A Christmas Cracker!
Christmas bakes this time of year tend to be full of dried fruit and brandy, often dense, claggy and avoided by the vast majority of guests. Therefore, this year I have chosen to step away from the traditional fruit cake of Christmas past, and create a stunning centre piece good enough to eat!
Im not going to lie, making a cake look as good as it tastes is very important to me, however, fantastic flavour and top-notch texture is paramount if your bake is going to hold its own on that bursting banquet table!
Stepping away from the boozy, brandy-laced bakes I have opted for the deeply satisfying, winter-woodland flavours of toasted hazelnuts, christmas spice and a hint of floral rosemary.
Although hazelnuts’ sweet, buttery flavours and hint of cocoa make them a undeniable match with chocolate, the delicate earthiness intensified by toasting or roasting is something wholesome, rich and decadent in itself. Enhanced simply with the considerate addition of woody rosemary and festive spice this hazelnut cake is a this year’s present from me to you!
Merry Christmas all!
- 200ml milk
- 2 rosemary sprigs
- 1 tsp all spice
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 orange
- 180g unsalted butter
- 100g soft brown sugar
- 80g caster sugar
- 180g self raising flour
- 150g chopped hazelnuts, toasted
- 3 eggs
- 65g unsalted butter
- 50g soft brown sugar
- 2 tbsp golden syrup
- 160g plain flour
- 1/2 bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp ginger
- Chocolate hazelnut spread
- Dried cranberries
- Orange slices
- Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3
- Pour the milk in a small heavy-bottom saucepan and add the rosemary, spices and the zest of half an orange. Simmer over a medium heat and allow to reduce by half - this will take about 10 - 15 minutes - then set aside to cool. In the meantime, make the biscuits.
- In a food processor, place all the biscuit ingredients and blitz until they are combined and starting to come together. Tip out on a lightly floured surface and knead just until the mixture represents a soft dough. Wrap in cling film and chill for 5 - 10 minutes to firm up.
- Remove the biscuit dough from the fridge and roll out on a floured surface to about 1cm thickness. Using different sized cutters, cut out leaf shapes for the top of the cake - it is unlikely you will have to use all the dough. Place the leaves on a lined baking tray and bake for 7 - 8 minutes. Once golden, remove from the oven, set aside and allow to cool.
- In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugars until golden and fluffy. In a separate bowl combine the flour and chopped hazelnuts. Pass the milk through a sieve into a clean jug and discard of the rosemary. Add the eggs one by one to the creamed butter mixture - with each addition add a small quantity of the infused milk and a spoon of the flour and nuts to avoid the mixture from curdling.
- Fold in the remaining flour and any leftover milk to create a thick batter. Grease a medium-sized bundt tin before spooning in the mixture. Turn the oven up to 180C/Gas 4 and bake for 25 - 30 minutes, or until an inserted skewer is removed clean. Turn out onto a wire rack to fully cool.
- To assemble, spoon the hazelnut spread on the top of the bundt cake, using this to stick down the leaf biscuits in a wreath-style. Make your wreath look more realistic with the addition of fresh rosemary, dried cranberries and orange slices. Dust liberally with icing sugar.
- Always roast or toast your nuts - this is essential to enhancing their flavour.