A pretty winter cake, uses ground nuts as well as flour and a cream cheese frosting to make it lighter and easier on the icing than traditional cakes.
225g butter, softened
250g soft brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
330g self-raising flour (use wholemeal self-raising if you prefer)
225g ground almonds or very finely chopped hazelnuts
60ml amaretto or brandy plus some extra for brushing the cakes between layers
1 tsp ground cinnamon
500g cream cheese, softened
100g butter, softened
Decoration - sprigs of rosemary, shortbread or gingerbread reindeer or snowmen
325g icing sugar
2 tsps vanilla extract
2 x 18cm cake tins (2” deep) or a set of 4 shallow 18cm cake tins, greased and lined
Slices in to 12 - 16 tall slim slices. Freezes well - freeze the whole cake once iced but before decorating.
1. Preheat the oven to 170C or use the AGA baking oven, placing the tins on the grid shelf on the floor. Make the cakes by beating together 225g soft butter, 250g soft brown sugar and 2tsp vanilla extract until pale and creamy.
2. Add the eggs one at a time then fold in 330g self-raising flour, 225g ground nuts, 150g milk, 60ml amaretto or brandy and 1 tsp ground cinnamon. Mix together gently until just combined then divide between the tins. Bake for 45 - 55 mins until the cakes spring back when pressed gently in the centre or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in the tins for 10 mins then turn out on to a wire cooling rack. Remove the baking paper and leave to cool completely.
3. Beat together 500g cream cheese, 325g sifted icing sugar and 2 tsp vanilla extract. Beat for 5 mins then chill for 15 mins minimum, this makes it easier to fill the cakes.
4. Trim the tops of the cakes if they have risen more in the middle while cooking, and slice in half horizontally if you have made 2 cakes, to give 4 layers in total.
5. Place the first layer on a cake stand or plate, brush with a little amaretto or brandy to keep the sponge moist, then add about 1/5th of the icing. Spread evenly over the layer then repeat with the remaining 3 layers then finally spread the icing thinly over the sides and use the rest for the top.
6. Decorate with rosemary ‘trees’ and shortbread reindeer. Dust with icing sugar for ‘snow’.