2 hour or until dry.
Place all the ingredients into a saucepan over a medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon, making sure all the ingredients are amalgamated and the sugar is completely dissolved. Continue to stir until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Put aside to cool.
Put the egg yolks, cornflour and sugar into a large bowl and stir together with a whisk. Heat the milk and cream together in a pan until hot but not boiling. Gradually whisk into the yolks, then return the mixture to the pan. Stir over a high heat until the mixture just comes to the boil and the custard thickens. Take off the heat, cover and allow to cool.
Put the frozen blackberries, sugar and water into a saucepan and gently stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring to boiling point, turn the heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the fruit is softened and the liquid is reduced. Transfer to a bowl to cool.
Assembling the trifle
Line the base of your glass trifle bowl with half the cake, making sure there are no gaps. Liberally sprinkle over half the orange liqueur.
Scatter half the piece slices and half the passionfruit pulp over the cake. Spoon the cooled passionfruit curd over the fruit.
Now carefully place one of the meringue discs on top of the curd, trimming the edges if it’s too big. Place the rest of the cake pieces on top. If you think there is too much cake, leave some of it out. Sprinkle the cake with the remaining liqueur. Spoon the blackberry compote on top of the cake.
Carefully spoon or pour the cooled custard over the trifle, then add the whipped cream. Again, if you think there’s too much custard or too much whipped cream, add a little less.
To decorate the trifle, carefully break up the remaining meringue disc into shards big and small (so lots of broken bits don’t matter!). Place the rest of the peach slices and passionfruit pulp around the edge of the trifle and artfully place the meringue shards wherever you like.
Then finish by topping the trifle with the individual meringues.
This is how I made my trifle – I’m sure there are endless variations to the layering and presentation, so be creative!
Rocky Road has to be the easiest sweet to make at Christmas. And it’s not even a bake!
I’m revisiting a recipe that is based on Nigella’s Christmas Rocky Road, from her book Nigella Christmas. I like it as it’s an adult version of Rocky Road, with dark chocolate and lots of nuts.
I substituted ginger nut biscuits for amaretti biscuits in Nigella’s recipe and I used a mixture of brazil nuts, cashews and pecans.
250 gms dark chocolate
150 gms milk chocolate
175 gms soft butter
4 tbls golden syrup
200 gms ginger nut biscuits
150 gms brazil nuts, cashews and pecans
150 gms red glace cherries
125 gms mini marshmallows or whole marshamllows cut in half
Edible glitter and icing sugar to decorate
Chop the chocolate into small pieces and then put into a heavy-based saucepan to melt with the butter and syrup over a gentle heat.
Put the biscuits into a freezer bag and bash them with a rolling pin to get big and little pieces. Put the mixed nuts into another freezer bag and bash them to get different sized nut pieces.
Take the saucepan off the heat, and add the crushed biscuits and nuts, whole glacé cherries and marshmallows, turning carefully to coat everything with the chocolate.
Line a rectangular or square tin with baking paper. A larger tin will give you thinner Rocky Road, a smaller tin will give you a chunkier version. Smooth the top, not too much as the rough look is what you want.
Refrigerate until firm enough to cut, at least 2 hours, the longer the better. Remove the set Rocky Road from the tin and cut into squares or slabs – whatever you prefer.
To decorate, sprinkle the top of the Rocky Road with edible glitter – I used gold. Dust with icing sugar for a snowy effect.
The Borough Market in Southwark, London, was a destination I was really looking forward to when visiting the UK in December.
I’m a huge fan of markets, enjoying visiting local farmers’ markets in country New South Wales, as well as the city equivalent in Sydney. Orange Grove Market, mentioned in other posts, is a great Saturday excursion to pick up organic fruit and veg, hot smoked fish, French cheese, farmers’ free range eggs and pastry and bread galore!
I’ve been following the Borough Market online for a while to prepare for the visit. I went twice, on a Saturday a couple of weeks before Christmas and a week or so later midweek. Saturday was buzzing, busy, and a bit tricky to navigate, but still heaps of fun! The next visit was a pleasant stroll and I got to see much more of the market’s delights.
The Borough Market is a little bit of old world London in that sophisticated metropolis. Arches and passageways, nooks and crannies, keep you guessing at what comes next, as you make your way around the market. After my two visits I finally got the hang of the geography. The charm of the Market lies in the mix of the old world with a plethora of multi cultural cuisines.
There is so much produce! I was bowled over by cheese vendor upon cheese vendor! And then the patisseries and bread stalls, fresh fruit and vegetables, meat of every kind, sausages and stews and curries.
I liberally sampled the baked goods, filled focaccia, croissants, large sticky buns, packed full of fruit, that looked like miniature Christmas puddings, and real muffins.
I found a little stall selling dried fruit and nuts, and wonderful candied fruit. Whole candied clementines were a great Christmas treat! Another stall sold home made fudge, of every conceivable flavour, which you could pick and mix yourself.
Two highlights – a salted caramel milkshake with Bath milk, and robust, fragrant Colombian coffee, much appreciated by this writer, who had been craving really good coffee since my arrival in London.
It was fun to be at the Market at Christmas – there was a buzzy, gregarious mood, and everyone seemed to be having fun shopping for the festive season.