December 20, 2012
Five Spice Siena Cake
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....
Or at least smell like it with all the baking going on at my house!
Cinnamon, five spice, cloves and ginger- all sorts of spices subtly scenting the air.
Add to that a rich toffee, delicious dried fruits, and the zing of zesty orange, and you have a wonderful heady aroma that leaves no doubt that it's the festive season
As I'm the only discerning one in the family who enjoys a traditional Christmas (Fruit) Cake, I tend to make it every second year for home and instead concentrate on other special cakes and slices that we can all enjoy together. This year one of those treats is a Siena Cake.
Siena Cake is a lovely Christmassy treat that originates from Siena, Italy. Also known by the name Panforte, it's a dense, chewy fruit and nut filled cake dating from about the 13th century that's traditionally flavoured with candied orange or citron and spiced with pepper for a bit of kick.
To suit our favourite Asian flavour profile, I played around with the ingredients a bit to give it a twist. By using ginger and 5 Spice and matching it up with some toasted pine nuts to give it a darker earthy flavour and using raw instead of castor sugar it helped keep it darker as well.
Really it's in between a sweet and a cake.
The sugar syrup brings the whole confection together kinda of like a type of delicious cement instead of using eggs and butter, and the small amount of flour means it stays dense and delicious for cutting into tiny slithers to serve with coffee or a glass of Christmas Spirits!
Five Spice Siena Cake
100grm 70% Dark Chocolate- I used an orange flavoured one for a bit of extra boost
1 cup lightly toasted Almonds
1/2 cup lightly toasted Pine nut kernels
1 cup chopped dried Figs
2/3 cup small crystallised Ginger kibble
2/3 cup gf Plain Flour
2/3 cup Sugar- I used raw
2/3 cup Honey
2 tsp 5 Spice Powder
2 tsp Cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp Clove powder
Zest of a nice big Orange
Edible Rice Paper for lining the tin- if available
This rice paper can be easily and cheaply found at delicatessens. Don't mix it up with dried Asian rice paper that is used for rolls and wrappers :)
Line a 20cm pan
If you can't find rice paper, then grease it really, really, really well. If you try and line it with baking paper or wax paper it can still stick sometimes :(
Finely chop the chocolate so it melts easily with the syrup
Pop all the other ingredients into a heat proof dish, and stir around to distribute everything evenly
Make sure the flour coats everything uniformly, and DON'T forget to add the orange zest until the last minute!
Melt together the sugar and honey, then bring it to the boil until it reaches soft ball stage.
I keep a cup of water by the stove so I can periodically drop a bit of the syrup in to test. When you drop a bit in it should hold together softly in a nice ball- not dissolve or go instantly hard and brittle
Nearly there, but don't take it too far or it will turn to hard toffee
Working really fast, stir the hot syrup into the mixture and stir, stir, stir! Make sure all the flour is scooped up from the bottom and doesn't end up clumping. The chocolate will melt and help bind it all together into a lovely mess of more-ish-ness.
Oops! I accidentally deleted that photo, so here's a random one to keep you amused while you keep reading....
Still working really quickly, pat the lovely warm mixture into the lined pan and carefully pat the top nice and smooth
Bake at 150*C for 30-35 minutes, the top will be a bit burnished and might have just a few little bubbles showing. Don't overcook it, or it will go too hard and toffee-fied at the edges
Let it cool down in the pan completely, then trim off any excess paper just to make it look pretty
Now isn't that better?
With such a lovely amount of sugar and other goodies, if you put the cake in an airtight container it will last for a couple of months no problem at all. The flavours will just mature and taste better and better
If you daughter tries to be helpful and pops the cake in the fridge overnight, slicing or even making a dent in the surface of the cake will be nigh on impossible. It's much better stored and served at room temperature if you don't want to chip a tooth or two
So Dear Readers, how are you going with Christmas preparation, and do you like traditional Christmas Cake or not?