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December 2014 / Food & Drink / by Ann Hall

Marzipan no more

Christmas cake is like marmite: you either love it or hate it. If you’re a hater, but love a traditional Christmas, we give you our tantalising alternative: chocolate gingerbread cake. It merges all the traditional flavours; cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger; but with none of that nasty fruit or marzipan! And the best thing is, you can bake it just before Christmas, so you don’t have to remember three months in advance.

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake

Serves 8-10


120g unsalted butter
150g dark muscovado sugar
2 eggs
240ml buttermilk
100g molasses
270g plain flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda

60g cocoa
2tsp ground cinnamon
2tsp ground ginger
Large pinch of nutmeg
½ tsp salt
4 tbsp crystalized ginger, chopped
180g chocolate, roughly chopped

1. Heat the oven to 180C, and lightly grease 2 round 8 inch tins.
2. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and dark muscovado sugar together until light and fluffy.
3. Beat in the eggs, followed by the buttermilk and molasses. The mixture may look a little curdled.
4. Sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt, and mix until you have a smooth batter. Fold in the crystalized ginger and chocolate, taking care not to over-mix.
5. Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins. Bake for 35-40 mins, until a skewer comes out clean.
6. Cool on a wire rack.

Cinnamon and Honey Frosting


200g mascarpone cheese
50g unsalted butter
120g icing sugar
1tbsp runny organic honey
¼tsp cinnamon

1. Cream the cheese and butter together for about five minutes until soft and fluffy. Add in the honey and cinnamon and then sift in the icing sugar. Check the taste until you are happy with the sweetness, adding more icing sugar if needed. Beat until smooth.
2. Once the cake has cooled, level off the tops. Smooth some of the frosting over the bottom layer, then stack the second cake on top. Coat the top of the cake (and the sides if you prefer) with the rest of the frosting, as smooth as you wish.

Sugar Frosted Cranberries

The cranberries are best prepared the night before to ensure complete sweetness. However, a few hours are also sufficient.


75g fresh or frozen cranberries (not dried)
120ml water
110g granulated sugar, plus extra for coating

1. Make a syrup by simmering the water and sugar together until the sugar has dissolved. Place the cranberries in a bowl, and once the syrup has cooled, pour over the cranberries. Allow to cool completely, then cover completely and refrigerate for a few hours, or overnight if you have time.
2. Drain the cranberries (you can re-use the syrup). Place the extra sugar on a flat plate, and roll a single layer of the cranberries in it until coated, shaking the plate gently.
3. Place on some greaseproof paper to dry for about an hour. Once the cake is frosted, and the cranberries have dried, arrange on top in a random pile.

Photography by Stem and Ginger