Christmas festivities should not start until December. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, but I have always disliked how it seems to be creeping earlier and earlier into the year, especially in the shops. The pressure to buy and consume is huge, even more so now with the sudden UK explosion of Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving in the USA. Retailers offer discounts on loads of items, causing mass hysteria, riots and even injuries. It’s mental! Whilst I’m all for a decent discount I hate the mob mentality Black Friday fosters and I disagree with it wholeheartedly. But I digress. Back to Christmas!
I have actually been feeling festive a little sooner this year. Maybe it’s because of having two children who are now old enough to understand it, even if they don’t grasp the more subtle messages of Christmas! I can’t really throw myself into it until the eldest’s birthday has been done, which it has now, so I officially give myself permission to start Christmas this weekend. I’ve bought a festive jumper, done some Christmas shopping and I’ve even started listening to the Michael Bublé christmas album (much to Mr H’s disgust). There may also be some wine-mulling going on this weekend. Oh yes!
Adding to the Christmas spirit was last night’s Clandestine Cake Club gathering. A joint event between all three Manchester clubs, we met at the lovely Proper Tea, near the Cathedral. I will add a link to the official write up of the event when it’s been done, but for now I’d like to share with you the cake I made for it. The theme was European Cakes – a nod to the Great British Bake Off European week, which we’d particularly enjoyed, a chance to challenge ourselves with something a bit different, and because the Manchester European Christmas markets are in full swing. I’d set my heart on baking something Italian, possibly even Sicilian, but Sicilian ‘cake’ recipes aren’t that abundant on t’interweb. What did take my fancy was something called Buccellato. It’s a ring-shaped pastry affair, stuffed with figs and other dried fruits, almonds, citrus and nuts, and oodles of festive spices. Brilliant. It also is pastry, which is something I still need to conquer, so it was going to be a good challenge. Having bought all the ingredients, I looked at the recipe in more detail…which is what I should have done beforehand, because the thing requires several stages of chilling: you need to chill the pastry, the filling, the assembled thing before cooking…given that I was starting this at 8pm on the night before cake club, I got a serious case of can’tbearseditis. So I quickly rustled up a Plan B. And not too shabby a plan B! I love Amaretto, and I love dark chocolate, and the two go together so well. So, a bundt it was!
It’ll be no surprise to you that I based it on the Build-a-Bundt formula from Bolton CCC’s Dollybakes, which is my most trusted bundt recipe. And I just made my own tweaks for the flavours. Here goes…
For the cake
- Butter or marge – 225g
- Caster sugar – 375g
- Light soft brown sugar – 75g
- 4 free range eggs
- Plain flour – 350g (plus a bit extra)
- Salt – ½ teaspoon
- Bicarbonate of Soda – ½ teaspoon
- Greek yoghurt – 250ml
- Almond essence – 1 teaspoon
- 50g dark chocolate
- Amaretto Disaronno – I used 100mls
For the topping
- 50g dark chocolate
- 100mls double cream
- 2 tablespoons amaretto disaronno
- Amaretti biscuits (hard) or flaked almonds
- Preheat the oven to 160 oC
- Start by creaming together the butter and sugars, either in a mixer (hello trusty Kitchen Aid) or with a hand mixer until pale and fluffy. This should take a few minutes at high speed.
- Turn your mixer down low. Beat the eggs together in a bowl and add very gradually, making sure each addition is fully mixed in before adding more. Go steady here.
- Next, add the flour, bicarb and salt together, alternating with some of the yoghurt and almond essence. Do this gradually. Some people prefer to do it by hand but I find the mixer on slowest speed is fine…just make sure you don’t over-mix it. Be stingy with the mixing!
- Finally bung in the amaretto and give it a quick whizz. At this stage, because you’re adding more liquid than usual, you might need to add a little bit more flour (hence the extra in the ingredients). If you feel the batter is looking a bit too slack, add a table spoon of flour and fold it in by hand. Sorry for being vague here but it all depends on a few factors…the consistency of the yoghurt being a big one, which is why I prefer Greek style for this recipe as it’s thicker. Basically just use your eye and experience and judge when you think it’s right!
- Split the batter by popping half of it into another bowl.
- Melt the dark chocolate by heating it slowly in a bowl, sitting over a pan of simmering water. This shouldn’t take long. Fold the chocolate into into one of the bowls of batter.
- Prepare you tin of choice (I used my trusty star shaped Bundt but this should work with most shapes). Cake release spray and a coating of flour.
- You can now marble the batters together however you choose. I did one layer of plain, one of chocolate, then another plain, chocolate and finished with more plain, then swirled them slightly using a skewer…but the choice is yours! You could do zebra layers, which looks ace, dollops around the tin…lots of options. Don’t fill more than ¾ full.
- Pop in the centre of the preheated oven and bake for an hour and 15 minutes thereabouts – I checked mine after an hour, turned it and gave it a bit longer…an hour and 20 in total.
- Let it cool in the tin for 15 mins then turn out onto a wire rack. Allow to cool completely.
- When the cake’s cold, make the chocolate ganache. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a simmering pan of water.
- Remove from the heat and slowly add the cream, stirring constantly. Then add the amaretto and keep stirring. You can add more cream and amaretto if you like, but not too much. I was sort of guessing at this bit!
- Drizzle this over the top of your cake in a stylish manner!
- Scatter the top with crushed amaretti biscuits or toasted almond flakes…or both if you like.
And there it is! Amaretto and Dark Chocolate bundt. We had a fantastic cake club christmas do, with some brilliant bakes. If you fancy coming along, we’d love to see you. Follow @MancNorthCCC on Twitter and join us on the Clandestine Cake Club website.