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.
This is a really simple way to make a “cheat’s” ice cream that is super refreshing, super simple and super good for you! It’s not new – everyone has been doing it, including Jamie Oliver in Jamie’s30 Minute Meals.
It’s less a recipe than a procedure. Really, it’s just frozen fruit blitzed with yoghurt with a little honey for sweetness, to make a kind of frozen delicacy with a lovely ice cream like texture.
I have listed what works well for me, but find your version by varying the fruit used and the ratio of frozen fruit to yoghurt. My chosen fruit was mango and mixed blueberries and raspberries.
A quantity of frozen fruit – mango, banana, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, papaya, peaches, nectarines, plums
Yoghurt – Greek yoghurt is nicest, but the recipe works well with low fat yoghurt too.
Mint leaves, fresh berries for decorating
To make ice cream for two, or one greedy person, put 3 handfuls of frozen fruit into the bowl of a food processor with 3 tablespoons of yoghurt. Add 1 tablespoon of runny honey, or less, if you want less sweetness.
Blitz in the food processor until you have a creamy frozen mixture. Add more fruit or more yoghurt if you are not satisfied with the consistency and then blitz again.
I don’t weigh my quantities – I really think you need to judge whether you have the ratio right by the look and texture of the resulting ice cream.
Serve immediately in glasses, bowls or cones. It will melt quite quickly so speed is of the essence. Chilling the glasses or bowls is a good idea too. You can freeze leftover ice cream, but in my experience it’s a little grainy. Just make enough to eat in one sitting!
Everyone likes bread and butter pudding. It’s not difficult to produce, so long as you have the requisite bread or a richer equivalent like panettone or croissants. Pouring a custard mixture over the bread/panettone and baking is about it. Adding yummy things like fruit, marmalade and rum makes for a delicious pudding. And yes, there is butter in it too!
make this version with my own marmalade, a combination of blood orange,
ruby grapefruit and mandarin, but any good marmalade works. The raisins
and sultanas drenched in alcohol
are great too. You can do a quick soak, but I usually use my supply of
raisins and sultanas that have been macerating in rum for a few months…
the rum soaked fruit is delicious served over ice cream too!
50g raisins and sultanas
2 tablespoons rum or an orange liqueur
50g butter + extra for buttering the dish
1/2 panettone – approximately 10 slices
5 tablespoons marmalade
2 large free-range eggs
2 tablespoons caster sugar
300mls full fat milk
2 tablespoons Demerara sugar
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C fan forced or 180 degrees non fan forced. Put the raisins and sultanas into a small bowl with your alcohol of choice and leave to soak for half an hour – or longer if you have the time.
Butter a baking dish big enough to hold all the panettone slices snugly.
Make 5 sandwiches with the panettone, butter and marmalade, being pretty liberal with the filling. Place the sandwiches side by side in the baking dish so they fit snugly into the dish. If some of the sandwiches are too big, cut them in half.
Scatter the raisins and sultanas and any of the alcohol rum that remains in the bowl.
Whisk the eggs together with the caster sugar. Pour in the milk and stir well. Pour the mixture over the panettone sandwiches and leave to soak up the liquid for 10-15 minutes.
the Demerara sugar over the sandwiches. Place the baking dish onto a
baking tray, and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the custard has puffed up
and the sandwiches are golden brown.
Remove from the oven and sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.
Serve with more of the marmalade and something creamy – I like Greek yoghurt – whipped cream, custard or ice cream are all good too. And a few blueberries also goes well.
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!
Stone fruit is just coming into season in Sydney at the start of summer. While peaches and nectarines are still a little firm, apricots are good eating.
The traybake is based on a recipe from Gabriel Gate from an SBS program, see here for the original. This is an ultra simple cake, made in a square tin in a shallow layer so that you end up with a traybake rather than a cake. I think it works quite well in this form. I also made the whole cake in food processor, making it really simple.
5 ripe apricots
150 g butter
100 g caster sugar
3 free-range eggs
50 g honey
120 g ground almonds
100 g self-raising flour
20 g flaked almonds
Preheat oven to 170 degrees C fan-forced. Grease and line with baking paper a 24 cm square cake tin. Halve the apricots and remove stones.
Cream the butter and caster sugar in the food processor. Add the eggs and process till well mixed. Stir in the honey and then the ground almond and flour.
Carefully pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and arrange the apricot halves on top. Sprinkle with flaked almonds in the spaces between the apricots.
Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool completely in the tin. When cool, gently lift the whole traybake out of the tin using the baking paper.
Brush the top with a little warmed apricot jam to glaze and cut into squares to serve.
My go-to recipe for muffins these days is Matt Stone’s wonderful Greenhouse muffin recipe, blogged here. His book The Natural Cook Maximum Taste Zero Waste is one of my favourite reference cookbooks at the moment. This recipe works well, as Matt suggests letting the mixture sit in the fridge overnight to let the flour hydrate and the flavours deepen. The resulting texture and taste are exceptional!
I’m experimenting with different flavours for this recipe. This recipe features rosemary, a fragrant woody herb, which gives the muffins a lovely intense aromatic flavour. I’ve used apples, and lots of cinnamon and ground ginger. I drizzled the muffins with a lemon icing, which complements the rosemary beautifully.
4 free-range eggs
280g raw sugar
200g apples, unpeeled and grated
150ml vegetable oil
10g chopped fresh rosemary
300g or wholemeal plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Enough icing sugar to make a lemon icing that will glaze the muffins, and drip a little over the sides
Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees fan-forced 180 degrees non fan-forced.
Whisk the eggs together in a large mixing bowl and once things start to get foamy, slowly begin to pour in the sugar. Keep whisking until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has doubled in size. Whisk in the apple, oil and chopped rosemary. Use a spatula to gently fold in the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and salt.
The mixture can be baked straight away, but Matt suggests leaving it in the fridge overnight. This will give the flour a chance to hydrate and the baking powder to activate, resulting in a more consistent muffin texture. The mix will keep for 3–4 days in the fridge too.
Grease a 12-hole standard muffin tin and line the holes with squares of baking paper. Spoon in the muffin mixture and press it down to the level of the tin.
I used my fancy new Silverwood molds instead – available pretty easily in the UK, but if you’re in Australia like me, you will need to go to Blackwood Lanein Melbourne to buy them. If you want to use a fancy mold, my advice is to butter and flour very carefully to avoid the muffins sticking. I actually butter the molds, stick in the fridge for 10 minutes, then butter again, and finally flour.
Here is a photo of the molds I used:
Place the tray in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes, checking with a skewer to see if the muffins are cooked.
Once cooked, remove the muffins from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 5–10 minutes. Remove them from the tin, peel off the baking paper and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the lemon glaze, mix the lemon juice with enough icing sugar to achieve the desired consistency.
Spoon the lemon glaze over the muffins, allowing a little to drop down the sides.
Here is another way to vary the basic cupcake recipe. I made some mini upside down cakes, placing some nectarine slices in the bottom of my silicon muffin molds. I sprinkled a spoonful of ginger nut crumble over the fruit then topped up with the cake mixture. For this recipe I used half self-raising flour and half ground almonds.
They were very moist, fruity and the crumble added crunch. The little cakes turned out well, helped by lining the base of each mold with a little disc of baking paper.
This recipe makes 6 muffin sized cakes.
1 medium nectarine (peach or plum would be great too)
3 ginger nuts biscuits
1 tbls plain flour
1 tbls caster sugar
1/2 tbls butter
60g self-raising flour
65g ground almonds
125g caster sugar
2 large free-range eggs
2 tblsp milk
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C or 160 degrees C fanforced. Spray the molds with baking spray unless you are using silicon molds. Cut 6 discs of baking paper and line the muffin molds.
Slice the nectarine finely and place a couple of slices onto the baking paper in each mold. Bash the ginger nuts into crumbs, and rub in the flour, sugar and butter to make the crumble. Divide the crumble mixture between the 6 molds, sprinkling on top of the nectarine slices.
Put the rest of the ingredients into the food processor except the milk and blitz till smooth. Add the milk while pulsing to make a soft, dropping consistency.
Spoon the mixture into the molds. Place the molds into the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes or until the cakes are cooked and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Cool the cakes for 5 minutes. Loosen each cake by running a knife around the sides of the mold. Carefully invert the molds onto a serving plate. Remove the paper discs. The fruit should be intact on top of each cake. If the cakes have risen unevenly, you can trim the bottom (the original top of the cake) to make them sit straight.
Serve as is for afternoon tea, or with cream as a dessert.
It’s late September, mid Spring in Sydney. Blood oranges are still available at the markets but not for much longer. This cake does blood oranges two ways – candied on the top of the cake, (which started off as the bottom) and whole oranges, skin and all, blitzed through the batter.
The occasion for cake was as a house warming present for a work colleague who has recently moved house – to my street – in fabulous Rozelle.
The basic cake recipe is the same as for my blood orange mini cakes:
Finely slice 2 of the oranges, discarding the ends and keeping as many slices intact as you can.
Dissolve 200g of the sugar in 1/2 cup of water in a saucepan, and bring to the boil. Carefully place the orange slices in the syrup and simmer them until they are soft and sticky. Remove from the syrup using tongs. If the syrup is not reduced enough, cook it for a few minutes extra to thicken – but don’t let it go to toffee.
Preheat oven to 170 degrees C.
Grease a 20cm springform cake tin. Line the base with baking paper, cut slightly larger than the circle base, making sure the paper comes a little way up the sides of the tin. This is as a precaution, in case the syrup leaks out of the tin.
Chop 2 of the blood oranges in quarters and remove each end. Blitz in the food processor until reasonably finely chopped – there should still be some small chunks in the mixture.
Add the butter and 200g of the sugar and blitz in the food processor. The mixture will look very curdled! Add the eggs and vanilla and blitz again, the mixture will still look very curdled!
Gently fold in the flour and baking powder, making sure not to over mix or the cake with toughen. The cake mixture will now look “normal”.
Place the candied orange slices on the paper base in the springform tin, as artistically as possible, remembering, as this is an upside down cake, that the bottom becomes the top.
Place the batter over the top of the slices. Gently tap the mixture to even it out. Bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and cool the tin on a wire rack. When the cake is cool (not cold), carefully turn upside down on a serving plate. Release the springform clasp, and carefully remove the ring. Even more carefully, take off the base and peel away the baking paper.
You should have a beautiful upside down cake with fruit intact! Brush the cake with the blood orange syrup, or you could serve the syrup on the side as a sauce.
Serve with whipped cream or sour cream or creme fraiche. I prefer the latter two as the cake is very sweet and needs to be offset by a little sourness.
This is a versatile recipe as it can be made in different sizes, served as a dessert or just as a treat. It’s quite easy to make – another food processor mixture which I love! The most time consuming aspect is soaking the raisins beforehand.
1 cup of raisins
1/4 cup muscat
125g self-raising flour
125g caster sugar
2 large free-range eggs
A handful of chopped walnuts
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup muscat
Place the raisins into a bowl with the muscat and leave to soak for at least an hour.
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. For small cakes, grease a muffin tin. Or, for a larger cake, grease a 20cm round cake tin. I happened to have a small square tin on hand, so I used that, as well filling the remainder of the mixture into muffin molds.
Put all the ingredients except raisins, muscat and walnuts in a food processor and blitz till smooth. Carefully fold the raisins and muscat and then the walnuts into the mixture. If the mixture looks too wet or sloppy, add a tablespoon or two more of flour.
Spoon mixture into the muffin tin or cake tins. Tap lightly to settle the mixture.
Place the tin/s in the oven and bake for 20 minutes for muffins, 35-4o minutes for the round cake tin or until the muffin/cakes are cooked and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. I cannot be more precise than this as the mixture has a lot of liquid and it’s difficult to judge exact cooking times.
Meanwhile, to make the syrup, put the sugar and water in a heavy based saucepan, stirring until dissolved. Then boil for 5 minutes without stirring or until the the syrup has reduced to stickiness but not toffee. Take off the heat and add the muscat.
Remove the muffins/cake from the oven and pierce all over with a skewer. Pour over the hot syrup.
Cool the muffins/cake in the tin/tins. Turn out carefully as the the cakes can be quite fragile with the infused syrup.
Serve with a scattering of raisins and walnuts in any left over syrup.
The cake is loosely based on a recipe from that program by Mary Berry. I substituted whole mandarins plus some marmalade for the all-marmalade version.
The cake is not for the fainted hearted, as it is dense and fruity and quite heavy. I think I would make the all-marmalade version next time. The equal quantities of butter to sugar made it a little rich, so maybe a little less butter would lighten it too. But if you want a dense and flavourful cake, you certainly achieve that here.
I filled and iced the cake with meringue buttercream. The Kitchenaid produced a stunning result! Mega rich!
200g unsalted butter, softened
200g caster sugar
4 large free range eggs
200g self raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 small whole mandarins, chopped and blitzed in a food processor
2 tbsp milk
3 tbsp chunky Seville orange marmalade
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. Butter two 20 cm round cake tins and line with baking paper. Butter the paper.
Cream the softened butter with a Kitchenaid or similar mixer until soft and creamy. Beat in the sugar gradually, then continue to beat until it becomes pale and fluffy.
Gradually beat in the eggs, beating well after each addition.Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl and gently fold into the mixture with a large metal spoon. When thoroughly combined, stir in the blitzed mandarins, marmalade and milk.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tins and spread evenly. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown and and a skewer inserted in the cakes comes out clean. Run a round bladed knife around the inside of the tin to loosen and then carefully turn the cakes out onto a wire rack. Flip to right side up. Allow the cakes to cool completely before filling and icing.
2 cupswhite sugar
2 cupsunsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoonvanilla extract
Place the egg whites and sugar into a metal bowl and set over a saucepan filled with about 5 cms of simmering water.
Heat, stirring frequently, until the temperature of the egg whites reaches 60 degrees C. Transfer the heated egg whites and sugar to a large mixing bowl or stand mixer. Mix at high speed until they have reached their maximum volume, 5 to 10 minutes.
Mix on medium or medium-high speed while pinching off small pieces of butter and throwing them in. Mix in vanilla. Continue beating for about 5 minutes until the meringue and butter mixture is completely amalgamated, thick and of frosting consistency.
Filling and Topping
Spread one of the cakes, thickly, with half the buttercream using a palette knife. top with sliced strawberries or other scarlet fruit, and a little fruit from any good marmalade. I used my homemade mandarin marmalade.
Top with the remaining cake, ice with the remaining buttercream, and decorate with berries and marmalade fruit as you fancy!