Quick Christmas Cake with Cocoa and Tia Maria

No overnight fruit soaking needed for this luscious and festive fruitcake.

1 1/2 cups chopped soft prunes
1 cup raisins
2 tbs. currants
175ml honey
125ml Tia Maria or similar favorite
zest and juice of 1 orange
1 tsp. mixed spice
2 tbs. good quality cocoa powder
12 1/2 tbs. softened butter
7/8 cup dark brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tbs. ground almonds
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Tip the fruit into a large saucepan and add the honey, Tia Maria, orange zest and juice, mixed spice, cocoa, butter and sugar. Heat gently, then leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 300°F and line the bottom of an 8″ springform tin with parchment paper.

Add the eggs to the cooled fruit mixture, then stir in the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and baking soda. Mix well, then spread into the prepared tin. Bake for 2 hours, or until a tester comes out clean. Cover with foil if the top is becoming too brown.

Leave to cool, then remove from the tin and decorate or sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.

Triple Chocolate Buckwheat Cookies

Using buckwheat flour makes these lovely cookies gluten-free.

2/3 cup small bittersweet chocolate chips
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate (preferably at least 70% cocoa solids)
3/4 cup plus 2 tbs. buckwheat flour
3 tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
4 tbs. soft, unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 2 tbs. soft dark brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla paste or extract
2 extra large eggs, fridge-cold

Clatter the chocolate chips into a flatfish dish and put in the fridge while you get on making the batter. This makes them not melt too much in the baking.

Heat the oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roughly chop the bittersweet chocolate and melt it either in a suitable bowl in the microwave or over a saucepan of just simmering water. Set aside to cool a little.

In another bowl, fork together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.

In yet another bowl or that of a free-standing mixer, combine the butter and sugar with the vanilla and cream together. Beat in the slightly cooled, melted chocolate and the eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the sides, then carefully beat in the dry ingredients.

Using a wooden spoon or a spatula, fold in the cold chocolate chip. Dollop by tablespoonfuls onto the lined baking sheets, leaving about 2 1/2″ between each one. Put the bowl with the remaining dough in the fridge while these cook. Bake for 9-10 minutes,  until they are set around the edges, but otherwise seem undercooked. Remove them from the oven and leave to sit on the baking sheets for 10 before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

When the baking sheet is cool, repeat with the remaining dough.

Yields approx. 25