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The perfect Christmas gift for you or a loved one
First, make the honey & almond sponges. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/ gas 4. Grease two 15cm cake tins and line the bases with baking parchment. Using a stand mixer or electric hand mixer, beat the butter, muscovado sugar and 140g honey until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs and yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition until well incorporated. In a clean bowl, whisk together the flour, almonds, baking powder and 1 / 4 tsp salt. Add half the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until just combined. Add the vanilla and milk, continuing to beat, then add the remaining flour mixture, beating until just combined. Divide the mixture evenly between the tins and bake for 45-55 mins or until a skewer inserted into the centre of each cake comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool for 10 mins in their tins, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Leave the oven on for the candied almonds.
To make a honey syrup, put 2 tbsp honey and 2 tbsp water in a small saucepan and heat for 1-2 mins or until the honey has dissolved. Set aside.
Make the candied almonds by heating 150ml water and the sugar in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan with a sugar thermometer attached, and swirl until the sugar has dissolved. Meanwhile, spread the almonds out on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 10-12 mins until golden brown. Heat the sugar syrup to 119C, turn off the heat and stir in the warm almonds. Keep stirring until the syrup coats the nuts and turns white and crunchy. Tip the almonds back onto the baking sheet and roughly chop half of them.
Next, make the Swiss meringue buttercream. Using a stand mixer or electric hand mixer, beat the butter until pale and fluffy. Put the egg whites and sugar in a clean heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Whisk using a clean electric hand mixer and heat the mixture until the sugar has dissolved (you can check this by feeling some of the egg white between your fingers to check that it isn’t grainy). Remove the bowl from the heat and, using a stand or electric hand mixer, whisk for 10 mins or until the mixture forms stiff peaks and has cooled to room temperature. Add the butter, 1-2 tbsp at a time, and beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Beat in the honey and transfer to a piping bag fitted with a 1cm nozzle.
To assemble the cake, level the sponges by cutting off the domed tops and split each sponge in half to create four layers. Fix the bottom layer to a cake board or stand with a splodge of buttercream, brush with the honey syrup and pipe a layer of buttercream on top. Gently press the second layer on top and repeat with the remaining layers. Cover the cake with a thin layer of buttercream, then use a palette knife to scrape the sides clean. Pipe a ring of buttercream blobs around the top, or spread a thick layer with a palette knife. Decorate with the candied almonds.