An alternative Christmas cake: Bettys Spiced Fruit Gugelhupf

Bettys Spiced Fruit Gugelhupf

Bettys Spiced Fruit Gugelhupf

I make absolutely no secret of my love for Bettys. Last year the Yorkshire bakery narrowly but decisively pipped Riverford to the post in a mince-pie-off that I decided to have because I needed justification for eating all the pies. Then I spent a day last month making gorgeous Christmas goodies at the Bettys Cookery School in Harrogate. Basically, for me, Bettys = Christmas.

So I was delighted when the lovely team there got in touch and offered me the chance to try one of the bakery’s 2013 Christmas goodies. I asked what they recommended, and the Spiced Fruit Gugelhupf, a new addition to the seasonal collection, arrived in the post this week.

A gugelhupf is a traditional Bundt-style ring cake which hails from southern Germany, Austria and Switzerland; though there are regional variations in what’s added to the batter, this particular offering is studded with rum-soaked fruit, peel, almond nibs and chocolate chips and finished off with a drizzle of icing and a sprinkling of pistachios. Lightly spiced, it’s something of a heavier, distinctly more Swiss German version of a panettone. As I opened it, a cloud of rum-scented, cinammon-edged warmth hit me: Christmas in a box. It also had a faint hint of something like my mum’s melomakarona, though to my knowledge there’s no honey in it – must have been the whiff of fruit.

Cutting it open, it still looks quite heavy and solid, but when you bite into it it’s actually surprisingly light, and even a little crumbly. On first glance, I wondered if it should have been more packed with ‘bits’, but actually the balance is perfect – any more and it would have been a fruit cake. The spice is added with a delicate hand, letting the fruit shine, and actually the alcohol is more scent than flavour, which I prefer. Despite coming from a similar tradition, this has neither the stodginess nor the intense sweetness of something like stollen or lebkuchen, and the icing is a pleasant dash of sugar which complements rather than overwhelming.

This is a really good alternative for those who don’t like fruit cake and want a satisfying but not cloying sweet which is still essentially Christmassy. It’s not a budget choice at £13.95, but is packed with expensive ingredients and achingly fresh – it should be eaten within two days of delivery, but it can be frozen if you’re preparing ahead.

Bettys ships internationally for most items, but due to its freshness this item is only available in the UK.

Disclaimer: I was sent a Spiced Fruit Gugelhupf by Bettys for free to sample and review. I was not otherwise paid, nor was I required to write anything except my honest opinion.

Christmas ‘Baking’: Chocolate Rum Raisin Snowcups

rum raisin snowscapeYes, I used the C-word. Christmas.

It is a little early, but I really want to take some of the stress off my mother this year and, yes, show off a little. I went round to my mother-in-law’s last Friday for Shabbat (late to the party and baffled? I’m not Jewish, but my husband is) and she had made these plain chocolate cups by lining cupcake papers with melted chocolate. She then filled them with fresh whipped cream and strawberry slices and topped the whole mess of wonderful off with crumbled Flake. Gorgeous. And of course it got me thinking of what I could do. This is my first experiment.

As DiDi warned me, if you don’t coat the edges nice and thick, the cups fall apart when you peel away the paper. I was being a bit hasty so some of mine did fall apart. I was using petit fours cases and found that actually you could get away with a certain amount of crumbled edging if it’s small, cute and going to be filled to the brim. But perfectionists should be prepared to spend lots of time applying layers of melted chocolate onto paper cases with whatever implement suits you best (I used a grapefruit knife, my mother-in-law a plastic spoon).

Anyway, once they’ve fully set in the fridge, peel away the paper and get inventive with the filling. I put a handful of raisins in a saucepan with a healthy splash on rum on top, then simmered the contents of the pan for a couple of minutes. Then the heat went off, the lid went on and I gave them half an hour or so to soak up the drink. They then sat out (covered) long enough to cool down.

A heap of raisins went in the chocolate case and a little white chocolate was grated on top to make an artful, Christmassy snowstorm (at least that was the aim; if you think it looks more like Santa’s dandruff, you can leave it out).

Some other ideas I’ve thought of to experiment with:

  • Plain chocolate cups, blackberries smooshed into a lumpy, fruity syrup over heat with sugar and water, white chocolate curls
  • Any chocolate, mincemeat (as in what goes in mince pie, not lasagne!), crumbled cookie / oat topping
  • White chocolate cups, red berries in a little fruity syrup, decorated with holly leaves
  • White chocolate cups, crumbled up left-over Christmas pudding, a blob of cream
  • Layered cups – changing the colour of chocolate every time (after they’ve set in the fridge). Perhaps with a little hollow left for something crunchy – honeycomb?

I’m still thinking this through; I haven’t even got to the creamy or custardy fillings. The possibilities are endless provided you’re willing to spend hours footling chocolate around in paper cups. Of course you could do it without unpeeling them, leaving them in pretty paper cases but still getting the glorious choccy flavour, if you’re in a hurry.