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Why spend time decorating your Christmas table with foliage and baubles then struggle to find space for all the plates of food, when you can kill two birds with one stone? Food becomes decoration (and vice versa), and table becomes plate (and vice versa) in this impressive and edible Christmas centrepiece.
This decorative, communal dessert is a combination of textures and flavours that make each spoonful a fabulous conversation (but no talking with your mouthful please) - tender spiced ginger cake, chewy meringue, juicy berries, crisp freeze-dried raspberry pieces and cool, creamy gelato. We've included recipes for the gingerbread cake, meringues and raspberry gelato that can be made well ahead of time, but you can absolutely sub these for good quality store-bought products instead.
Serve on a large platter with multiple utensils for everyone to admire, dig in and enjoy together. Have a very, berry Christmas!
For the Gingerbread Cake
For the Raspberry Meringues
For the Berry Gelato
For the Gingerbread Cake: Preheat oven to 160C. Grease and line a 23cm loaf tin.
Combine flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices in a large bowl and add cubed butter. Rub the butter into the flour until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs (this can also be done in a food processor). Add chopped glace ginger.
Put muscovado sugar, treacle, golden syrup and milk in a saucepan and heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Turn up heat and bring mixture almost to boiling point. Pour liquid mixture onto flour and stir with a wooden spoon. Add egg and beat until well combined.
Pour into prepared tin and bake for 50 minutes until a skewer comes out of the cake fairly clean. Cool completely before turning out. Wrap in greaseproof paper until ready to use.
If you wish to be even more prepared you can make this well in advance and freeze – wrap in greaseproof paper and then cling film.
For the Raspberry Meringues: Whip egg whites in a stand mixer, with a hand beater or using a whisk until frothy, then add the cream of tartar. Whip until the egg whites have stiffened completely, then beat in the sugar one tablespoon at a time. Once glossy, quickly beat in the freeze dried raspberry powder.
Preheat your oven to 150C, and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Pipe or spoon small mounds onto the paper, leaving enough room around them to account for a little spreading out as they cook. Bake for 30 minutes, then turn off the oven and leave the meringues (without opening the door) for another hour.
If making ahead, these can be cooled and stored in an airtight container for 1-2 days at room temperature, or 1 month in the freezer.
For the Berry Gelato: Bring pureed fruit and sugar to the boil ensuring that all sugar is dissolved. Cool completely and then place in freezer until mixture just starts to freeze (about 1 ½ hours).
Whisk double cream until soft peaks form and add marscapone and the cold berry mixture and mix gently to create a ripple effect.
Churn in an ice cream maker until firm but not completely set. Transfer to a container and freeze. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, put into a freezer-safe container and place in freezer. After an hour, whip with a fork to break up the ice crystals. Do this roughly 2-3 times until it thickens. Once thickened, leave in the freezer for another 4 hours or until frozen before scooping and serving.
To Assemble: Slice the cake and tear into chunks. Arrange on a large platter in a circular, wreath pattern (you may not need the entire cake). Tear some meringues in half, and keep some whole, then scatter over the cake base. Add strawberries and raspberries. Sprinkle freeze-dried raspberry pieces over top. Scatter mint, dried flowers and gold leaf (if using). Remove gelato from the freezer 10 minutes before you wish to serve. Top the wreath with scoops of gelato and serve straight away. Best enjoyed with forks or spoon straight from the platter!
Any leftover gingerbread is delicious with a cup of tea. Eat as is or with lashings of butter!
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