One of the best things about the Christmas season is the ability to mull pretty much everything in sight. I’ve worked my way through a mulled wine plum crumble, mulled chocolate truffles and mulled fruit compotes, just to name a few. This cake is no exception with the sweet cardamom acting as a canvas for the boozy mulled wine jam. Packed with plums, black grapes, orange and plenty of spice, this is my go-to alternative Christmas cake.
Reprinted with permission from “The New Way to Cake” by Benjamina Ebuehi, Page Street Publishing Co. 2019 (Photo credit: Holly Wulff Peterse). Available on Amazon.
Yield: 1 round 8-inch (20-cm) layer cake
For the Cake
1/2 cup (120 ml) milk
10 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
2 teaspoons (10 g) vanilla bean paste
2 1/4 cups (275 g) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon (15 g) baking powder
1 cup (225 g) unsalted butter
1 cup plus 2 tbsp (225 g) superfine/caster sugar
For the Jam
1 cup (240 ml) red wine
2 1/2 cups (400 g) pitted and quartered plums
2 cups (200 g) black seedless grapes, plus extra to decorate
2 cinnamon sticks
1 star anise pod
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 1/4 cups (450 g) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons (30 ml) lemon juice
Half an orange, thickly sliced
For the Topping
1 cup (250 g) mascarpone
1 1/4 cups (150 g) confectioners’ sugar
1/3 cup (80 ml) heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease two round 8-inch (20-cm) cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
- To make the cake, gently heat the milk in a saucepan with the cardamom pods and vanilla, letting it simmer for 2 minutes before removing from the heat. Cover, and let it cool for 15 minutes before straining out the pods. Sift together the flour and baking powder in a large bowl and set aside.
- Using a stand mixer or electric whisk, beat the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in half of the flour, beating briefly until combined, followed by the milk and remaining flour. Divide the batter evenly between the pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool for 15 minutes in the pans before turning them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- To make the jam, add the wine, plums, grapes, cinnamon sticks, star anise and nutmeg to a large saucepan. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes to soften the plums. Add the sugar, lemon juice and orange and boil for 12 to 20 minutes, or until it coats the back of a spoon. Remove the cinnamon sticks, star anise and orange slices and pour into a shallow tray to cool quickly. I like my jam quite chunky, but you can run yours through a food processor if you’d like.
- To make the topping, beat the mascarpone and sugar in a medium bowl by hand until smooth. Fold in the cream and vanilla and chill in the fridge until you are ready to use it.
- Level the cakes with a serrated knife if they aren’t even. Sandwich the cakes together with half of the mascarpone and a generous spoonful or two of jam. Cover the top and sides with the remaining mascarpone. Use a bench scraper or palette knife to smooth the sides of the cake, scraping off just enough mascarpone to let the cake peek through. Add extra grapes and a few dollops of jam.
Tip: The recipe will make a little more jam than you’ll need. Store what’s left in a clean glass jar or Tupperware for up to a month in the fridge.
Read more about Benjamina Ebueli in our article, “British Baking Star Benjamina Ebuehi’s Simple Recipe for Exceptional Cakes.”
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