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How to bake a Christmas Cake (Part 2: Marzipan and Icing)

Has anyone else been eating actual metric tons of food this close to Christmas? I have, or at least it feels like I have. My calendar has been full of eating out plans – fun, but seriously – not good to be eating this much this close to Christmas. I’ll have to lose a hefty chunk of weight once we’re in January, or buy a whole new wardrobe.

 

Dec 15

Recent: an authentic Szechuan meal at Middle Kingdom on Princess street, delicious fried chicken & sweet potato fries at Yard and Coop in the Northern quarter, making meringues, and putting up my Christmas tree nice and early.

 

Anyway – it’s been 12 weeks, it’s a week until Christmas – which means that it’s high time to marzipan & ice your Christmas cake! Let’s get started.

 

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How to bake a Christmas Cake (Part 1: Baking & Feeding)

There are many funny things about Christmas in the UK, to the outsider’s eyes. The English like their traditions, especially when it comes to Christmas – certain foods need to make an appearance, otherwise Christmas isn’t Christmas. Think mince pies, roast potatoes, Quality Street, mulled wine. Christmas cake is definitely one of those foods – in the weeks before Christmas you’ll see it absolutely everywhere.

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Gingerbread with Almond Paste (Gevulde Speculaas)

If you aren’t Dutch, you probably have never come across this type of biscuit/cake – unless you’ve been to Christmas markets somewhere and decided to pay £6 for a slice.

 

If you have, then you will know how absolutely delicious this is, especially if you love almonds. If not, you’ll just have to take my word for it. Imagine a layer of moist almond filling, sandwiched between two layers of lovely spicy gingerbread. If you don’t like almonds or gingerbread, don’t read on.

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Pepernoten (Dutch Gingernuts) Recipe

Pepernoten (also called kruidnoten) are something that everyone in the Netherlands grows up with. These little brown biscuits are a key feature of our major December holiday, ‘Sinterklaas’. Sinterklaas (or Sint Nicolaas) is our Santa or Father Christmas: he brings presents, wears red, is beloved by children.

 

Unlike Santa though, Sinterklaas rides a horse, is dressed like a Bishop, lives in Spain (although his nationality is Turkish) and leaves the chimneys to his army of helpers in blackface… So not quite the same.

 

These biscuits, though, only appear in stores around the time Sinterklaas is due to make his way over to the Netherlands, and are associated with the holiday as the treat children are given by Sinterklaas and his helpers.

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Dutch Gingerbread Spice (Speculaaskruiden) Recipe

Dutch gingerbread is not like other gingerbread. Sure, gingerbread exists in many, many countries around the world. The Dutch (probably) did not invent it. However, no other gingerbread tastes like Dutch gingerbread, or ‘Speculaas’ does. It has a distinctively different flavour, and is actually much less heavy on the ginger. I’ve met many gingerbread haters who loved Dutch gingerbread, simply because it isn’t that ‘gingery’.

 

Speculaas (Dutch gingerbread) is made with a complex spice mixture that contains many interesting spices that other gingerbread recipes don’t – for example, white pepper, and ground anise seed. We call this spice mixture ‘Speculaaskruiden’, and it’s available pre-mixed in supermarkets, and generally stored away somewhere in a Dutch person’s spice cupboard.

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