21 December 2015

Chocolate & Cranberry Alternative Christmas Cake with Lindt

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer
Had a very shiny nose
And if you ever saw it
You would even say it glows
Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer

I'm not going to lie, after my birthday last weekend I feel like I have overindulged and been absolutely spoilt rotten already, I'm not sure I'm ready for Christmas (who am I kidding?!). Last Saturday, my friends and I went for brunch at Marcus Wareing's restaurant Tredwells (post to follow but in summary amazing cocktails, great company and some great food albeit in quite small tasting portions!), before chilling out at the Southbank Christmas market and laughing the day away with a fair few glasses of prosecco/hot rum/mulled wine in hand. It was exactly how I wanted to spend my birthday, just having a relaxed care free today with my closest friends...and Han Solo. Oh my God, have you seen it? Are you a huge fan? I love all of the old 70s Star Wars films, me and my brother were obsessed with it growing up, and Princess Leia was my ultimate role model. Yeah, she's a princess who occasionally needs rescuing, but she also does the rescuing, leads the rebellion, fights on the front line and sets herself free (after strangling Jabba the Hut). In my eyes, that's a perfect role model (maybe minus the strangling but desperate times call for desperate measures). 

Anyway, instead of a birthday cake this year, because we were out eating lots of goodies all day Saturday at the Christmas market, I decided to make a cake for our Friendmas on the Sunday, where me and my friends exchanged presents, ate 'Christmas' dinner together (basically lots of brie) and went to my friend's carol service. Because the lovely Mai at Lindt had sent me a box of Christmas chocolates, I knew it has to be a chocolate cake, plus you know it was my birthday weekend and I love chocolate cake. One of my favourite cakes is black forest gateau, but obviously cherries aren't in season right now, so I decided to make a cranberry butter icing to adorn my cake and up the festive factor. In the box from Lindt I also had a couple of reindeer which I thought would be perfect cake toppers, they're good on their own but again birthday gal's cake means birthday gal's rules and that means covering them in glitter and lots of it. 

My boyfriend, Dan, has been getting a bit frustrated with the amount of glitter in our lives, since I wrapped all our presents (need gift wrap inspiration? See the post here). He's pretty much had glitter living in his beard for a couple of weeks now, which has only worsened following the introduction of boxes full of chocolate with glitter in from Lindt and you know glitter boots (sayyyy whaaat, amazing birthday present to myself seen here! I adore them). But Christmas is a time for a bit of sparkle so I flaunted his no more glitter rule and went full steam ahead painting my Lindt reindeer with gold glitter dust, because I'm a rebel with a festive cause. And that festive cause is Friendmas!

Be prepared for me to drag out my birthday for a while, you know the fact I'm older, wiset and generally have come into my face, as I have yet to see my family and I know I've got a couple of presents coming that way. Which I'm sure I will get overly excited about and post on twitter. This year I was so happy that so many of my friends showed up for brunch, they all mean the world to me and I'm so lucky to have such great friends from all the stages of my life (who let this sap in? I won't let it happen again. Blame it on the mulled wine). They are true ladies and gents, and I've been absolutely spoilt by them. I mean, I don't want to brag (I so do) but they're all pretty awesome and I got some pretty amazing gifts too (I'm basically setting up my own branch of Anthropologie in my house).

In short of becoming an emotional wreck, this cake was my thank-you-to-my-girlfriends-for-being-great contribution to Friendmas dinner, along with a couple of wheels of brie. It pretty much has everything we love, chocolate, kitschy animals, glitter and you know as feminists we all love pink. It was absolutely delicious, very chocolatey but the icing is quite tart which lifts the cake. Its a great alternative to Christmas cake if you're not a fan (which I can honestly say I'm not). My first baking memory, was making a fruit cake for Christmas at my Dad's and taking it out of the oven with my bare hands, which has kinda put me off making it again. And also, why is it always dry? I mean I love Christmas pudding, and it's pretty much the same ingredients but that is fabulous compared to this weird dry cake. I also more recently tried to make one using a Delia Smith recipe, because everyone says if you can't make it try Delia's recipe. Delia's recipe just did not work for me. I even bought her kit, something I never do is buy cake kits because half the fun is in the making, and that was just a disaster. 

So if like me, you can't bake/won't bake/hate Christmas Cake, give this a go instead. It is sweet and fruity with a good chocolate hit, and everyone loves Rudolph. I mean if he's good enough to be Santa's favourite he's definitely mine. Give it a go!

Chocolate & Cranberry Cake
(serves 8-10)

For the cake
150g butter
150g caster sugar
170g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
3 eggs
200g milk chocolate (I used Lindt Excellence Extra Creamy)
2 1/2 tbsps nutella

For the cranberry icing
150g cranberries
1 1/2 tbsps water
1 tsp vanilla paste
3 tbsps caster sugar
70g butter
160g icing sugar
Freeze dried raspberry pieces
Gold glitter dust
A couple of Lindt reindeers if wanted

Step 1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a cake tin with baking paper. 

Step 2. To make the cake, mix together the eggs and 150g caster sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy. Melt the butter, nutella and chocolate, I just do mine low and slow in a saucepan but use whatever method you want. Once melted, pour the chocolatey butter into the bowl and stir till combined, then fold in the flour and baking powder. Pour the cake mix into the lined tin and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes.

Step 3. While the cake is baking, make the cranberry jam. In a saucepan, cook the cranberries, 3 tbsps caster sugar and water on a medium heat, stirring regularly for 10-15 minutes till the berries have burst and it's starting to come together as a jam. For this icing, I like to sieve the jam and get rid of the berry skins and just having the colour and flavour. 

Step 4. Cream the butter and icing sugar together, then add the vanilla paste and sieved cranberry jam and stir. 

Step 5. Once the cake is ready and a skewer comes out clean. Take it out the tin and leave it to cool.While the cake is cooling, if you're a glitter fanatic like me, unwrap your Lindt chocolate reindeer and paint it with your gold glitter dust. To make Rudolph place a dollop of cranberry icing on the reindeer's nose and press a couple of freeze-dried raspberry pieces, and voila instant Rudolph. 

Step 6. Once the cake is cool, turn it upside down and ice it with your cranberry icing, you can sprinkle some more freeze-dried raspberries round the edge of the cake and place the reindeer in the centre, or wherever (go off-piste if you want).

Step 7. Cake done, bit Rudolph's head of and relish in Christmas. Sharing cake optional.

I am so full from this weekend. There's many treats in my office at the moment and I just can't face them. Part of it is 100% my fault, overindulging on my birthday weekend, eating way too much chocolate, I've got enough to keep me going till Easter. Although I'm taking a bit of a chill this week and eating a bit healthier, its all the calm before the storm when Christmas hits and I lose all restraint. Have you got all your Christmas recipes down? If so, drop me a comment below I'd love to see them and get a bit of inspiration for Christmas Day at our house. Present wise, I've finally got everyone a present, including my youngest brother, so I'm feeling pretty great myself (so arrogant!). If anyone is looking for last minute gift ideas for me, anything from Anthropologie to add to my store works. Honestly I was so spoilt for my birthday, highlights include the cutest ceramic rolling pin you've ever seen, silver leaf cranberry jelly from Fortnum and Mason, so many candles and a pretty swanky new camera strap. Plus these boots, from Dan, my ultimate favourite man and best present buyer ever. Being mid-twenties isn't all bad...

Thanks to Mai who works for Lindt and the chocolate gurus themselves (Lindt, that's you!) for sending me a box of the finest Christmassy chocolate around and for helping me get into the festive spirit. All opinions are from yours truly!

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