This luscious chocolate brownie Christmas pudding that is sure to make a sensational party piece. A novel take on the traditional festive dessert, it's perfect for those who may not be not be a fan of Christmas pudding.
Preheat the oven to gas 4, 180°C, fan 160°C. Grease and line 1 x 23cm (9in) round, loose-bottomed tin.
Set aside 3 of the glacé cherries, then cut the remainder in half and put in a bowl with the dried fruit or cranberries and orange zest. Pour over the brandy or orange juice (if using) and mix everything together. Set aside to soak.
Meanwhile, put the 150g (5oz) butter, the golden syrup and caster sugar into a saucepan set over a medium heat and warm, stirring occasionally, until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chopped chocolate and vanilla extract. Leave for a few minutes so the chocolate can soften and melt, then stir until smooth and combined.
Pour the chocolate mixture into a mixing bowl, then whisk in the eggs using a hand-held electric whisk until thick and velvety. Sift over the flour and mixed spice and fold it in gently but firmly until just combined. Fold in the soaked fruits, including all the juices, and chopped nuts.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the brownie has risen and is firm to the touch; a skewer inserted into the centre should come out a little sticky. Leave to cool completely in the tin – the brownie will firm up as it cools. If you like a really fudgy brownie, chill before cutting or decorating – chilling the brownie also makes it easier to cut.
To decorate the brownie, first draw around the base of the cooled tin on a piece of nonstick baking paper with a pen or pencil. Next draw on a wavy custard-effect outline and cut out the shape. Unroll the marzipan and place your cut out shape over the top. With a sharp knife, carefully cut around the outline, then peel off the paper.
Lightly brush the surface of the cake where you're going to put the marzipan with brandy or orange juice and carefully put the cut-out marzipan on the cake. Smooth down onto the cake with your hand. Put the sprig of holly at the top of the 'pudding' and attach the 3 leftover glacé cherries below the sprig to resemble holly berries.
You can use a bag of assorted mixed fruit and nuts to make up to 100g (3 1/2oz) or the full 150g (5oz) without the cherries to create the brownie.
Salted nuts can add a nice salty and sweet dimension to the bake.
White chocolate or white chocolate ganache can be used in place of the marzipan to create an extra chocolatey custard decoration.
Ground almonds can be used in place of the flour to create a gluten-free brownie and pud and enhance the almond flavour in the marzipan.
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