Saffron and pistachio Christmas cake
- November 2016
- Serves 14-16
- Hands-on time 3 hours, oven time 2 hours 40 min
Chetna Makan’s alternative Christmas cake recipe, made with saffron and pistachio, is lighter than the traditional version, yet it’s packed with juicy soaked fruit, nuts and beautifully balanced spices.
- 44g (13g saturated)
- 102.5g (86g sugars)
Per slice, for 16 servings
- 450g sultanas
- 300g dried cranberries
- 225ml brandy, plus 2 tbsp extra
- 150ml fresh orange juice
- 75ml milk 1-2 pinches saffron (depends on taste)
- 300g unsalted butter, softened
- 300g soft brown sugar
- 300g self-raising flour
- 75g ground almonds
- 6 large free-range eggs
- 1½ tsp ground mixed spice
- 1½ tsp ground cardamom seeds
- 75g whole blanched hazelnuts, toasted in the oven until golden and finely chopped
- 75g nibbed or green pistachios, chopped
For the decoration
- 5 tbsp apricot jam mixed with 2 tbsp water, warmed, then strained through a sieve
- Icing sugar to dust
- 500g pack marzipan
- 200g nibbed or green pistachios, coarsely ground in a food processor
- 200g whole blanched hazelnuts, toasted
- 300g caster sugar
You’ll also need…
- 23cm diameter round cake tin, greased with butter and lined with non-stick baking paper
- Extra baking paper, kitchen string, a heavy book (or two) and cocktail sticks
- Put the sultanas, cranberries, 225ml brandy and orange juice in a saucepan, then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Leave to cool.
- In a small pan, heat the milk and saffron until just simmering. Set aside to cool.
- Heat the oven to 150°C/130°C fan/gas 2. Wrap 2 layers of non-stick baking paper around the cake tin, rising 10cm above the rim; secure with kitchen string.
- In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale. Add the flour, almonds, eggs, saffron milk, mixed spice and cardamom, then beat for 2 minutes more. Fold in the soaked fruit, chopped hazelnuts and 75g pistachios. Spoon into the prepared cake tin, then bake for 2 hours 40 minutes or until a skewer pushed into the centre comes out clean.
- Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. While the cake is still warm, make a few holes in the top with a skewer and pour over 2 tbsp brandy.
- Once the cake is completely cool, brush the top and sides generously with some of the jam (set aside the rest). Dust a clean work surface wth icing sugar, then roll out the marzipan until large enough to cover the top and sides of the cake – about 3-4mm thick. Roll it up onto a rolling pin, then unroll it over the cake and smooth. Brush the sides with more jam (reserve the rest), then press on the ground pistachios.
- For the topping (see tips), pierce each hazelnut with a cocktail stick and put a heavy book (or two) on the edge of a work surface. In a frying pan, heat the sugar over a low heat for 4-5 minutes, without stirring, until it turns to brick-red caramel, then take off the heat. One at a time, dip the nuts into the caramel, twirling to coat thickly, then slide the sticks under the book(s) with the nuts jutting over the edge. As the caramel drips it will form stalagtites. (If the caramel in the pan starts to set, gently warm to loosen, then continue.) Once the caramel has cooled and hardened, carefully remove the caramel nuts from the cocktail sticks.
- Brush the marzipan top of the cake with the remaining jam, then cover with the caramel hazelnuts with their caramel stalagmites pointing upwards.
It’s best to make the caramel hazelnuts in a cool room (step 7). Put kitchen paper on the floor to catch any drips. It takes a while to make
them all, and they tend to droop after 2-3 hours. To save time just make a few or put extra ground pistachios on the top.
The cake will keep for a week in an airtight container (minus the caramel hazelnuts), or can be frozen, undecorated, for up to six months.
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