There’s something extra special about handmade, homemade presents. These festive showstoppers can be prepped easily and quickly, and you can get the kids to help out too
Prep 15 mins + soaking | Cook 1 hour | Serves 12
In a bowl, combine 1½ cups mixed dried fruit, ¾ cup glace cherries and ½ cup brandy. Soak for 1 hour. Preheat oven to slow, 150 C. Grease and double line a deep 20 cmround cake pan with baking paper, extending paper 3 cm above edge. Combine two 600 g packets vanilla mud cake and prepare following packet instructions, reducing liquid by ½ cup. Stir in soaked fruit, ½ cup slivered almonds and 1 tbsp mixed spice. Spoon into pan, smoothing top. Bake for 2 hours, covering with foil halfway, until cooked when tested. Brush warm cake with ¼ cup brandy. Cool in pan, loosely covered with foil.
TOPPING Dip fruit in a whisked egg white then coat in caster sugar. Dry on a rack. Dust cake with icing sugar and arrange fruit and fondant stars on top.
COOK-HALF + FREEZE-HALF SHORTBREAD STARS
Prep 10 mins | Cook 30 mins | Makes 30
Preheat oven to moderately slow, 160 C. Sift 2 cups plain flour, 1 cup icing sugar, and ¼ cup corn flour. Stir in 250 g melted butter and 2 tsps vanilla bean paste to form a dough. Roll out half, 3 mm thick, on a floured surface. Cut out 5-cm stars using a cutter. Arrange on lined oven trays, rerolling as needed. Brush stars with a little egg white and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 15 mins. Repeat with remaining dough. Freeze in a freezer-safe container, layered with baking paper, for up to 2 months. Cook from frozen, brushed with egg white and sprinkled white sugar, for 20 mins.
Prep 15 mins + setting | Cook 5 mins | Makes 12
Place 200 g chopped dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl. In a saucepan, heat ½ cup thickened cream and 20 g butter on medium, bubbling. Pour over chocolate. Set aside for 2 mins, then stir until smooth. Stir in 1 tbsp rum. Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight until firm. Shape level tbsp mixture into balls. Toss in ½ cup cocoa to coat and place on lined oven trays. Chill.
PHOTOS: ROB SHAW / BAUERSYNDICATION.COM.AU