Sweeten up the festivities

Sweeten up the festivities

Posted 16th Dec 2015

Christmas is a time for indulging and there's really no sweeter treat than these scrumptious cakes, bakes and desserts to make

Luxury Christmas Cake

Serves 12-16

For the cake:
12 tablespoons whisky or brandy
1 medium orange, juiced and zested
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Lyle’s golden syrup
2 level teaspoons mixed spice
450g raisins
225g dried cranberries
110g prunes, roughly chopped
50g glacé cherries, halved, rinsed, dried and finely chopped
110g chopped candied peel
50g blanched almonds, roughly chopped
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g Lyle’s golden syrup
125g Tate & Lyle Fairtrade dark Muscovado cane sugar
250g self-raising flour
5 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
½ level teaspoon salt

For feeding the cake:
Approx. 225ml whisky or brandy

For the decoration:
3 rounded tablespoons smooth apricot jam
1 tablespoon water
500g white marzipan
Tate & Lyle Fairtrade icing cane sugar, to dust
500g white fondant icing
A few silver edible cake pearls
Edible cake glue or Tate & Lyle Fairtrade icing cane sugar and water

You will also need:
20cm (8”) round cake tin, greased and the base and sides lined with a double thickness of baking parchment, plus a double thick layer for covering the top 25.5cm (10”) round cake board
6cm (2½”) snowflake cutter
Glass-headed pins

1. Combine the whisky or brandy, the orange juice and zest, vanilla, 1 tablespoon of Lyle’s golden syrup and the mixed spice in a large saucepan, and shake to mix. Add the raisins, cranberries, prunes, cherries, candied peel and nuts. Stir, bring to just under the boil, then reduce the heat down to a simmer and gently cook for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice, until all the liquid has been absorbed and the fruit has plumped up. Leave to cool.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 140°C/120°C Fan/275°F/Gas Mark 1 with the shelf set on the middle. In a large mixing bowl, using a wooden spoon, cream together the butter, Lyle’s golden syrup and the Tate & Lyle dark Muscovado sugar, then add the flour, eggs and salt and mix well until smooth. Next, stir in the fruit mixture until well combined.

3. Spoon into the prepared cake tin, level the surface with the back of the spoon and make a gentle hollow in the middle which helps prevent the cake from peaking too much. Bake for 3 hours then cover with the parchment paper. Bake the cake for a further 20-30 minutes or until the centre springs back when lightly touched.

4. Cool the cake in its tin for 30 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling and peel off the paper. If you have the time you can feed the cake with whisky or brandy at intervals over a month to enrich it. Poke holes in the cake with a fine skewer or cocktail stick and then drip about 2 tablespoons of the alcohol over the top each time. Wrap in foil between feeding the cake and store in an airtight container where it will last for up to 3 months. Transfer the cake to the board.

5. Heat the jam and water in a small pan for 2-3 minutes, stir to combine, then brush all over the cake.

6. Roll out the marzipan on a surface dusted with Tate & Lyle icing sugar to slightly larger than the cake. Cover the cake, cut away the excess and leave out to dry. One day later, repeat using the fondant.

7. Thinly re-roll the excess fondant – you should have about 95g left. Stamp out 8 snowflakes with the cutter dipping it into a little Tate & Lyle icing sugar each time. Use the edible ‘glue’ to stick the snowflakes around the edge of the cake. Alternatively mix 1 tablespoon of Tate & Lyle icing sugar with a drop of water to make a ‘glue’ and use instead. Using the ‘glue’, stick the silver balls onto the snowflakes. Leave to dry for a minimum of 2 hours before storing in an airtight container.

8. Wind the ribbon around the base of the cake, cut to fit and secure with pins. Serve.



Mint Chocolate Christmas Pudding

Serves 8

110g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra to grease
110g soft light brown sugar
2 medium Waitrose British Blacktail free-range eggs
80g plain flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
40g cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons milk

For the sauce:
150g After Eight mints (half a box)
100ml double cream

1. Grease a 1 litre pudding basin with plenty of butter so the pudding turns out cleanly. Lay a sheet of tin foil just bigger than the basin on a work surface, then lay a sheet of baking parchment the same size over the top. Grease the paper and fold a pleat into the centre to allow the pudding room to expand.

2. In a stand mixer, or with a handheld electric whisk, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat again, before adding all of the dry ingredients and mixing to combine. Then pour in the milk and beat for a further minute before spooning into the pudding basin. Top with the foil and parchment, securing with string round the bowl.

3. Put the pudding into a large, deep pan and pour boiling water into the pan until it reaches halfway up the side of the basin. Cover with a lid, bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Add more boiling water as necessary, to make sure the pan doesn’t boil dry during the cooking process. Steam for 1½ hours, or until the sponge is firm and well risen.

4. To make the sauce, put the mints and cream into a small pan over a low heat, stirring until the chocolates have melted and the sauce is smooth.

5. Tip the pudding onto a plate, pour the hot sauce over the top and decorate with candy canes or mint sweets before serving.



Heston's Mulled Cider Trifle

Serves 14-16

For the mulled cider jelly:
800g Heston from Waitrose spiced mulled cider
200g vermouth
100g golden caster sugar
4 lemons, zest and juice
32g gelatine leaf

90g plain flour
85g ground almonds
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1½ tablespoons ground ginger
110g unsalted butter, cubed and chilled�100g golden caster sugar
40g egg yolks
35g olive oil

For the spiced custard:
200g whole milk
400g double cream
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
200g egg yolks
110g caster sugar
2 gelatine leaves, soaked in water

For the macerated citrus:
1 grapefruit
2 lemons
4 oranges
1 lime, zest
1 tablespoon caster sugar

For the Chantilly cream:
3 vanilla pods, deseeded (discard the pods and keep the seeds)
2 x 600ml tub double cream
6 tablespoons icing sugar

For the candied citrus zest:
30g citrus peel, cut into small triangles
125g golden caster sugar
30g honey
Lime zest, to decorate

1. Combine the cider, vermouth and sugar in a saucepan. Allow to come to a simmer until the sugar has dissolved; remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Then add the lemon zest, juice and gelatine. Allow the gelatine to soften in the mixture for about 20 minutes. Put the pan back over a medium heat and warm the liquid until the gelatine is fully melted; leave aside to set.

2. For the biscuits, sift the flour, almonds, baking powder, salt and ground ginger into a bowl; set aside. Using a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed for about 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients.

3. Continue to mix gently until you have a crumbly texture. Combine the egg and olive oil, then add gradually, mixing well until all the liquid has been incorporated. Shape the dough into a rectangle and wrap in clingfilm; chill for at least 2 hours.

4. Put the dough between 2 pieces of baking parchment and roll out to 0.5cm thick. Place on a tray and put in the freezer for 20 minutes.

5. Pre-heat the oven to 150°C/Gas Mark 2. Remove the tray from the freezer and cut out stars using a 7cm star cutter. Transfer the biscuits, well-spaced out, to a parchment-lined tray and bake for 15-20 minutes (bake any leftover scraps on a separate tray to crumble and use as garnish). Remove from the oven, leave to stand for 2 minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack.

6. For the custard, heat the milk, cream and ground spices in a pan over a medium heat. Bring to the boil and boil for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally with a spatula to ensure it does not stick to the base or boil over; remove from the heat.

7. In a bowl, mix the egg yolks with the sugar, whisk in some of the warmed cream to temper. Slowly add the rest of the cream mixture while whisking continuously. Return the pan to a medium heat and, using a sugar thermometer, heat to a temperature of 76°C while mixing continuously with a spatula. Hold the mixture at this temperature for 2 minutes.

8. Stir in the gelatine until fully dissolved, then place the base of the pan in a bowl of iced water to cool quickly. Transfer to an airtight container, cover the surface of the custard with clingfilm to prevent a skin from forming, and chill.

9. For the macerated citrus, peel and segment the grapefruit, lemons and oranges (reserve the peel for later), removing the white pith completely. In a bowl, mix the lime zest and sugar, then combine with the segments, cover the bowl with clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes.

10. For the Chantilly cream, combine the vanilla seeds, cream and icing sugar; whip until firm peaks form. Transfer the cream into a piping bag and chill.

11. For the candied zest, fill a pan half full with water and bring to the boil. Put the citrus peel into the boiling water and blanch for 5 seconds. Remove and place in a bowl of iced water to cool completely. In a separate saucepan, add the caster sugar, 125g water, honey and blanched citrus zest. Cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes, until syrupy; allow to sit in the syrup.

12. Assemble the trifle in a large, deep, flat-sided glass trifle dish (about 3 litres). Put the jelly in a piping bag and fill the dish about 2cm up with jelly. Lay the ginger biscuit stars around the inside of the glass, then place in the fridge for about 15 minutes or until lightly set. Next, pipe enough jelly to cover the biscuits. Place in the fridge for at least 1 hour or until the jelly is fully set. Push more biscuits into the jelly.

13. Put the custard in a pan over a low heat to soften slightly. Once the jelly is set, spoon or pipe the spiced custard on top of the jelly to create a layer about 1.5cm high; chill for another 20 minutes. Next, spoon the macerated citrus on top to create an even layer. Pipe mounds of cream to cover the surface of the fruit segments, then scatter the candied zest over the top. Finely grate over some lime zest, then crumble the leftover baked ginger biscuit mixture on top before serving.



Red-nosed Reindeers

Makes approx. 24

5 tablespoons Lyle’s golden syrup
50g butter
200g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
250g digestive biscuits, crushed finely
2 tablespoons Tate & Lyle Demerara sugar
300g milk chocolate, broken into pieces

For the decoration:
24 small red sweets
50g Tate & Lyle icing sugar
50g white fondant icing
Cellophane, for wrapping
Thin ribbon or raffia, for tying
Brown pipe cleaners, for the ‘antlers’

1. Put the golden syrup, butter and dark chocolate into a saucepan and heat gently, stirring often, until melted and smooth.

2. Add the biscuit crumbs and Demerara sugar, stirring them in thoroughly. Let the mixture cool for about 20 minutes, then form into about 24 balls, placing them on a tray as you make them. Chill in the fridge until firm.

3. Melt the milk chocolate in a heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Dip each ball into the chocolate, using two forks to help. Place them back on the tray as you do them. Place a red sweet on each chocolate ball to form the red nose. Chill until firm.

4. To finish decorating the reindeer’s faces, mix the icing sugar with a little cold water to make a thick glacé icing. Make tiny white eyes with the fondant icing, fixing them in place with a little glacé icing. Pierce a fine skewer or cocktail stick in the centre of each eye, to look like the pupils.

5. Wrap each chocolate ball in cellophane or put them into small sweet bags, and tie with ribbon or raffia for hanging them on the Christmas tree. Wind the pipe cleaners around the top, twisting them to resemble antlers.



Shortbread Stars with Mincemeat and Orange Brandy Butter

Makes 25

225g Lurpak unsalted butter, at room temperature
110g caster sugar
350g plain flour
Pinch of salt

For the orange brandy butter:
100g Lurpak unsalted butter
100g icing sugar
Pinch of mixed spice
50g caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon brandy
Luxury mincemeat, to serve

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/Gas Mark 4. Line 2 or 3 baking trays with baking paper (if you only have 1 baking tray, cook in batches).

2. Beat together the butter and caster sugar until combined, using a wooden spoon. Add the flour and salt and work it in with the wooden spoon, then use your hand to bring the mixture together.

3. Turn out the dough and knead for a few moments until smooth – but avoid over-handling. Roll out on a lightly floured surface and stamp out biscuits with a star-shaped cutter (or just use a round one). Re-roll the trimmings to make about 25, placing them on the baking sheets.

4. Bake for 12-15 minutes until pale golden brown. Cool on the trays for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

5. Make the orange brandy butter by beating the unsalted butter with the icing sugar, mixed spice and orange zest. Stir in the brandy, then cover and chill until ready to serve.

6. Serve each biscuit topped with a little mincemeat and orange brandy butter.



Christmas Reindeer Biscuits

Makes approx. 20 biscuits

For the biscuits:
100g butter
175g caster sugar
2 Happy Eggs
2 Happy Egg yolks
50g ground almonds
240g plain flour

For the icing:
120g butter
250g icing sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk
Food colouring to suit

1. To make the biscuits, in a bowl mix together the butter and sugar together with an electric blender, until they form a creamy paste. Add the eggs and yolks and mix, then fold in the almonds and flour with a wooden spoon or spatula until fully combined.

2. Press the mixture into a greased tray to a thickness of about ¼” (6mm). Place in a pre-heated oven at 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 10-12 minutes.

3. The biscuit mixture is ready when it has just started to colour. Carefully turn out onto a sheet of baking parchment on a flat cool surface.

4. While still warm to touch, use a cookie cutter to press out the shapes but don’t try to lift them out until completely cooled, or they’ll break.

5. To make the icing, mix the butter (it's much easier if the butter is slightly warmed) and icing sugar together in a bowl, adding the milk as needed to make a smooth paste.

6. First, ice the biscuits all over with the plain icing, adding some edible glitter for a festive feel. Then add a few drops of red food colouring to the remaining icing, spoon it into a piping bag and pipe on his shiny red nose.



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