Our writers' cakes are Christmas crackers!

THE brave bakers of the Evening Times Cake Club took on their toughest challenge yet - and all for some festive fun and fundraising.

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King's Theatre Panto stars Gavin Mitchell and Jenny Douglas tuck in to the cakes Picture: NickPonty
King's Theatre Panto stars Gavin Mitchell and Jenny Douglas tuck in to the cakes Picture: NickPonty

Journalists Caroline Wilson, Cat Stewart, Stephen Naysmith and Iain Lundy had to create a Christmas cake with a difference.

After hours slaving in the kitchen, their final efforts were sent to Pantoland, to be judged by a wicked magician and a beautiful princess: Aladdin's evil old uncle Abanazer (Gavin Mitchell) and Princess Jasmine (Jenny Douglas), who are starring in Aladdin at the King's this festive season.

First up is Stephen Naysmith's impressive Gingerbread King's Theatre, which tragically collapsed before the tasting session so our reviewers only had a photograph and the remains to go by.

"It's a complete disaster," Stephen says, ruefully. "I tried to build it while the gingerbread was too soft, which is a big no-no apparently. And it was maybe a bit ambitious."

Jenny and Gavin are sympathetic. "What a shame," commiserates Jenny. "It looks lovely in the photograph. He went to so much trouble."

Gavin agrees. "He had little panto figures on there too - there's Karen Dunbar, and Des Clarke and ...hang on? Where are we? Right, that's it - he's getting nothing...."

Tantrum over, Gavin agrees the gingerbread tastes good.

"It's nice and soft and chewy," he considers. "But I'd have liked a bit more oomph. I like my ginger to have a bit of a kick to it."

The tasters are rendered temporarily speechless by Cat Stewart's Scandinavian Christmas Cake, comprising a honey, cloves and ginger sponge, spiked with Cointreau, and a filling made of cream cheese and orange zest.

"Wow - it looks like something you'd see in a posh patisserie window," marvels Jenny. "So simple, but stunning."

Gavin is less convinced. "It's got fruit in it," he frowns. "I'm a Glaswegian - fruit can give me toxic shock."

Jenny adds: "I like it - the juiciness of the orange is lovely and it doesn't overpower the cake. I like the firmness of the sponge."

She nods, wisely, adding: "I'm a bit of a baker myself, so I know about these things."

"It's a little bit too firm for me," says Gavin. "It feels quite heavy. But there's a lovely combination of flavours. You can taste the alcohol."

He adds: "Every cake should have alcohol in it. Christmas cakes, ordinary cakes, yum yums from Gregg's....."

Next it is the turn of Caroline Wilson's Bailey's Chocolate Yule Log, a traditional dessert comprising a chocolate sponge filled with double cream laced with Bailey's Irish Cream and smothered in chocolate buttercream icing.

"I've never made this before, and I was a bit worried about the rolling," she says. "I was worried it might crack. Well, it did crack, but I just covered it with icing."

There is silence as our reviewers devour a large slice each.

"Ooh, it's so light and airy," says Gavin, dreamily. "I wasn't expecting the sponge to be so light. It's lovely and airy. And light. And airy..."

"Okay, we get the picture," interrupts Jenny, firmly. "You can really taste the Bailey's coming through but it's not overpowering. This is very, very good. And it looks very traditional, which is nice."

Iain Lundy's Christmas Cupcake Wreath is next.

"I've never made cupcakes before, so this was a first," grins Iain, who admits he was planning a bow made of sugar paste, but he ran out of time. "It's chocolate sponge covered in buttercream icing with green food colouring and edible decorations."

"It's a bit - halloweeny," says Gavin, slowly. "The bright green icing is a bit off-putting.

"But I like the idea, and the lovely little Christmassy decorations."

After a taste, he is more of a fan. "Wow! It's incredibly sweet. I love it - it reminds me of being a wee boy again. What a sugar rush. I'm ready to swing off that chandelier now..."

Jenny adds: "I don't think the bitter chocolate sponge and sweet icing mix well together - maybe a sprinkling of icing sugar and the little decorations would have worked better. It does look amazing, though."

After a few moments of deliberation, the judges congratulated all four bakers on their cakes and revealed their scores.

Stephen's Gingerbread King's Theatre

Presentation: 6 ("He deserves a sympathy score," says Jenny. "We can't give him zero as he really did try....")

Taste: 7 ("Gingerbread lacked oomph," sums up Gavin.)

Overall score: 13

Ian's Christmas Cupcake Wreath

Presentation: 8 ("He used his imagination," says Gavin.)

Taste: 7 ("Bit of a strange combination of flavours," says Jenny.)

Overall score: 15

Cat's Scandinavian Christmas Cake

Presentation: 9 ("Posh!" say the duo.)

Taste: 8 ("The sponge let it down," explains Gavin.)

Overall score: 17

Caroline's Bailey's Chocolate Yule Log

Presentation: 9 ("It looks very professional," admires Jenny.

Taste: 9 ("Delicious," agreed the judges.)

Overall score: 18

Caroline Wilson's Winning Recipe

Ingredients

4 eggs

100g caster sugar

65g self-raising flour

40g cocoa

cream filling

glug of double cream

shot of Bailey's Irish Cream

icing

200g butter, at room temperature

400g icing sugar

50g cocoa powder

white icing

sprig of holly to garnish

Method

Preheat the oven to 210°C.

Line a swiss roll tin (33cmx22cm) or baking sheet with non-stick paper.

Put the eggs and sugar for the sponge into a bowl and whisk until smooth, light and fluffy. It's best to use an electric hand whisk for this to get maximum aeration as it should triple in volume at least.

Sieve the flour and cocoa powder into the bowl and carefully fold in with a large metal spoon (avoid knocking out any air you've just whisked in.

Spoon the mixture into the tin and carefully spread to the edges.

Bake for 10 minutes until the mixture springs back when lightly touched and it's shrunk back from the edges slightly.

Lay another sheet of greaseproof paper on the table and sprinkle with a handful of castor sugar

Turn the hot swiss roll out onto the sugared paper, score a line 2cm in from one end and start to roll, allowing the paper to catch itself inside the roll.

Leave to cool completely whilst rolled.

Make the butter cream icing by creaming together all the icing ingredients.

Whip the cream to stiff peaks and fold through the alcohol (optional).

Unroll the sponge and spread the cream in a thin layer, right to the edges.

Roll back up and reposition on whatever you intend to serve the Yule Log on.

Smear the chocolate butter cream all over and smooth into all the edges with a warm palette knife

Run a fork through the cream to give the bark-like texture and draw rings around the end of the log with the melted white chocolate in a piping bag.

Dust with icing sugar to represent snow.

Store in the fridge until needed and slice generously for everyone to enjoy.

Makes 12 slices.

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