Citrus, winter spice drizzle and cranberry jam combine to create a modern Christmas cake.
This post may seem a little too late for Christmas but unlike a traditional fruit cake you could quite easily make this cake in just a few hours, but it’s best to leave the cakes to cool overnight if possible. You can make this as two 7 inch cakes and halve them to make four layers or do as I’ve done and make one 6 inch cake and cut into three layers.
I’ve adapted the recipe I received at the Fondant Fox masterclass because it has become my go-to sponge base of late and I wanted a really light sponge to replace the usually density of Christmas food.
Makes: one three layer 6 inch cake or one four layer 7 inch cake
Prep time: 20 minutes plus overnight if leaving to cool (decorating time separate)
Cooking time: 50 minutes if making the 6 inch cake, 35 if making the 7 inch cake
Ingredients – for the cake
300g unsalted butter, cubed
300g caster sugar
200g liquid egg whites
150g ground almonds
150g self-raising flour
zest of one orange
Juice of one orange
2 tbsp milk
Ingredients – for the drizzle
Juice of one orange
1 star anise
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground nutmeg
25g granulated sugar
Ingredients – for the buttercream
500g unsalted butter
1kg icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
zest of 2 oranges
For the filling
3 tablespoons cranberry and blueberry jam (or jam of your choice)
1. Grease and line your cake tin(s) and pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees.
2. Place the butter and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer (or into a large bowl if using an electric whisk) and beat until light and fluffy, this should take around 5-8 minutes, the mixture should be almost white and you should’t feel any grainy sugar.
3. Pour half of the egg whites in and whisk until the mixture is thick and bubbly, pour in the remaining half and mix again. Make sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl in between adding the eggs to ensure you catch all of the butter and sugar.
4. Fold in the remaining ingredients using a wooden spoon. Everything should be incorporated but you should avoid over mixing. Pour into your tin(s) and bake until springy and golden brown. About 50 minutes if making one 6 inch cake and around 35 minutes if making two 7 inch sponges but I’d advise checking from 30.
5. A few minutes before you remove your cake from the oven add the orange juice, star anise, dried spices and sugar to a small saucepan and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Discard the star anise. You could also use a stick of cinnamon to infuse rather than powdered cinnamon but I didn’t have any to hand. Remove from the heat.
6. Once your cake is cooked, remove from the oven and place onto a wire cooling wrack. Insert a cocktail stick or skewer into the cake at various points, try and keep it even, and pour oven the drizzle a tablespoon at a time. Be careful not to ‘drown’ the cake – you may not need all of the drizzle. If not, reserve and throw in with some mulled wine.
7. Leave the cake to cool in the tin before removing, if you’re leaving overnight then wrap in cling film and store in an airtight container. If you’re going to decorate the same day make sure the cake is completely cool first.
8. Start by levelling your cakes, I use a cake leveller but a sharp serrated knife works just as well. Leave whilst you make your buttercream.
9. Cube the butter and place into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat for 8-10 minutes until the butter is almost white in colour. Add in the icing sugar, vanilla and orange zest and mix until a light and soft buttercream has formed.
10. Use a cranked palette knife to pop some buttercream onto a cake board and place the bottom cake layer on top, less to adhere to the board. Add a generous amount of buttercream to the cake, followed by a layer of jam and top with the next layer. Repeat this step. Top with the final layer.
11. Once your layers are in place, crumb coat the cake by adding a layer of buttercream all over the cake before scraping away any excess. Chill in the fridge for around 30 minutes.
12. Remove the cake from the fridge and add your final layer of buttercream – add a thick layer and then use a cake scraper or a large palette knife to scrape off the excess. I prefer a cake scraper, I have a cheap plastic one I bought in a Lakeland sale and it’s perfect.
13. Decorate as you wish. I decided to add dried orange slices, fresh cranberries, gold pearls and a mix of freeze dried raspberries and golden sugar shards.
The cake will keep for 3 days, longer if kept in the fridge. If refrigerated, bring to room temperature before serving.
You should always try and get your butter as light and fluffy as possible to create a cake that is both light in texture and colour.
You can see where the drizzle has gone through every layer of the cake making a moist yet light sponge.
Buttercream should be silky soft. The key to a good smooth buttercream is all in how pale and fluffy the butter is before you add in the icing sugar.
I used a cranberry and blueberry jam to offset the orange of the cake and buttercream. When you add the jam, push almost to the sides but not quite all the way. You don’t want jam leaking into your crumb coat.
Layer two on – our cake is starting to take shape quite nicely.
Once the cake is stacked you can add a crumb coat of buttercream – I didn’t manage to photograph this step as I was getting in a bit of a mess covering the cake!
Once you’ve added your crumb coat add a thick rough layer of buttercream like the above and then scrape back for a neat cake.
When it comes to decorating you can keep it as simple or as complicated as you like. I only used stuff I already had in the cupboard to keep it easy.
From the 6 inch cake you should get 10 party size slices.