Double Chocolate Christmas Cake with 'Wild Birch' Decoration

If you've had no time to make a traditional Christmas cake this year, then we think this double chocolate Christmas cake from Angela Romeo's Fantasy Cakes is a pretty great alternative (if not even better!)
1 quantity of Double Chocolate Sponge mixture (see below) baked in three greased and lined 18-cm/7-inch cake pans for 40 minutes until an inserted cocktail stick/ toothpick comes out clean, then cooled

1 quantity of Classic Buttercream (see below)

40 g/generous 1/2 cup desiccated/dry unsweetened shredded coconut

For the wild birch bark
50 g/2 oz. dark/bittersweet chocolate, chopped
300 g/101/2 oz. white chocolate
2 baking sheets lined with baking parchment
thin paintbrush
retro Christmas cake decorations
For the wild birch bark, melt the dark/bittersweet chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (or microwave on high in 30-second bursts, stirring in between). Place the lined baking sheets so they are in a ‘landscape’ position in front of you. Using the paintbrush dipped in the dark/ bittersweet chocolate, brush small horizontal lines and 'knots' on the baking sheet (see chocolatey tip). Place the sheets in the fridge for 5 minutes to set.

Meanwhile, melt the white chocolate in a separate heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (or microwave on high in 30-second bursts, stirring in between). Remove the baking sheets from the fridge. Working on one sheet at a time, spoon over the white chocolate and spread out to a thin layer using a palette knife/metal spatula. Return to the fridge for 15 minutes.

With the shortest side of the baking sheet facing you, gently roll up the baking parchment, allowing the bark to snap into thin-rectangular pieces. It doesn’t matter if you have a few irregular shards, these will still look really effective. Chill until needed.
If necessary, trim the tops of the cakes to make level. Sandwich together using 350 g/12 oz. of the buttercream – the bottom side of the top cake should be facing up. Place the cake on a serving plate or cake board. Crumb-coat the cake using 450 g/1 lb. of the buttercream.

Place in the fridge to chill for 15 minutes, then use the remaining buttercream to coat the cake in a second layer. Smooth and remove the excess buttercream with a palette knife/metal spatula – you don’t need to be too neat here as the whole cake will be covered in decoration.

Gently press the bark into the sides of the cake, working around, until the sides are covered. Sprinkle over the desiccated/dried unsweetened shredded coconut, then position the Christmas cake decorations in place.

Chocolatey tip: Have a small bowl of warm water nearby. If the chocolate starts to set on the paintbrush, clean the brush off in the warm water. Wipe with a paper towel and continue.

Double chocolate sponge

450 g/31/2 scant cups selfraising/ self-rising flour plus
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda, sifted (omit soda if baking with US flours)
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, mixed with 4 tablespoons just-boiled water
500 g/21/2 cups caster/ superfine sugar
240 g/21/4 sticks butter, melted and cooled, plus extra for greasing
300 ml/11/4 cups buttermilk
4 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
150 g/51/2 oz. dark/bittersweet chocolate, melted



Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF) Gas 4. Place all the ingredients in a large bowl and beat with an electric hand whisk until combined and smooth. Transfer to greased and lined pans specified in each recipe (if using 18-cm/7-inch cake pans, ensure they are at least 4.5 cm/13/4 inches deep and lined with a 1.5-cm/2/3-inch collar). Bake for the time specified in each recipe.

Classic buttercream

300 g/23/4 sticks butter, softened and cubed
200 g/7 oz. vegetable fat such as Trex or Cookeen, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 kg/7 cups icing/ confectioners’ sugar, sifted

MAKES 1.5 KG/3 LB. 5 OZ.
Using an electric hand whisk, beat the butter until light and creamy. Add the vegetable fat, vanilla and 2 tablespoons water. Gradually whisk in the icing/confectioners’ sugar in batches, until smooth and spreadable. Add another 1 tablespoon water, if needed.
This recipe is from Fantasy Cakes by Angela Romeo, photography by Adrian Lawrence © Ryland Peters & Small