When it comes to Christmas, everyone has their own traditions, often steeped in the layered memories of childhood. Most of us only need a reminder, and we are swept back to the sights, smells, sounds, and, most importantly, tastes associated with holidays of yore. There's magic in the air as flour dusts the kitchen, sugar sparkles on a worktop, and the aroma of spices dances through the house. Baking for Christmas is more than just a culinary venture; it's a personal journey of cherished memories and lifelong traditions. While the classics hold a special place in our hearts, there's something extraordinary about embracing something new. This holiday season, join us in celebrating the artistry of baking with a special Sahara connection. Introducing Emine, an integral part of the team and the creative maker behind many delectable treats that never fail to astonish our Sahara family. This year, she graciously shares a personal recipe – a token of warmth and sweetness to be savoured and shared with your loved ones.
Orange & Ginger Layer Cake
What you'll need
For your layer cakes:
225g Plain flour
3 tsp Baking powder
¾ tsp Salt
3 tsp Ground ginger
1½ tsp Ground cinnamon
¾ tsp Ground nutmeg
¾ tsp Ground allspice
225g Golden caster sugar
180ml Flavourless oil (Emine recommends sunflower oil)
180ml Orange juice (approx. juice of 3 large oranges, but you can top up with water or substitute with unsweetened juice, not from concentrate)
3 Large eggs, room temperature, yolks and whites separated
2 tsp Vanilla extract (or 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1 tsp orange extract)
Zest of 3 oranges
For the frosting:
300g Cream cheese, full-fat
3-4 tbsp Diced stem ginger
300ml Double cream
Fine cut marmalade or shredless, if preferred
Fresh orange wedges
3 x 7-inch cake tins (or 2 x 8-inch or 9-inch tins)
Electric hand whisk or mixer
What you'll do
For the cakes:
Preheat the oven to 190°C/ 170°C fan (it should be gas mark 5 or 4 if your oven runs very hot).
Grease and line your cake tins.
Sift both types of flour, baking powder, salt, spices, and sugar into a large bowl.
Whisk together oil, orange juice, egg yolks, and vanilla extract in a separate bowl. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir a few times before adding the orange zest. Beat well to form a smooth batter.
In a clean, grease-free bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff and then gently fold into the batter with a large spoon or silicone spatula.
Divide the batter evenly between the tins. Tap the tins gently on the kitchen counter to pop any air bubbles before placing them in the oven for approximately 20-25 minutes until golden. If your oven runs hot, check at the 20-minute mark, but baking time may take up to 30 minutes if using larger tins. Insert a skewer into the centre of each cake, and if it comes out clean and crumb-free, the cakes are done.
Turn the cakes out from the tins after 10 minutes and allow to cool completely before decorating.
For the frosting:
Puree 2-3 tbsp of the stem ginger. Beat with the cream cheese and 1 tbsp of diced stem ginger with an electric whisk or mixer for a few seconds until combined. (If you prefer a smoother frosting, just use pureed stem ginger).
Add the double cream and whisk until medium peaks are achieved and the mixture is still glossy.
For the assembly:
Place one sponge on a cake board or plate. Stir the marmalade to loosen it, if it is too set. Spread a layer of marmalade on the sponge.
Next, spread over the marmalade with a layer of frosting.
Top with a second sponge, marmalade, and frosting, and then repeat for a third time.
Use the remaining frosting to coat the sides, using a palette knife or cake smoother for an even finish.
Decorate with toppings of choice: gingerbread biscuits - whole or crushed, roughly chopped pecans, fresh orange wedges or dried orange slices, stem or crystallised ginger, orange peel curls, or rosemary sprigs.
Keep the cake refrigerated for storage, but take it out of the fridge at least half an hour before serving.