Throughout the deeper reaches of the Swiss and Austrian alpine valleys, German forests and Russian villages, traditional winter foods, preserving techniques and family recipes are handed down from grandmother to granddaughter (ot babushki k vnuchke). In the spirit of giving, Essentials’ Megan Chalmers has reinvigorated a selection of the finest European winter treats to help ward off the winter nasties and restore the soul.

Mini Black Forest Cake with forest floor of chocolate soil, mascarpone white chocolate mousse, cherry kirsch jelly cubes, espresso gelato, chocolate twigs, candied cacao nibs, pine fronds and icing sugar ‘snow’

Makes 4 mini cakes or one large

Black Forest Cake

250g Bright Chocolate Madagascar 72% Single Origin Chocolate
180g butter, cubed
225g plain flour
250gm castor sugar
6 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
Chocolate twigs and Bright Chocolate cacao nibs for garnish
Non-stick coated metal nut loaf or date log roll tin or an 18cm diameter cake tin.

Preheat oven to 180C

Method

1. Place dark chocolate and butter in a heat-proof bowl over a small saucepan of simmering water. Stir until chocolate and butter has melted. Set aside to cool slightly.

2. Using an electric mixer, beat sugar and eggs for 5 minutes in a large bowl, until sugar has dissolved.

3. Add the chocolate and butter mixture, slowly stirring to combine.

4. Gradually add and fold through the sifted flower and baking powder.

5. Transfer the mixture to your lined baking dish.

6. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Chocolate Ganache

⅓ cup cream
250g dark chocolate
1 tbsp butter

Method

1. Heat cream in a small saucepan over a medium heat until just bubbling.

2. Remove from heat and stir in the dark chocolate and butter until smooth and shiny.

Mascarpone White Chocolate Mousse

200g white chocolate
140g mascarpone cheese
300ml cream

1. Place white chocolate in a heat-proof bowl, over a small saucepan of simmering water. Stir until melted then stir through mascarpone cheese. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

2. Using an electric mixer, whip cream in a small bowl to soft peaks.

3. Transfer the melted chocolate/mascarpone mixture to a large bowl and gently fold in the whipped cream.

Cherry Jelly Cubes

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
30ml kirsch (cherry liqueur)
1½ tsp powdered gelatin
12 glazed cherries

Method

1. In a small saucepan add water, sugar and kirsch. Slowly bring to a simmer to dissolve sugar.

2. Dissolve the powdered gelatin in a small container with 2 tablespoons of the warm kirsch syrup.

3. Add the dissolved gelatin mixture back to the saucepan and stir through.

4. Remove saucepan from heat and allow kirsch syrup jelly mixture to cool slightly.

5. Set kirsch syrup jelly mixture into silicon ice-cube trays. Place one glazed cherry in each cube.

6. Refrigerate until firm.

Cake assembly

Assemble the cake by cutting in three equal parts, spoon a small amount of kirsch cherry liquor onto each cake portion, then stack vertically, layering with mascarpone white chocolate mousse.

Top with chocolate ganache, chocolate crumb and a candied cherry.

To serve

Serve the cake on a bed of chocolate soil (crumbs), topped with an arrangement of quenelles of mascarpone white chocolate mousse, espresso gelato and cherry jelly cubes. Garnish generously with chocolate twigs and Bright Chocolate single origin cacao nibs.



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