Mulled red wine and chocolate cake

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This really is Christmas in a cake. Mulled wine, chocolate and a hint of spice combine together to make a delicious combination that is really lovely. It was my headteacher’s last week at school this week as she leaves us for pastures new. To help send her off we had an American supper on Wednesday evening and this was my contribution. This cake was very popular, even with people who weren’t big chocolate cake fans. The mascarpone topping combines perfectly with it and visually helps to create a snowy scene which you can decorate with some festive sprinkles. If like me you’re not a fan of traditional Christmas cake, this would make a great alternative and would be a good addition to any Christmas day tea. An added bonus is that if you’re short of time as Christmas approaches and want to get ahead it can be baked up to 2 days in advance and then stored in an airtight container and can also be iced the day before. The undecorated sponge can also be frozen. This is a Sainsbury’s magazine recipe which you can find online.

Ingredients:

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For the cake
250ml red wine
2 mulled wine spice bags
150g soft unsalted butter (plus extra for greasing)
250g soft dark brown sugar
100g caster sugar
4 medium eggs (lightly beaten)
250g plain flour
75g cocoa powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ rounded teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the icing
375g mascarpone
225g icing sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

To decorate
Edible white shimmer pearls or silver balls
2 teaspoons icing sugar

Method:
1) Preheat the oven to 160°C/140°C fan/Gas 3. Grease and line the base of a 23cm, 9cm-deep cake tin.
2) Place the red wine and the mulled wine spice bags in a small saucepan and heat gently until they come to a simmer. Remove from the heat and pour the wine and spice bags into a bowl to cool to room temperature. Once cool, squeeze out any extra liquid from the spice bags, then throw away.

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3) In a large bowl, beat the butter until smooth, then add the sugars and beat together until pale and fluffy (this will take about 3 to 5 minutes). Gradually add the eggs, beating constantly.

4) Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, mixed spice and a pinch of salt. Mix briefly, then gradually add the cooled red wine and vanilla extract, mixing until just combined.

5) Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. (The cake will dome and crack slightly, but don’t worry, the icing will hide this.) Leave to cool in the tin for 30 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

6) While the cake is cooling make the mascarpone icing. In a medium bowl using an electric whisk, whisk together the mascarpone, icing sugar, vanilla extract and a pinch of salt, until the mixture is light and fluffy (this will take about 1-2 minutes).

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7) Once the cake has cooled, pile the mascarpone icing on top, and, using a palate knife, try to recreate a snowy landscape. Finish with a scattering of edible shimmer pearls or silver balls. Dust with icing sugar.

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