Not everyone likes fruit cake topped with marzipan and icing, you know.
If the traditional Christmas cake is not your idea of dessert heaven, this lightly spiced number could make for an excellent substitute.
(Makes 1 cake)
Salted Caramel (see below)
3–4 whole pears
500g plain flour
425g brown sugar
35g baking powder
285g butter, at room temperature
50ml canola oil
1.5tsp vanilla extract
2tbsp ground ginger
For the salted caramel:
550g caster sugar
100g coconut cream
320g sweetened condensed coconut milk
160g dairy-free butter substitute
4tsp Marlborough sea salt flakes
Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream (see below)
Dehydrated pear slices or slices of glacé ginger
For the Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
400g egg whites
500g caster sugar
850g butter, at room temperature, cubed
2tsp vanilla extract
1tsp good-quality vanilla bean paste
1. Prepare your caramel ahead of time: Put a deep pot over a low heat. Add your sugar and let it melt, then stir the unmelted sugar in and allow it to melt again. Repeat until the sugar is liquid and starts to turn an amber colour. DO NOT LEAVE THE KITCHEN—it will burn in seconds.
2. While the sugar is caramelising, heat the coconut cream in a suitable bowl in the microwave for about 30 seconds, until warm. In a separate bowl, heat the condensed coconut milk in the microwave for about one minute, until hot.
3. When the caramel is an amber colour and all the sugar has dissolved, remove it from the heat. While whisking, slowly add the condensed coconut milk and continue whisking to combine.
4. Keep whisking until the condensed coconut milk and sugar have combined, then add the warmed coconut cream and whisk to combine. If you find that the sugar has seized slightly and you have chunks of gooey caramelised sugar, put the pot back over a low heat and whisk until combined.
5. Remove from the heat again and add the dairy-free butter, stirring with your whisk until it’s melted. Now use an electric hand-held beater to beat the caramel until the butter has completely emulsified and the caramel is silky and smooth. Sprinkle in the salt and stir through with a spoon. Pour into a heatproof jar and allow to cool completely before using.
6. Preheat your oven to 170°C (325°F). Prep three 18 cm (7 in) cake tins with cooking spray and line them with baking paper.
7. Cut your pears into quarters and remove the cores. Slice thinly, about 2mm, and lay in a single layer in the bottom of each cake tin. Cover the pears with caramel – just enough to cover them slightly, don’t go too crazy. You just want enough caramel to really caramelise the pears while the cake is baking. Set the rest of the caramel to one side.
8. Place the flour, cornflour, sugar and baking powder in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and mix on low to combine. Chop the butter into cubes, add it to the dry ingredients and keep mixing on low until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
9. In a separate bowl, mix together the wet ingredients until combined (that’s just the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla – not the remaining caramel). Add two-thirds of the wet mixture to the dry ingredients, and mix on medium high until thick and fluffy. Add the remaining wet ingredients and mix well until combined and fluffy.
10. Scoop the mixture evenly over the pears and caramel in the tins, then drizzle three-ish generous tablespoons of caramel over the batter in each tin. Using a cake poker (i.e. skewer or needle), gently swirl the caramel around in the batter. You don’t want to mix it in, just swirl it through.
11. Bake for about 30 mins, until the cakes are golden brown and a skewer comes out clean when you poke it into the middle of each cake. Allow to cool in the tins for five to 10 mins, then turn out onto cooling racks. Then chill overnight. Add your ground ginger to the remaining caramel and set aside.
12. Prepare your Swiss meringue buttercream: Place the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl. Grab a pot that is smaller than your bowl. Fill the pot half full of water and bring it to the boil, then turn it down to a simmer. Rest your bowl on top of the pot, and put a large spoon in the pot so that the steam can escape between the bowl and pot. Keeping the water just simmering, stir the stuff in the bowl until the sugar has dissolved into the egg white.
13. Once your sugar has dissolved, transfer the gloop to your mixer bowl. Whisk on high until you get stiff peaks.
14. Start adding the butter one cube at a time to the meringue while continuing to mix on high, until you have a silky-smooth Swiss meringue buttercream. Add your vanilla flavourings. Set aside at room temperature until your cake is completely chilled.
15. Ice your cake, using your ginger caramel as a filling between your layers. Decorate the top of the cake with dollops of buttercream around the edge—this will act as a dam for the generous amount of ginger caramel I am about to tell you to pour on top of the cake. Pour HEAPS of the caramel on top of the cake and spread out with a spatula. Decorate the icing dollops with slices of dehydrated pear or glace ginger.
Magnolia Kitchen by Bernadette Gee is published by Murdoch Books, £20. Photography by Lottie Hedley. Available now.