These light, delectable fruit and nut cakes, make ideal edible gifts - or a last-minute bigger cake for dessert on Christmas day. Bake them in small tins to make individual gifts (3 x 15cm or 12.5cm diameter x 6.5cm height), available from kitchen specialty shops. If you are making the larger cake, use a 23cm diameter tin and cover the cake with whipped cream flavoured with brandy or rum instead of the chocolate glaze. Decorate with fruit and nuts and serve as a Christmas dessert.
- toasted walnuts or blanched almonds - 200g
- 70% good quality dark chocolate - 200g
- seedless dried dates or dried figs - 250g
- egg whites - 6, at room temperature
- pinch salt
- pinch of cream of tartar
- caster sugar or brown sugar - 150g
- Chocolate Glaze
- 70% good quality dark chocolate - 300g, roughly chopped
- fresh pouring cream - 300ml
Preheat the oven to moderate (180degC). Line the tins with non-stick baking paper, bringing the paper up above the sides of the tin to facilitate easy removal.
Chop the nuts, chocolate and dates coarsely. Use a large shape knife, not the food processor. Toss together to combine well.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the whites with a pinch of salt and a pinch of cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Whisk in the sugar gradually to make a stiff meringue. Gently fold through the chopped nut, chocolate and date mixture. Spoon into the prepared cake tins or tin and smooth the tops. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes and leave to cool in the oven, leaving the door open. Don’t worry if they look cracked – the chocolate coating (or whipped cream) will cover any cracks.
For the Chocolate Glaze: bring the cream to simmering point. Pour cream over the chopped chocolate, stirring until the chocolate has melted and is smooth and glossy. Dip the whole cake in the chocolate so that the top and sides are covered. Let set on a cake rack over a plate in the fridge. After the first coating has set, re-dip each cake in the coating mixture (which may need to be re-heated over a pan of hot water) for a glossy effect and smooth the sides with a spatula. Decorate tops with some of the dried fruits and nuts you used in the cake.
Tip: at this time of the year, you could use some chopped dried apricots or cranberries in place of some of the dates or dried figs for a more festive touch.