Here is my take on this Christmas story as a dessert that comprises of nuts, sugar plums and of course plenty of crunch and crackle. Layers of hazelnut sponge, Chambord, plum jelly, fresh raspberries, raspberry blancmange, yellow custard and whipped cream topped with hazelnuts, toffee popcorn, sesame brittle and a dusting of cinnamon. The components take a little while to make and you will have to do it at least a day in advance of serving but I promise you it will be worth all your hard work and your guests will be really impressed too! Have a very Merry Christmas everyone!
100g blanched hazelnuts, plus extra to scatter on the top
180g unsalted butter
110g soft light brown sugar
3 medium eggs
200g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon, plus extra for dusting on the top
3 -4 tbsp Chambord Raspberry liqueur
1 Kg ripe plums
6 gelatin leaves
325g caster sugar, plus extra to taste for the custard and blancmange
150g fresh raspberries
Bird’s custard powder
A packet of raspberry blancmange
2 pints of whole milk
600ml double cream
A handful of toffee popcorn, I used Butterkist
A pack of sesame snaps/brittle, broken into shards
- First make your hazelnut sponge (the sponge freezes well so you can bake it, slice it up, wrap it in foil and then freeze and just get it out when you are ready to assemble your trifle if you want to get ahead). Pre-heat your oven to 160C.
- Put the nuts into a dry pan on a medium heat. Toast for about 5 minutes until the nuts are golden, stirring frequently. Remove from the pan and allow to cool completely, reserve any whole nuts which you can chop up finely later for the decoration at this point! Blend the rest in a food processor into a fine powder.
- Using an electric hand whisk, cream together the butter, soft light brown sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs gradually. Add in the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and ground hazelnuts and fold in gently.
- Line a 2lb loaf tin and pour the cake batter into the tin.
- Bake for 30-45 minutes or until it is golden brown and springs back when pressed. Once cooked, leave to completley cool on a wire rack. Slice into about 1-1.5cm slices.
- You will probably have quite a bit of sponge left but as I say, it freezes well so won’t be wasted. Or you can have it warm straight away with a cup of tea!
- Choose a fairly deep pudding basin or use your desired trifle bowl and line the bottom with the hazelnut sponge, breaking pieces up so you have good coverage over the base.
- To add a little tipple to your trifle (it is Christmas after all), drizzle over the Chambord so it soaks into the sponge well.
- To make the sugar plum jelly, wash and halve the plums, leaving the stones in. Place the plums in a pan with the water and sugar over a medium heat and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes, or until mushy.
- Soak the gelatin leaves for 10 minutes in cold water, each in a separate bowl. Pass the plums through a sieve over a jug or bowl, pressing out as much of the plum juice as you can. Discard the stones but you can keep the remaining stewed fruit and pop it in the fridge or freezer and have it with yogurt or granola for example on another day!
- Squeeze the water from the gelatin leaves and add them to the plum syrup, stirring well until the leaves have completely dissolved. Pour on top of your sponge in the trifle bowl. Cool then cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Once set, scatter your raspberries over the top of the jelly for the next layer.
- Make your raspberry blancmange according to the instructions on the packet, using a pint of milk. Once made, leave to cool down a little before layering this on top of the raspberries and put into the fridge to set for about half an hour.
- Make a pint of yellow custard using Bird’s custard power according to the instructions on the packet. Again, leave to cool down a little before pouring on top of your blancmange layer. Return to the fridge for another half an hour.
- Tip your double cream into a bowl and whisk using an electric hand whisk until thick. This is the last layer of your trifle and can be put on top of your custard.
- Finish the trifle off by decorating it with the sesame brittle, toffee popcorn, roasted and roughly chopped hazelnut pieces and a dusting of cinnamon. All these things are designed to give your nutcracker trifle it’s ‘crack’ and crunch so you can use whatever you fancy on that front. Just make sure you add them before you are due to serve up as otherwise they go soggy in the fridge.