Mich Turner’s Christmas Wreath Cake
Not everyone is a fan of the traditional rich fruit Christmas cake, so I have created a recipe here that will excite your creativity and please your palate. Based on a delicious Christmas-infused chocolate biscuit cake, the components for this Christmas wreath cake can be made well in advance, helping you to organise and plan. The cake itself requires no baking – simply refrigerate until firm and then cover with chocolate fondant sugar paste. – Mich Turner
For the Wreath
1. I used the Wilton 10 inch bundt ring tin. I sprayed the tin with quick release spray and then lined all the sides with clingfilm, making sure there were no gaps and the clingfilm came up and over the outside of the tin.
2. For the cake itself, I melted 300g of dark chocolate (orange flavoured) with 200g of golden syrup and 375g of unsalted butter. Be careful not to let this boil; you can melt it either on the hob or in a microwave.
3. In a separate bowl, I roughly crushed 160g of digestive biscuits, 140g of rich tea biscuits and 105g of gingernuts.
4. I added 115g of roughly chopped roasted, salted almonds, 170g of mixed dried berries (I used cranberries, cherries and blueberries) and 70g of finely chopped crystallised ginger.
5. I poured the chocolate syrup over the dry ingredients and stirred until everything was combined, before transferring to the prepared tin.
6. Bring the clingfilm over the top of the cake, seal, and press down firmly. Place in the fridge until the cake is completely set and firm – this took 4 hours but can be made anything up to a week in advance.
7. Once the cake is set, it drops easily out of the tin with a sharp tap. Remove the clingfilm.
To Cover the Wreath
1. I kneaded and rolled out 1kg of chocolate fondant sugar paste on a work surface lightly dusted with icing sugar.
For the Holly Biscuits
Gingerbread cookies are wonderful to decorate for the holidays. Make them as simple or as intricate as you like – you don’t need to invest in a huge amount of money, time and skill to achieve a fabulous result that will build your confidence in sugar decoration. These spiced cookies are perfect for Hallowe’en, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Use your own cookie cutters to create decorations, gifts or birthday treats. This recipe makes enough biscuits for 3 wreath cakes or 1 wreath cake plus spares to serve on the side. (Makes 24 – 30, depending on size).
- 425g plain flour
- 1 tbsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- 1 level tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 165g muscovado (dark brown) sugar
- 140g unsalted butter – softened
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tsp vanilla powder (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)
- 165g black treacle
- 1-2 tbsp milk
Making the Biscuits:
2. In a mixing bowl, sieve together the flour, spices and raising agents. Add the vanilla powder here, if using.
3. Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl. Blend the egg yolk together with the black treacle and milk. Add the vanilla extract here, if using. Whisk into the creamed mixture.
4. Add the flour to the batter and mix until the dough just comes together.
5. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes to rest.
7. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
8. Meanwhile, prepare the royal icing. I used Two Chicks pasteurised egg white and icing sugar with the juice of a fresh lemon, whisked together to create a mallowy royal icing the consistency of freshly whipped double cream.
9. I separated the icing into 3 bowls and coloured them with different greens – leaf green, foliage green and Christmas green – but you can experiment to find your favourite icing colours. Keep these icings in sealed containers or in bowls covered with a clean, damp cloth to prevent the icing drying out.
Decorating the Biscuits:
12. Thin the other icings down with cold water to achieve a flooding consistency – this is where the icing, when lifted with a spoon, will trail and settle back to flat by the count of 10.
14. Use a paintbrush to move the icing to all the edges and pop any air bubbles that rise to a dark bubble just under the surface.
15. Once all the biscuits are flooded, use the original piping bag to pipe over the outline again and include a central vein. Leave the biscuits to dry for at least 8 hours or overnight.
(Store the remainder of the green piping icing to fix all the components onto the top of the cake when you are ready to assemble.)
For the Roses
I used a 50:50 blend of white petal or gum paste with sugar paste to create a malleable paste with extra strength.
1. Knead the paste and roll into a sausage approximately 3cm in diameter. Don’t use any icing sugar – this is important as you want the paste to be tacky but not sticky. Trim the end with a sharp knife, then cut 12 even discs, each 3mm – 4mm thick.
2. Lay these discs inside a plastic pouch which will allow you to shape and release the petals smoothly, without sticking. (An A4 plastic document holder is perfect for this – slit the long side and the base with scissors or a sharp knife so it opens.)
3. Gently press each petal with the base of your thumb through the pouch, then use your thumb to smooth out just one long side of each petal.
4. Open the pouch and take the first petal out. Turn it over and, with the delicate thinned edge at the top, gently curl it up to create the innermost centre of the rose.
5. Continue to add petals and shape around the centre – you won’t need glues or wires – the petals will be tacky enough to stick.
6. Once all the petals are in place, gently shape and tease the edge and trim the base of the rose with a sharp knife.
7. Place on a clean board lined with non-stick paper. I made 3 roses, but you could use fewer petals and make 5 smaller roses.
8. Once all the roses are made, spray with edible pearl lustre and leave to dry for a minimum of 8 hours. They can be made up to 3 months in advance and stored in a cake box or sealed plastic container lined with absorbent kitchen paper.
For the Candy Canes
2. Carefully take the ends in each hand and twist several times.
3. Roll out the twisted paste together with your hands to smooth, lengthen and elongate. Keep adding twists to the ends to add more stripes.
4. Trim the paste into 3 and continue rolling and twisting until you have 3 lengths of similar size, thickness and stripes.
5. Trim the edges with a sharp knife and shape into a candy cane. Leave overnight to firm.
To Assemble the Wreath Cake…
1. Start by laying enough biscuits on the top of the cake to create a flat wreath. Only once they are laid and you are happy with the spacing, fix each into position with the green royal icing in a piping bag (no nozzle – simply trim the end with scissors once the bag is filled).
2. Now build up the layers – adding the roses, candy canes and extra holly biscuits. Fix each into position with royal icing.
3. Finish by fixing small red candy pearls into position with royal icing and adding a festive ribbon tied into a bow.
This cake will keep for 2 weeks and should be kept cool, but not necessarily chilled. The holly biscuits can be enjoyed from the top and the cake can be served in thin wedge slices or cut into canape-sized squares. Happy Christmas! – Mich Turner