Ingredients

For the Cake

  • 500ml boiling water
  • 450g whole dates
  • 4 tbsp dark rum
  • 3 tbsp brandy
  • 4 tbsp strong brewed coffee
  • 90g cocoa powder
  • 600g self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 90g cocoa powder
  • 300g butter, softened
  • 340g dark brown sugar
  • 9 large eggs
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 225g chopped dates
  • 300g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

For the Ganache

  • 100g milk chocolate
  • 140ml double cream
  • 1 tbsp golden caster sugar

For the Buttercream

  • 50g good quality dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • A few drops of milk

For the Decoration

Instructions

  1. Combine the boiling water, whole dates, rum, brandy, coffee and cocoa powder in a large heatproof bowl and set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 140°C/Gas mark 1 (120°C for fan assisted ovens) and grease the Hemisphere Cake Pans ─ we used Cake Release.
  3. Sift together the flour, salt, cinnamon, baking powder and cocoa powder. In another bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy, add the eggs one at a time and beat well.
  4. Pure the cooled date mixture in a food processor, once pured stir in the bicarbonate of soda.
  5. Beat the flour mixture into the egg mixture in two additions, alternating with the date purée, saving a little of the flour mixture to coat the chopped dates and chocolate in. Once combined, stir in the flour-coated dates and chocolate. Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared cake pans and bake for 2 hours.
  6. Break the chocolate into small pieces and place in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream and sugar in a pan until it is about to boil, then pour over the chocolate, stirring until the mixture is smooth.
  7. When the cake is cool sandwich the two layers together with the ganache.
  8. Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water (do not allow the base of the bowl to touch the surface of the water). Allow the chocolate to cool until it no longer feels hot to the touch.
  9. Beat the butter in a bowl until soft, and then gradually beat in the icing sugar. Add the vanilla extract and beat again.
  10. Fold in the melted chocolate until completely incorporated (add a few drops of milk if the mixture is a little stiff).
  11. Knead 750g of ready-to-roll white icing until soft, add a few drops of brown food colouring (continuing to knead until the colour is even) and roll onto a work surface dusted with icing sugar. Roll until it is slightly larger than the cake itself and is about 5mm thick.
  12. Thinly coat the whole cake with the prepared buttercream icing, gently lift the rolled icing and position it over the cake.
  13. Using the palm of your hand or an icing smoother, smooth and shape the icing until it feels silky to the touch. Trim any excess icing using a sharp knife.
  14. For the ‘drizzled sauce topping’, roll the remaining 250g ready-to-roll white icing (add ivory food colouring if desired) into a circle and place over the cake to check it is large enough to cover the top half. Once the desired length is achieved, place the icing onto a work surface and, using a sharp knife, cut out into a drizzled sauce shape. Apply the icing using a little buttercream and smooth down.
  15. For the holly, roll out the ready-to-roll green icing and using a cookie cutter or sharp knife, create your holly design. Stick the holly to the top of your cake using a few dabs of cool boiled water. Then finish off by making the berries, using ready-to-roll red icing. Roll the icing into little balls and secure to the centre of the holly, using a little cool boiled water.