hazelnut and brandy forest cake

with cream cheese icing

  • 225g unsalted butter, chopped and softened
  • 1½ cups (260g) brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 eggs
  • 2¼ cups (335g) self-raising (self-rising) flour, sifted
  • 2¼ cups (225g) hazelnut meal
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup (125ml) milk
  • ¼ cup (60ml) brandy, plus 2 tablespoons, extra, for brushing
  • gingerbread reindeer or snowmen, for decorating
  • 1 cup (160g) icing (confectioner’s) sugar,  sifte,
  • plus extra, for dusting
  • 2–2½ teaspoons boiling water
  • 3 thick sprigs rosemary

cream cheese icing

  • 500g cream cheese, chopped and softened
  • 100g unsalted butter, chopped and softened
  • 2 cups (320g) icing (confectioner’s) sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 160°C (325°F). Place the butter, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 5–6 minutes or until pale and creamy. 
  2. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour, hazelnut meal, cinnamon, milk and brandy and beat on low speed until just combined.
  3. Divide the mixture evenly between 2 x 18cm lightly greased cake tins lined with non-stick baking paper.
  4. Bake for 55–60 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Allow to cool in tins for 10 minutes, before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. While the cake is cooling, make the cream cheese icing. Place the cream cheese, butter, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 8 minutes or until pale and fluffy+.
  6. To assemble, trim the tops and slice each cake in half horizontally. Brush each layer of cake with the extra brandy. Place the base of 1 of the cakes on a cake stand and spread with ⅔ cup (160ml) of cream cheese icing. Repeat the process 3 more times, finishing with the remaining icing.
  7. To decorate the reindeer, place the icing sugar and boiling water in a small bowl and mix to combine. Place in a piping bag and pipe onto each reindeer.
  8. Top the cake with rosemary, reindeer and dust with icing sugar to serve. Serves 10–12.

+ Set aside in the refrigerator for 15 minutes if it needs to firm slightly.

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