This gift cake has a perfectly moist sponge enriched with ground almonds and cocoa, wrapped in a decadent chocolate coating, and finished with a jaunty festive bow.
Marzipan acts as a gentle nod towards old-fashioned fruit cake, but the sponge is lighter, moister, and deliciously chocolatey. The unusual icing – made from a mixture of melted chocolate and golden syrup – is a doddle to throw together but tastes incredible. This gift cake comes with the added bonus of taking a fraction of the time to prepare than a regular Christmas cake recipe.
- To make the cake:
- 150g (5oz) butter, softened
- 150g (5oz) caster sugar
- 6 medium eggs, separated
- 150g (5oz) plain chocolate, melted
- 90g (3oz) plain flour
- 1 level tbsp cocoa
- 60g (2oz) ground almonds
- 18cm (7in) square cake tin, lined with baking parchment
- To decorate the cake:
- 200g (7oz) golden syrup
- 400g (14oz) plain chocolate, melted
- 4-6tbsp apricot jam, sieved
- Cocoa powder, for dusting
- 250g packet white marzipan
Set the oven to gas mark 4 or 180°C.
To make the cake: Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg yolks, one at a time. Fold in the melted chocolate, flour, cocoa and ground almonds.
Whisk the egg whites until stiff, and fold into the chocolate mixture. Tip the mixture out into the lined cake tin, and level the surface, hollowing the centre slightly. Bake in the centre of the oven for 40-50 mins, until firm to the touch in the centre, and a skewer comes out clean after being inserted into the cake. Remove from the oven. Leave to cool in the tin for 5-10 mins, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the chocolate covering: Stir the golden syrup into the chocolate until the mixture thickens. Transfer the mixture to a freezer bag and chill in the fridge until it solidifies enough to be able to roll it out – knead the mixture in the freezer bag occasionally so that the chocolate sets evenly. Upturn the cake and place on a serving plate or board. Spread the apricot jam over the top and sides of the cake.
Knead three-quarters of the chocolate covering to make it pliable, then roll out, on a surface lightly dusted with cocoa powder, to a square large enough to cover the top and sides of the cake. Lift over the cake, and smooth over the top, then press down over the sides, easing in the fullness at the corners. Trim away the excess around the base, and knead into the reserved mixture. Rub over the surface of the cake to smooth it.
Knead the marzipan to soften it and roll out on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar, and cut into strips 3cm (1¾in) wide. Roll the chocolate covering out on a surface lightly dusted with cocoa and cut into strips 1cm (¾in) wide. Lay white marzipan strips over the cake, as main ribbons, and press down well, without distorting the shape. Place chocolate strips on top and trim off the excess. (step-by-step image 4)
To make the bow: Take 12cm (4¾in) lengths of the strips, with a chocolate strip on a marzipan strip, and pinch ends. Make 8 loops and assemble on top of the cake to form a bow, pressing down well to secure in place. Use offcuts of marzipan to roll into long pieces to curl up and attach to the cake as twisted ribbons.
Top tips for making this Christmas gift cake
In a rush? Save time by using a real ribbon rather than making the icing bow.