Wednesday 21 August 2019

Recipes: Let them eat cake & pies, says Darina Allen

Light Christmas Cake
Light Christmas Cake
Yule Log
Mince Pies
Darina Allen

Darina Allen puts a delicious twist on some festive favourites

Light Christmas Cake

This light fruit cake was Mummy's favourite. She used royal icing and made a snow scene with Santa standing on top - thanks for the memories. makes 35 pieces


50g (2oz) whole almonds

200g (7oz) sultanas

200g (7oz) raisins

100g (3½ oz) homemade chopped candied peel

50g (2oz) currants

50g (2oz) real glacé cherries, cut in quarters

50g (2oz) ground almonds

225g (8oz) butter, softened

225g (8oz) caster sugar

4 large or 5 small eggs, preferably free-range and organic

Grated rind of 1 orange

275g (10oz) plain flour

A pinch of salt

1/8 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp milk

almond paste

175g (6oz) caster sugar

175g (6oz) ground almonds

1 small egg, preferably free-range

2 tsp whiskey

1 drop of almond extract

1 egg white, beaten, or apricot jam

Icing sugar, for dusting the worktop

Fondant icing

Vodka, for brushing over the almond paste

600g (1¼lb) ready-to-roll fondant icing


Santas, candied angelica or holly leaves (optional)


Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2. Line a 20.5cm x 30.5cm (8in x 12in) cake tin that is 5cm (2in) deep with parchment paper. Mum cooked this cake in an oval enamel tin with a lid.

Blanch the whole almonds in boiling water for 1 or 2 minutes, rub off the skins and chop. Mix together all the fruit, candied peel and the ground and chopped almonds. Cream the butter until it's really soft, then add in the caster sugar and beat until light and creamy. Whisk the eggs and add them in bit by bit, beating well between each addition. Add the grated orange rind. Sieve the flour and salt together, then stir in the flour and all of the fruit. Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in the milk and stir it thoroughly through the mixture. Spoon into the prepared tin and bake in the preheated oven for 50-60 minutes. Allow to get cold, then turn out of the tin and wrap in greaseproof paper until you are ready to ice it.

To make the almond paste, sieve the caster sugar and mix it with the ground almonds. Beat the egg and add the whiskey and almond extract. Add to the dry ingredients and mix to a stiff paste (you may not need all the egg).

To ice the cake, brush the top of the cake with beaten egg white or apricot jam. Sprinkle the worktop with icing sugar. Roll the almond paste into a rectangle slightly larger than the cake. Roll the almond paste over the rolling pin, then unroll it over the cake. Press carefully onto the cake. Allow to dry for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight.

When you are ready to apply the fondant icing, brush the almond paste with vodka or another non-coloured spirit. Next, apply the fondant icing. Roll it out slightly larger than the cake. Roll it over the rolling pin and then unroll it over the cake. Press lightly.

Decorate if you wish with Santas, candied angelica or holly, but it looks great just as it is.

Cut the cake into 35 pieces (5 across x 7 on the length) or to whatever size you prefer.

Chocolate Yule Log

Chocolate yule log is usually made with a chocolate sponge Swiss roll, but I prefer this sinfully rich version. There's no need for any icing, it's rich enough as it is!

Serves 10 approx.


5 eggs, preferably free-range and organic

175g (6oz) caster sugar

175g (6oz) best-quality dark chocolate (we use Callebaut 52pc)

3 tbsp water


300ml (½ pint) double cream

1-2 tbsp rum

Sieved icing sugar


Santas, holly leaves, etc.


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Line a shallow 30.5cm x 20.5cm (12in x 8in) Swiss roll tin with oiled tin foil or parchment paper.

Separate the eggs. Put the yolks into a bowl, gradually add the caster sugar and whisk until the mixture is thick and pale lemon-coloured. Melt the chocolate with the water in a saucepan set over a very gentle heat, then set aside while you whisk the egg whites to a firm snow. Add the melted chocolate to the egg yolk mixture. Stir a little of the egg white into the mixture, then cut and fold the remainder of the egg whites into the mixture and turn it into the prepared tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-18 minutes, until firm to the touch around the edge but still slightly soft in the centre.

Wring out a tea towel in cold water. Take the roulade out of the oven and let it cool slightly, then cover with the cloth. (This is to prevent any sugary crust from forming.) Leave it in a cool place. Provided the cloth is kept damp, it will keep for 2 days like this.

To serve, whip the cream and flavour with the rum. Put a sheet of greaseproof paper onto a table and dust it well with sieved icing sugar. Remove the damp cloth from the roulade and turn the tin upside down onto the prepared paper. Remove the tin and carefully peel the foil off the roulade. Spread with the rum-flavoured cream and roll it up like a Swiss roll. Cut about one-third off the roll at an angle. Lift the roll onto a serving plate, arrange the smaller piece so that it looks like a branch and dust well with icing sugar. Decorate with Christmas cake decorations, such as holly leaves, Santas or robins, sprinkle again with a little extra icing sugar and serve.

Ballymaloe Mince Pies with Irish Whiskey Cream

We have so much fun with mince pies and do lots of variations. Sometimes we press out a star shape from the top so the mincemeat is visible, then we use that star to cover the next one. A tiny heart can be put on top of another. All mince pies with a pastry top need to be brushed with egg wash before going into the oven.

Makes 20-24 mince pies


225g (8oz) plain flour

175g (6oz) butter, chilled and cut into 1cm (½ in) approx cubes

1 dessert-spoon icing sugar, sieved

A pinch of salt

A little beaten egg or egg yolk and water to bind

450g (1lb) Ballymaloe mincemeat

Egg wash

Irish whiskey cream


Sieve the flour into a bowl. Toss the butter into the flour and rub it in with your fingertips. Add the icing sugar and a pinch of salt. Mix with a fork as you gradually add in the beaten egg (do this bit by bit because you may not need all the egg), then use your hand to bring the pastry together into a ball: it should not be wet or sticky. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

Roll out the pastry until it's quite thin - about 3mm (1/8in). Stamp out into rounds 7.5cm (3in) in diameter and line shallow bun tins with the discs. Put a good teaspoonful of mincemeat into each tin, dampen the edges with water and put another round on top. Brush with egg wash and decorate with pastry leaves in the shape of holly berries, etc.

Bake the mince pies in the preheated oven for 20 minutes approx. Allow them to cool slightly, then dredge with icing or caster sugar. Serve with a dollop of Irish whiskey cream.

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