Christmas in November – Amaretto and Dark Chocolate Bundt

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.
  • IMG_7036You 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.

Amaretto and dark chocolate bundt

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.


Blood Orange Bundt

I like this time of year. I realise I’m probably in the minority, but I really do like it. Frosty days, the days getting gradually longer, and blood oranges are in season. Maybe it’s the Sicilian in me (it is) but these little globes of blush-orange deliciousness are just magical. You peel one and you never quite know what you’re going to get. Some are all orange on the outside and crimson inside, some are speckled with red all through, some are blood-red at one end and orange at the other…but all are beautiful. And tasty. So tasty. Orangey with a tang, but with a sweetness that sets them apart from other oranges. The season is so short that when they come onto the scene you’ve just got to grab your opportunity and use them as much as you can. Eat them, make them into a salad (with fennel), juice them, marmalade them…and bake with them.

Blood oranges and lemons from Sicily

I got a delivery of Sicilian lemons and blood oranges from my Dad, just a few, and I was chuffed. Little did I know that a week later he would bring me a whole crate of the little round jewels!

I had a cake club coming up and was desperate to incorporate the oranges into my bake, even if the link was somewhat tenuous. After a trial blood-orange drizzle loaf cake that turned out okay, but nowhere near orangey enough, I plunged head first into making my blood orange bundt cake using the pretty NordicWare fir tree tin. It gave me the ‘trees and mountains’ link to the Winter Olympics that I needed for Cake Club theme.

ImageThis tin first came on my radar when I saw Nigella use it for her Spruced Up Vanilla Cake. Actually I think that might be the first time that Bundts came onto my radar at all. I just thought they were pretty shaped tins (which they are) but little did I know the world of Bundt that would open up to me in the future!
I borrowed this particular tin from my good friend Sarah, who is almost as Bundt crazy as me. Between us we have a range of lovely NordicWare tins that we swap and share. They’re quite pricey, as bakeware goes, but the heavy-duty quality of them makes it totally worth it. If you can find a friend with a passion and willing to share, I recommend it.

Next mission, the recipe. Lessons learnt from the trial cake, I set to creating. Here’s the recipe:


  • 350g self raising flour
  • 400g golden caster sugar
  • 225g unsalted butter (or Stork)
  • 225ml milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 blood oranges (zest of 3 and juice of 2)

Glaze and caramelised oranges

  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1 blood orange, thinly sliced
  • 250ml water


  • Preheat the oven to 160degrees  and prepare the tin with cake release spray and a dusting of flour.
  • Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, either with a stand mixer or a hand whisk.
  • Add one egg at a time and mix slowly, until fully incorporated.
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl. Gradually add this to the mixture, folding in slowly by hand and alternating with adding the milk.
  • Add the finely grated zest of 3 oranges (I like my cake to pack a punch of flavour. None of this delicate malarkey!) and keep folding. Don’t over mix or your cake will get dense when it cooks. Don’t worry if it is a little bit lumpy.
  • Add the juice of 2 oranges. When you add the juice, the mix will look a bit odd, but go with it and keep mixing gently.
  • Spoon the mix into your prepared tin, making sure it gets into the pattern thoroughly. Do not fill more than ¾ full.
  • Place in the centre of the oven and cook for about an hour – test it, turn it and give it another 15 to 20 minutes. Don’t worry about over-baking; Bundts are hard to burn and if you leave it an extra 5 or 10 minutes you’ll just get a thicker ‘crust’ rather than burn the cake.
  • Whilst it’s cooking, make your glaze and caramelised oranges. In a non-stick frying pan, heat the sugar and water slowly until the sugar is dissolved and it’s on a slow boil. Add the slices of orange (I used the zested spare orange from the cake mix) so they are in a single layer. With the heat low, cook until the sugar syrup is lovely and thick and the oranges are soft. Mine took about 20 minutes. It should have infused with the juice from the oranges and be a pretty pale pink colour. Take the slices out and cool on a wire rack. Use the syrup to glaze, but you’ll need to do it whilst it’s still hot.
    Oranges in the pan
  • When the cake is out, let it cool in the tin for about 15 minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack. Your cake should turn out of the tin smoothly, but don’t panic if it doesn’t, just turn it upside-down and let gravity do the work. If anything gets stuck on the tin, don’t worry, most things can be covered or repaired!
  • Whilst it’s still warm, drizzle the sugar syrup glaze over the cake.
  • Once everything has cooled, sprinkle the cake generously with icing sugar, pop onto a cake stand or plate and decorate with the orange slices around the base.

The result should be lovely, moist and full of orangey zing. If you make it, tell me how you get on.

Blood Orange Bundt

I’d love to know what you’re doing with blood oranges. Let me know!

Let’s talk about cake

Cake. Bloody marvellous invention. If you’re going to be a regular reader of my blog (and I hope you are) you’ll be reading a lot about cakes. Big ones, small ones, some as big as your head. Hang on, isn’t that coconuts?

It’s only fitting that one of my first blog posts be about cake, and more specifically, cake club. Clandestine Cake Club. You may have heard of us  – we’ve been on the telly (The One Show, more than once), the radio (local and national – even made it to Woman’s Hour!) and newspapers (those paper things that some people still read). As a group, the Clandestine Cake Club is only two years old but has seen a huge following develop in that time, which goes to show just how much people adore baking and are taking the simple pleasures to heart.

It only took one meeting to get me hooked and I’m now an organiser for the Manchester North group. We hold gatherings approximately every six weeks at a range of locations throughout North Manchester. We ask people to bake a cake on a theme, bring it to the venue (which is only revealed just before the meeting…that’s the clandestine bit) and then we eat and talk about cake. You don’t need to be an expert baker, just enthusiastic and hungry!
I’ve made some great new friends through it, and would love to share the simple pleasures with more and more people around Manchester (and beyond, obviously!). Please have a look at the site, register as a member and join a local group or two to find out more about it.

Here are the links for more information:

Clandestine Cake Club

Manchester North Group page

Our next events are on 27th October (An Autumn Feast) and 26th November (Cocktails and Mocktails)