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The 5th Day of Advent — and a Chocolate Cake to Match

The 5th Day of Advent — and a Chocolate Cake to Match

December has officially arrived in all its sparkling, crackling winter glory, and that means heavy, richly-scented garlands, the sound of scissors sliding through wrapping paper, stuffing ourselves with unusual amounts of cheese or sweets, and… has anyone seen the tape?

One thing the joyous arrival of December also always brings is tradition. Like putting on a familiar and chunky sweater, tradition greets us each year to remind us we’re still human, and magic still exists. Maybe we always catch up with that far-away friend over a spiced drink. Maybe we’ve never missed a year wrapping our arm around a family member during a candlelight service and chorusing ‘Silent Night’ with the crowd around us. And maybe this year, those traditions look a bit different. Maybe this year, traditions need to get creative.

When I was a child, I would sometimes complain, “There’s nothing to do!” My mother would always respond the same way: “If there’s nothing to do, make something to do.” While agonizing over this as a rowdy eight-year-old, those words feel profound now. This year, many of the things we’ve always done have been altered or changed in some way. And so now, as we enter the Christmas season, if we don’t know exactly what to do, we will bravely and creatively make something to do.

This December, that sentiment means mixing old with new. Ceremonial traditions we can revel in while being home cuddled near a warming fire, mixed with fresh and exciting things we might have always been too busy during the holidays to try before now. Chopping wood like always, but while making new pen pals. Decorating the tree like always while sending special ornaments to family we can’t be with in person.

One of the brand new things we recommend for this season is to work your way through Nigel Slater’s exquisitely written Christmas Chronicles . Beginning on the first of November and working his magic all the way to the second of February, Slater offers captivating stories, recipes, and craft suggestions in particular on the Advent Calendar. From December 1st till the 25th, Nigel suggests one perfectly rich dish after the next, helping us to bake and cook our way to Christmas.

For today, December 5th, Nigel has given us a gloriously decadent dark chocolate and citrusy cake recipe to try. I can tell you it is divine (if you have the book, bake along!).

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

Chocolate Spice Cake:
2 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
2 Teaspoons Ground Ginger
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Mace
A heaping cup self-rising flour
6 oz dark chocolate
3 oz marzipan
3/4 cup chopped dates
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 stick salted butter
A heaping 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup crystallized ginger
1/3 cup candied orange peel
2 eggs
1 cup milk

For the topping:
5oz dark chocolate
1/2 cup crystallized ginger
1/3 cup candied orange peel

Mix together the cinnamon, ground ginger, and mace. Stir into the flour and set aside. Roughly chop the chocolate and the dates. Cut the marzipan into small pieces. Set the oven at 350 degrees fahrenheit, and line a 9×9 baking tin with parchment paper.

Put the syrup, butter, and sugar into a pan and bring to a simmer to melt. Cut the ginger into small pieces and add it and the orange peel to the melted mixture. Let the mixture bubble for a minute and then remove from the heat.

Break the eggs into a bowl and whip lightly with a fork. Then mix in the milk.

Pour the butter mixture into the flour, stirring firmly with a metal spoon. Pour in the milk and egg mixture along with the chopped chocolate, dates, and marzipan. Stir until mixed but still liquidy.

Pour the batter into your baking tin, and bake for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

Melt the remaining chocolate in a metal bowl over a pot of simmering water, and pour over the cooled cake. Let the chocolate harden. Then, sprinkle the remaining ginger and orange peel over the top (and even add a bit of orange zest if you’re feeling saucy!).

After it’s cooled, I recommend cutting small pieces for tasting. The cake may look small, but a little bit of this rich chocolatey goodness goes a very long way.

While new recipes and new friends make the season bright, for a more traditional custom worth celebrating, try an Advent Calendar. They’re an easy way to add magic to each day of the season. Every day leading up to Christmas, open a box containing a small gift, pull out a drawer overflowing with candy, or even read a passage of scripture that brings you to December 25th. It’s a beautiful way to bring your family together—or just to centre yourself— around a common object before turning in each day.

I’d love to see how your cake turns out, and what kind of traditions you’re celebrating with this year. You can connect with me through instagram at @lydiacockrell_

Happy 5th day of Advent!

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