The countdown to the big day continues – can you believe it’s almost December? You may have seen these cute little houses I posted earlier in the week and this is what they were for. A fruit cake is a wonderful thing, and as traditional as a Turkey and cranberry sauce, but it’s also divisive and many a member of the family would rather have something else … well here it is – the alternative Christmas Cake!
A light spomge is flavoured with all the scentes of Christmas – nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, mixed spice and orange – inbetween each layer is the smoothest of orange Swiss meringue buttercreams and it’s finished with a glossy, toasted Italian meringue. Atop sits a gingerbread ski resort, completing the festivities!
280g plain flour, sifted
170g butter, unsalted and softened
200g soft brown sugar
100g golden caster sugar
3 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp cocoa powder
SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
2 egg whites
150g butter, cubed, unsalted and softened
juice of 1 orange
4 egg whites
pinch of creamn of tartar
See recipe here.
Preheat the oven to 170c fan and line two 6” cake tins.
Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one by one and mixing inbetween each addition to ensure the mixture doesn’t curdle. Add the spices and orange zest.
Sieve the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder into a bowl and add a third of it to the batter before mixing for a few seconds and then adding half the buttermilk. Repeat the process and then add the final third of the flour. Scrape the bowl down and beat everything together to incorporate it. Split evenly into the cake tins and bake for 35-40 minutes on the middle shelf. Once baked, leave the cakes to cool before leveling off and cutting halfways so you’re left with four even layers.
SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
Put the eggs and sugar into a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Continuously mix until all the sugar dissolves – approximately 10 minutes. To test, take some of the mixture and rub it between your fingers. If you don’t feel any sugar granules, you’re done!
Off the heat, whisk with a balloon whisk on high until the mixture is completely cool and you get stiff peaks. Add in, a cube at a time, the butter while the mixer is still whisking. Continue until all the butter is incorporated and then add the orange juice. Once that’s mixed together nicely, it’s ready.
Mix 30ml of water with the sugar and heat to approx. 115°C – the sugar should be dissolved and it should start forming a syrup. Start beating the eggs whites until foamy and then pour the syrup – a slow and steady stream – into the egg whites. You need to go slow as otherwise it’ll cook the egg whites and that’s never good!
Place the first cake layer on a board or turntable and spread some of the buttercream on top. Even out and repeat with each layer. Once all layers are stacked, give the whole thing a crumb coat to trap in any crumbs and put in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.
Once set a little, spread on the meringue and level off with a cake scraper. Torch lightly with the blowtorch. Set atop the gingerbread figures and houses and any other decoration you’d like.