Chocolate spiced Christmas cake

Keen on shaking things up this Christmas? You don’t have to serve the conventional fruit cake or trifle just because tradition dictates. We put together this decadent chocolate spiced Christmas cake, complete with orange liqueur and caramel popcorn. Now how’s that for a wildly festive adventure? Light those sparklers, merry men and women.

Christmas cake

Ingredients (serves 10–12)

For the cake:

Zest of 2 large or 3 medium oranges (if you don’t like the mixture of orange and chocolate, feel free to leave this out)
4 extra large eggs
1½ cups oil
2 cups castor sugar
180g brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
280g flour
180g cocoa
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 cup Guinness or a malty stout like this sweet Silver Back Black from Darling Brewers

For the spicy ganache

250ml cream
3 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground cloves
Zest of 1 orange
1 tsp vanilla extract
300g good quality chocolate, such as Valrhona chocolate
40g butter
1 Tbsp orange liqueur (optional)
Caramel popcorn and berries, to decorate
1 tub sour cream


1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2. Grease and line three 22cm cake tins like these Pushpan Non Stick Round Cake Tins. If you only have one or two cake pans, you will need to bake in batches.
3. Beat the orange zest, eggs, oil and sugar together.
4. Add the buttermilk and vanilla extract.
5. Fold through the flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda.
6. Add the Guinness or Silver Back Black from Darling Brewers, mix gently and pour into prepared tins.
7. Bake in the oven for 18–20 minutes, or until the cakes are cooked through. To test if the cake is done you can either use a cake tester or press gently on the sponge, it should bounce back where you have pressed.
8. Remove from the cake pans and allow to cool completely before icing.
9. To make the ganache, heat the cream in a saucepan with the spices, orange zest and vanilla extract. Just before boiling, remove and allow to stand for 15 minutes for the flavours to infuse.
10. Place the cream back on the heat after infusing and reheat (again, taking care not to boil). Once hot, remove and stir in the chocolate. Mix until completely melted.


TIP: Every now and again, ganache can be a bit temperamental. Annoying as it is, the main thing is to remember you can generally always ‘rescue’ it and bring it back to the state in which you want it!

If your ganache separates and curdles, either heat a few tablespoons of cream and add bit by bit until the mixture comes together again, or add a few tablespoons of oil. Keep mixing until it comes back together. Saved.

The quality of your ganache is directly affected by the chocolate you choose to use. The golden rule is use whatever chocolate you most love and your ganache will taste exactly like it.

11. Next add in the liqueur and butter.
12. Allow to stand at room temperature until needed.


13. To finish the cake, ice each layer with the ganache, add a few dollops of sour cream and top with berries and caramel popcorn before adding the next sponge and repeating the process.

Christmas cake

For any left over ganache – place it in the fridge and allow to solidify. Take teaspoons of the mixture and roll in cocoa powder. Hey presto, you have chocolate truffles. They can keep for a couple of weeks, so double the ganache recipe if you want a few extra Christmas gifts.

We hope your family enjoy tucking in to this tower of aromatic, chocolaty goodness. A Christmas cake to rival all the rest. What a magical season it is.

With thanks to Jules Mercer for her beautiful recipe and styling.