These give you both Christmas cake and Christmas pudding in one perfect portion. The cakes are topped with a decadent white chocolate ganache to represent custard. Cranberries appear both inside the cakes and on top as ‘holly berries’, and fresh holly tips finish them off with traditional rustic charm.
Put all the dried fruit in a bowl. Add the brandy and orange zest and juice and stir to combine. Cover the bowl with a shower cap, clingfilm or plate and leave to soak in a cool place for at least 12 hours or, even better, 2 days. When you’re ready to bake the cakes, preheat the oven to 140°C/120°C fan/gas 1. Line the muffin tin with the tulip cases.
Using a hand-held electric whisk, or in a free-standing mixer, beat the butter with the sugar for 5–10 minutes or until very light and creamy. Beat in the treacle or syrup, if using. Break the eggs into a mug or jug and beat lightly with a fork. Gradually add the egg to the butter and sugar mixture, beating well after each addition. Sift the flour and spice into the bowl in a couple of batches, folding in each batch gently. Finally, stir through the soaked fruit, with any liquid left in the bowl, and the chopped nuts. Spoon the mixture into your cases and flatten the tops with a spoon dipped in hot water.
Bake for 50–60 minutes or until the cakes are firm to the touch and a skewer pushed into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before transferring the cakes, in their cases, to a wire rack. If you want to ‘feed’ the cakes, prick the surface with a cocktail stick, going about 3cm deep, then brush about 1 teaspoon of brandy over each. Leave to soak in while the cakes finish cooling. Once cold, you can store them in an airtight tin for up to 5 days.
Make the ganache on the day you serve the cakes. Put the chocolate in a medium-sized heatproof bowl. Gently heat the cream in a small saucepan over a medium heat. When it’s just coming to the boil, pour it over the chocolate and stir gently until smooth and shiny. Leave to cool – in the fridge, if necessary – until the ganache reaches a soft, thick custard consistency.
Remove the cakes from their cases and, if necessary, trim off any domed tops to create a flat surface (this will become the base). Turn each cake over and spoon the ganache on top, letting it drip down the sides a little – tilting the cake in your hand can help this process. Leave to set before finishing the cakes by placing the cranberries and holly leaves on top (be sure to remove the holly leaves before eating).
Recipes & images taken from Quintessential Baking by Frances Quinn published by Bloomsbury on 1st October, $45.00.
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