Like many holiday lovers, Christmas is Eric Lanlard's favourite time of year. But, for the famous French patissier it's the anticipation of filling the house with the nostalgic, festive smells of home baking that is truly exciting.
After hosting several of his own TV shows including Baking Mad with Eric and Glamour Puds for Channel 4, it's no wonder that he enjoys the prospect of celebrating the festive time of year with a great bake.
And now he has given us at HELLO! Online the secret behind the perfect Christmas dessert, with recipes for Chocolate Logs, Chocolate and Orange Christmas cake and a Purist Christmas cake.
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A self-confessed Christmas cake lover, the French foodie admits to getting slightly carried away at his bistro boutique in London: "Even as a French man I adore a good Christmas cake.
Each year we bake more and more Christmas cakes at Cake Boy, our boutique in London, and each year as soon as we start to bake our rich fruit cakes the customers rush in saying they can smell the baking from across the river. There really is nothing like the smell of a Christmas cake baking, it's so festive!"
In France there is no Christmas pudding or cake during the festive season but Eric tells us that, instead, you will find a variety of Chocolate Logs filled to the brim with indulgent, creamy chestnut frosting and topped with a sprinkle of snowy white icing sugar.
For another great alternative to the traditional English crumb, Eric's Chocolate and Orange Christmas Cake is still packed full of luscious dried fruits and festive spices, but benefits from the delicious addition of orange liqueur and rich dark chocolate.
Whatever you choose to bake this Christmas take some tips from the Baking Mad king for the perfect Christmas treat:
1. Always use unrefined sugar in your Christmas cake, the best and my favourite is Billington’s. Billington’s Dark Muscovado and Molasses give rich dark flavours and colour to your cake.
2. Roast your nuts before adding to your cake mixture for extra flavour and crunch.
3. Use good quality dried fruits; they should be plump and seedless. Make sure you use natural glace cherries.
5. Use good quality cognac in your Christmas cake or if you fancy experimenting try an orange liquor or rum. Feed your cake an extra tablespoon of alcohol roughly every two weeks before baking but don’t over-do it as it will become soggy.
6. If you are going to ice your cake do it the week of Christmas so your icing doesn’t dry or lose its colour.
7. I always make my Christmas cake very flamboyant and use it as a centre piece on the table instead of flowers.
8. Serve your cake with a cheese platter in the evening, accompanied by port or champagne - a winning combination.
9. For Boxing day I make a quick dessert by crumbling left-over Christmas cake over good quality vanilla ice cream.
10. I bake a batch or two of mini mince pies and pop them into little gift boxes as a gift for people who visit my house over the festive season. Or you can give them when visiting someone else's house … they are cute and delicious hot and because they are small you don't feel too guilty eating them.
For more tips and recipes from Eric visit www.bakingmad.comRecipes taken from Home Bake by Eric Lanlard published by Mitchell Beazley Photography (c) Craig Robertson