Christmas Cake


This is the third year in a row that I’ve made this cake. There are several elements of gorgeousness that keep bringing me back to it. The first is the chocolate, it gives the cake a decadent richness. The second is the massive pieces of cherry, and thirdly is the fact that the hazelnuts are kept whole.

This year I added chunks of chocolate as well as the melted chocolate. I also changed the 350g of raisins and 350g of sultanas for 700g of my favourite mixed fruit. Because my mum doesn’t like mixed peel, I also left that out, but doubled the quantity of cherries as we both love cherries.

This recipe was published in the Cook Vegetarian magazine, though I can no longer see it on their website.

By the way, the recipe requires you to soak the dried fruit overnight. The cake will last for at least 6 weeks, even without the alcohol.


Instead of 350g golden sultanas and 350g raisins, I used:

250g golden sultanas

150g dates

150g blueberries

150g cranberries

Instead of 175ml brandy, I used:

175ml apple juice

350g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing.

200g good quality dark chocolate (about 70% cocoa solids)

100g molasses sugar

4 large free-range eggs

300g plain flour, sifted

2 teaspoons ground mixed spice

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Finely grated zest and juice of 3 lemons

Instead of 150g mixed peel and 100g glacé cherries, I used:

250g glacé cherries

50g walnut halves

50g shelled whole roast hazelnuts

  • Soak the dried fruit in 150ml of the apple juice over night.
  • Preheat the oven to 150°C (fan 130°C/ gas mark 2).
  • Grease a 20cm diameter, deep cake tin with the extra butter and double line the base and side with enough baking paper so that the paper stands a little above the sides of the tin.
  • Cut the chocolate into small chunks. Put half into a heatproof bowl and microwave it for 30 seconds or until it has melted, then leave to cool.
  • In a mixer, beat the sugar and butter together until the mixture is pale and fluffy.
  • Add the melted chocolate and then the eggs, mixing it at a slower speed.
  • When everything is blended well, sift in the flour and spices and add the lemon zest.
  • In a jug, measure the lemon juice and the remaining apple juice to come to 150ml. Add to the mixture.
  • Add the dried fruit, the chocolate, the cherries and the nuts and stir in without breaking the cherries and the nuts.
  • Spoon mixture into the tin and level the surface. Cover the top with a disc of baking paper. Bake for 3 and 1/2 to 4 hours or until a thin bladed knife inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  • Let the cake cool down in the tin, then turn it out onto a wire rack. Peel off the lining paper then cover with clingfilm and store in a cool dry place until it’s ready to be decorated.

Trio lights


It’s important to remember that after covering the cake with marzipan, to let it rest overnight. If you don’t and ice the cake straightaway, the oil from the marzipan may seep through your lovely snow scene and then it won’t look so lovely!

450g golden marzipan

2 tablespoons apricot jam

450-500g ready rolled fondant icing

6 sprigs of rosemary

2 clementines

175ml caster sugar

Handful of golden sugared almonds

Gold balls

Icing sugar for dusting

  • Heat the apricot jam and then sieve it so that there are no lumps in it. Using a pastry brush, cover the cake with the jam.
  • Roll out the marzipan to about 3mm and so that it is large enough to cover the cake. Using a rolling pin transfer the marzipan onto the cake. Gently smooth the top and ease the marzipan so that it fits the side.

To prepare the toppings

  • Preheat oven to 170°C (fan 150°C/ gas mark 3)
  • Put half the sugar into a small pan with 5-6 tablespoons of water. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved, then increase the heat and boil to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  • Finely slice the clementines, including the peel. Put the slices onto a wire rack and set over a baking tray.
  • Brush the slices with the sugar syrup and put in the oven for one hour or until they start to turn golden.
  • To make be frosted rosemary sprigs, put 25g of the caster sugar into a pan with 1 tablespoon of water. Bring to the boil, stir, and then allow to cool slightly. Brush over the rosemary sprigs to coat completely. Sprinkle with the remaining caster sugar and leave to dry.
  • When the marzipan covered cake has been left for 24 hours, using a rolling pin, transfer the fondant onto the top of the cake. Trim off any excess at the bottom.
  • Tie a gold ribbon around the side of the cake in case there are any uneven surfaces or folding of the fondant. Place the clementine slices, rosemary sprigs and gold almonds on the top of the cake. Finish off with gold balls and a dusting of icing sugar.



Gingerbread 2

The Christmas baking has begun!  I made these gingerbread biscuits for the children of a very good friend of mine. I hadn’t made them before, but was pleased with how they turned out. Obviously, I had to test a few for quality control before I gave them away! The recipe comes from Mima Sinclair’s book ‘Gingerbread Wonderland’ which is being featured in quite a few of my food magazines at the moment. This particular recipe was in Woman & Home, Feel Good Food, Christmas, 2015. The only thing I changed was the shape of the biscuits; I would just use whatever shaped cookie cutters you have. Happy festive baking!

Gingerbread 1


160g runny clear honey

110g unsalted butter

50g ground almonds

250g plain flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 tablespoon ground ginger

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 teaspoons cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

To decorate

150g icing sugar

1 medium egg white

2-3 tablespoons cold water

100g dark chocolate, melted


  • Melt the honey and butter in a small saucepan over a low heat. Stir continuously until combined. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for 15 minutes
  • Heat the oven to 160°C/140°C fan/ gas Mark 3. Line 2 large baking tins with greaseproof paper.
  • Place the ground almonds in a large bowl and sieve over the remaining ingredients.
  • Pour over the butter and honey mixture and stir until it becomes a dough.
  • Roll out the dough to 2cm thick and using a heart cutter, cut into biscuits. Soften the edges of the hearts with your fingers. Place on the lined baking tray. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes, until just golden brown at the edges. Leave to cool for 5 minutes on the trays then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
  • Meanwhile, mix the icing sugar, egg white and water together to make a thin runny icing. Brush the lebkuchen with the icing. Leave for 15 minutes to dry, then repeat the process. Leave to set.
  • Dip the lebkuchen into the melted chocolate to coat the base and a few millimetres up the sides. Drizzle the remaining chocolate in a zig zag pattern over the top.

Gingerbread 2