Our Christmas cake

This cake is full of flavour and quite moist and will keep for a few months, but you can always adjust the spices and citrus to your own tastes.

for 1 medium-sized cake

1kg mixed dried fruit

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Zest and juice of 1 orange

1 apple, grated (with or without peel)

220g mixed peel

170ml whisky

250g soft unsalted butter

200g brown sugar (dark or light)

1 tbs treacle or molasses

4 eggs

200g plain flour

80g wholemeal flour

100g ground almonds

Pinch salt

1 rounded tsp cinnamon

1 rounded tsp mixed spice

1 tsp ground ginger

● A few hours before you prepare the cake put the dried fruit in a bowl and add the zest, grated apple and mixed peel.

● Pour over the whisky and juices. Let this soak for a few hours (or overnight if possible), turning often. You can add more juice or whisky, but make sure that most of it is absorbed by the fruit.

● In a mixer, start beating the butter and sugar until light. Add the treacle then the eggs, one by one, until well mixed. Fold in the dry ingredients and lastly the fruit and any remaining juice. Mix well.

● Spoon into a buttered and lined tin and bake at 170C for about 75 minutes until golden and a knife comes out clean. Cool in the tin before taking out. This cake will keep for a few months well wrapped in foil, or in a tin.

● Topping: by all means go down the marzipan, white royal icing and decorations route. But in my experience, very few people like or eat the icing, so we tend to decorate with dried and confit glazed fruit.

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Chocolate layer cake

This recipe is based on our marble cake, which we make all year round. But I have changed it to a layer cake with a decorative top which is great for this festive time of year and also for those, like me, who crave chocolate.

for a rectangle or round cake of about 26cm diameter

250g soft butter

200g caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla essence

4 eggs

280g plain flour + 1 extra tbs

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

70ml or 1/4-1/3 cup milk

100g good dark chocolate, melted

1 tbs cocoa powder

Pinch cinnamon (optional)

● In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter and sugar with the vanilla until very light. Slowly add the eggs, one at a time. When this is all well mixed, lower the speed and fold in the dry ingredients and milk carefully – do not overmix.

● Put about one-third of the batter into another bowl and stir in the melted chocolate, cocoa powder and extra tablespoon of flour. Mix well, possibly with a whisk, to get rid of any lumps.

● In a buttered and lined tin spread the white and chocolate layers, starting and ending with the white, keeping back two tablespoons of chocolate batter. Pipe this on top, swirling to create a pretty design. Bake at 180C for about 45 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.

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Linzer cookies

I am very fond of Austrian baking and this cookie is inspired by their traditional Linzertorte. It does not keep long, so is best eaten wonderfully fresh on the day.

for about 10-12 cookies

150g slightly roasted hazelnuts

3tbs caster sugar

225g soft unsalted butter

3tbs caster sugar

1 egg, beaten (or 1 large yolk )

1 tsp vanilla essence

270g or 2 cups plain flour

Zest of 1 lemon

3/4 tsp mixed spice or cinnamon

1/2 tsp cocoa powder

Pinch salt

Red fruit jam

Icing sugar (optional)

● First grind the hazelnuts with the sugar until quite fine. Put aside.

● In the bowl of a mixer beat the butter and sugar until well mixed. Add the egg followed by the rest of the ingredients and finally the hazelnuts. You should get a firm but soft dough that is not sticky; if it is, add some flour. Wrap this in clingfilm and put in the fridge to chill for about one hour.

● On a floured worktop, roll half the dough to about 4mm thick. Cut circles and place on a lined baking tray. Roll out the other half, but this time cut some smaller circles or something with a different shape in its centre. Use any leftover dough to make more pairs.

● Bake in a 170C oven for about 12-15 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch. Take out and cool on the tray. Spread some red jam on the first circles and then place the holed ones on top like a sandwich. Press together gently, being careful not to break this fragile cookie.

● We sprinkle icing sugar over the tops, but you can serve them as they are.

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Oat and cranberry scones

These have to be our favourite scones among all our staff and customers. When cranberries are not in season or to hand, we use blueberries or other dried fruits, especially dried figs.

Makes about 8-10 scones

125g plain flour

125g wholewheat flour

75g rolled oats

2 full tbs sugar

Pinch salt

Zest of 1 orange

3/4 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

100g chilled butter

75g dried cranberries

160ml buttermilk

1 egg, beaten

● Put the flour, oats, sugar, salt, zest, soda and baking powder in a bowl or food processor. Add the butter and process, or rub in until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. If you are using a food processor, empty the mix into a bowl.

● Pour in the cranberries and buttermilk and lightly bring it all together to form a firm but not dry dough. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 4cm-5cm thick. Using a 6cm cutter, cut the scones and place on a lined tray. Brush the tops with the egg glaze and bake at 190° for about 12 minutes until firm and golden.

● Take out and eat warm with lots of butter – and jam if you wish.

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New mince pies

We make some traditional mince pies every year, but for some reason the French do not take to them. I am also coming round to the view that maybe there is just too much sweet fruit in them. So for this year’s pies I have decided to keep using our mincemeat, but make them as we do our Eccles cakes. The result is still a mince pie, but with more pastry and less mincemeat. Messing about with two traditional cakes may be naughty, but I really like the result.

Mincemeat:

1 Bramley apple, peeled and finely diced

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Zest and juice of 1 orange

100g raisins, rinsed in warm water

200g sultanas, rinsed in warm water

200g currants, rinsed in warm water

150g mixed peel

200g dark muscovado sugar

4tbs marmalade

1 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp cinnamon

60ml-70ml whisky or cognac

70g vegetarian suet (optional)

In a saucepan, gently cook the apples in a tablespoon of water and a knob of butter until they start to soften (about four minutes). Take off the heat and pour the apples into a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well together. Let this marinate for about one hour or overnight before use.

Makes about 15 pies

Pastry:

300g cold unsalted butter

500g plain flour

1/2 tsp salt

about 1 cup cold water

To glaze:

1 beaten egg white

A little demerara sugar

● In a bowl or food processor, bring the butter, flour and salt together, but leave large pieces of butter (about the size of a hazelnut) to make the pastry lighter and puffier. Use the water to make it into a firm, but not sticky, dough. Wrap and chill in the fridge for at least one hour.

● When you are ready, divide the dough in half, using one half at a time. Roll out the dough on a well-floured surface and cut into 10-12cm circles.

● When you have finished all the circles place a full tablespoon of mincemeat in the centre of each one. Bring up the dough over the mincemeat, pleating it slightly so there are no gaps. Turn the circle over and press or roll slightly to neaten it. Cut a small cross in the centre and place on a lined baking tray.

● Glaze them with a beaten egg white and sprinkle a little demerara sugar on top. Bake in a 180C oven until golden, for about 12 minutes. Serve them warm, sprinkled with icing sugar – or just plain.

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Rose Carrarini with pâtissier Sébastien Gaudard, in Paris

Sébastien’s bûche de Noël

Christmas means many things to me: family, celebration and ideally rest – yet also, if possible amid the chaos, reflection. Every year I say to myself that this Christmas will be a modest and simple affair, but indulgence and extravagance always win. Perhaps we all need a little excess at the end of a hard year’s work.

Memories of past Christmases with my family are still strong, but confusing. As the children of Jewish parents, growing up in South Africa, we usually spent the day on the beach in the middle of our summer holiday, oblivious to the serious business of a true British Christmas.

It was only when we came to England, when I was 10, that the pressure to have a Christmas lunch began. My mother started timidly, but soon developed an ambitious mix of chopped herring, chicken soup, smoked salmon, roast turkey and vegetables, mince pies and Christmas pudding.

Now in Paris, we make about 50 Christmas cakes every year at Rose Bakery and somehow we sell them all – even if most of the customers are British or American. The French are slowly being persuaded, but it is hard to get them to depart from their usual bûche de Noël. Our street has five boulangeries-pâtisseries, each with a tempting display of iced bûches.

Among the pâtissiers on rue des Martyrs is Sébastien Gaudard, who opened his wonderful shop not long ago. I immediately admired his beautiful pastries, appealing for their ability to capture a traditional cosiness, quite rare in Paris. His bûche de Noël with cherry and pistachio, which he kindly shares here, is exquisite and delicious. It is so hard for me to choose between our Christmas cake or Sébastien’s bûche – perhaps I will have both.

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Serves 6-8

To prepare the day before

9cl (90g) water

100g honey

230g morello cherries

● Bring the water to the boil in a saucepan. Add the honey, then pour on to the cherries. Leave the fruit overnight in the syrup at room temperature. The next day, rinse the cherries thoroughly – ideally for an hour. Set aside the syrup.

For the almond génoise sponge

Sébastien Gaudard's bûche de Noël

125g flour

40g fresh butter

4 fresh eggs

125g caster sugar

50g ground almonds

Preheat the oven to 220C. Sift the flour and then melt the butter. Break the eggs into a stainless steel bowl and add the sugar. Put the bowl over a pan of boiling water to create a bain-marie, and whisk the egg mix vigorously until it reaches 60-65C. Take off the heat and keep whisking until it has cooled down completely. Add two tablespoons of the mixture to the butter. To the remaining egg mix, add the flour and almonds, and then carefully incorporate the butter mix with a wooden spoon. Spread out the génoise mixture with a spatula (ideally stainless steel) on to a baking tray covered with silicon parchment paper (40cm x 25cm). Put in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Once cooked, slide the sponge (still on paper) on to your work surface.

Pistachio cream

15cl (150g) full-fat milk

5cl (50g) whipping cream (at least 35 per cent fat)

2 egg yolks

35g caster sugar

15g corn starch

½ Madagascar vanilla pod

55g fresh butter

10g (1 coffee spoon) cherry brandy

20g (2 coffee spoons) pistachio paste

Bring the milk and cream to the boil. Add the egg yolks, sugar and corn starch. Take off the heat and add the grains from the vanilla pod and then the pod itself, folded in half. Add a little hot water, then transfer the mix to a saucepan and bring to the boil. Pour into a large bowl and leave until tepid. Remove the vanilla pod and add the butter, which should be creamed and at room temperature. Add the pistachio paste and the brandy.

To assemble

Brush the sponge with the cherry syrup. Smooth on the pistachio cream evenly and then dot with cherries. Roll up the sponge to make a 25cm-long log. Refrigerate for two hours.

To decorate

150g butter, 1 coffee spoon of pistachio cream and 1tbs honey, creamed together

Slather the bûche with the butter cream. Create a bark effect with the back of a spoon. Refrigerate for 10 minutes. Heat a large knife with hot water, cut off the ends of the log cleanly and decorate.

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