Chocolate biscuit wreath cake
- Preparation and cooking time
- plus making the cake mix, dough and icing; 4 hrs chilling; cooling; overnight setting; 1-2 days drying
- A challenge
- Makes 1 x 25cm cake (serves 18-20)
Serve this stunning wreath as an alternative to Christmas cake. It makes a showstopping centrepiece dessert, and components of it can be made in advance
For the wreath chocolate biscuit cake
- sunflower oil, for brushing
- Christmas chocolate biscuit cake mix (see below)
For the holly gingerbread biscuits
- gingerbread biscuit dough (see below)
- plain flour for dusting
- 1 quantity royal icing (see below)
- green food colouring gel
For the poinsettia flowers
- 1 quantity royal icing plus 3 tbsp (see below)
- red and yellow food colouring gels
For the decoration
- 1kg chocolate fondant icing
- icing sugar, for dusting
- red sugar pearls
- STEP 1
Oil a 25cm bundt tin and line with cling film, ensuring there are no gaps and the cling film comes up and over the sides of the tin. Lightly brush with more oil.
- STEP 2
Spoon the biscuit cake mix into the prepared tin, pressing down firmly with the back of a spoon. Bring the cling film over the top of the cake, seal and press down firmly. Transfer to the fridge and chill until the cake is completely firm, about 4 hrs. Can be prepared up to one week in advance. When the cake is set, it will easily drop out of the tin with a sharp tap.
- STEP 3
Next, make the holly biscuits. Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Lightly knead the gingerbread dough and roll out onto a lightly dusted work surface. Stamp out 16-18 holly leaves using a holly-leaf-shaped biscuit cutter, re-rolling the dough as needed (you can use different sizes of biscuit cutters, if you like). Transfer the biscuits to a lined baking sheet, spacing them apart. Bake for 8 mins until golden, then transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
- STEP 4
Divide the royal icing between two bowls and colour with the food colouring – one should be dark green, the other light. Fit a piping bag with a small round nozzle and fill with 2 tbsp of the light green icing. Repeat with a second piping bag and the darker icing. Thin the remaining icings in the bowls with just enough water to achieve a runny consistency – when you run a spoon through the bowls, the trail should settle on its own by the count of 10.
- STEP 5
Using the icing in the piping bags, pipe the outlines of the holly leaves on the cooled biscuits. Use each colour for half the biscuits (you don’t need to use all of the icing). Fill a piping bag with one of the thinned icings, snip off the end, and use this to flood the gaps of half the biscuits (they should have a contrasting outline). If you like, smooth the icing into the gaps using a clean, fine, damp paintbrush. Repeat with the other thinned icing and remaining biscuits.
- STEP 6
Use the remaining icing in the piping bags to pipe over the outlines and central vein so they stand out. Leave to set overnight. The biscuits can be made up to one month in advance and stored in a cake box or sealed plastic container lined with baking parchment.
- STEP 7
Next, make the poinsettia flowers. Colour the 3 tbsp royal icing with the yellow food colouring gel, and the remainder with the red food colouring gel. Fit a piping bag with a leaf nozzle and fill with the red icing (the icing should be slightly stiff ). Line a chopping board with baking parchment and draw three 6cm circles on the parchment (you can use the bottom of a glass or a biscuit cutter as a guide). Flip the parchment over, then pipe three poinsettia petals as a triangle to fit within one of the circles. Pipe the next three petals between the first to create a six- petalled base flower. Repeat in the other circles so you have three separate flowers. Leave to set for 30 mins, then pipe a smaller set of six petals on top of the base flowers. Leave to set for another 30 mins.
- STEP 8
Fit a piping bag with a small round nozzle and fill with the yellow icing. Pipe a series of dots into the centres of the poinsettias. Leave to dry completely – this may take up to two days, as the flowers are quite thick.
- STEP 9
To assemble the wreath, knead and roll out the chocolate fondant icing onto a work surface lightly dusted with icing sugar until it’s large enough to cover the wreath. Use this to cover the wreath, then press into position and use a 5cm round cutter to remove the fondant from the middle of the wreath. Neaten and trim the edges.
- STEP 10
Carefully transfer the wreath to a cake stand or board. Place the holly biscuits on top of the wreath to create a flat surface, using a little royal icing to fix them in place. Add more biscuits on top. Carefully remove the poinsettias from the baking parchment using a palette knife, then fix to the leaves using more royal icing. Finish by fixing the red sugar pearls to the wreath with royal icing. Will keep for up to two weeks in a cool place. Take the biscuits off and enjoy separately, then cut the cake into wedges.
Christmas chocolate biscuit cake mixIn a large bowl, roughly crush together 120g digestive biscuits, 120g rich tea biscuits and 100g ginger nut biscuits. Mix in 100g roasted salted almonds, roughly chopped, 170g mixed dried berries (we used a mix of cranberries, cherries and blueberries) and 70g crystallised ginger, finely chopped. Put 300g dark orange chocolate, 200g golden syrup and 375g unsalted butter in a large saucepan and heat gently until fully melted. Pour the chocolate mixture over the biscuit and nut mixture, and stir until all the ingredients are evenly coated. Press into the tin as described in step 1.
Gingerbread biscuit doughIn a large bowl, sift together 425g plain flour, 1 tbsp ground ginger, 2 tsp ground cinnamon, ½ tsp ground cloves, 1 tsp ground nutmeg, 1 tsp baking powder and ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda. In a second large bowl or stand mixer, beat together 140g softened unsalted butter and 165g dark muscovado sugar until light and fluffy. Combine 1 large egg yolk with 165g black treacle, 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1-2 tbsp milk. Whisk into the butter and sugar mixture, then add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and mix until the dough just comes together. Wrap well and chill for 30 mins before using.
Royal icingLightly whisk 3 large egg whites in a large, clean bowl until frothy. Add 500-600g icing sugar and beat until the icing resembles whipped cream. Squeeze in 3 tbsp lemon juice through a tea strainer or fine mesh sieve and continue beating until smooth and glossy. The icing should be mallowy and not too stiff – aim for a consistency like freshly whipped cream. If it looks grainy, add a little more egg white or cool water.
Recipe adapted from Everyday Bakes to Showstopper Cakes by Mich Turner (£20, Frances Lincoln). Photographs © Lisa Linder