Frosted pinecone cake

Create this stunning bake for the Christmas table. Decorated with almond pinecones, it's a perfect centrepiece if you aren’t a fan of traditional fruitcake

Serves 12-15


250g butter, softened, plus extra for the tins
300g golden caster sugar
100g plain yogurt
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
300g self-raising flour
150g apricot jam
For the almond pinecones
150g marzipan
100g flaked toasted almonds
cocoa powder, for dusting
For the buttercream
200g butter
500g icing sugar
75ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
˝ tsp almond extract
To decorate
1 egg white
100g caster sugar
8 rosemary sprigs
50g cranberries


Butter two 20cm loose-bottomed round cake tins and line with baking parchment. Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl using an electric whisk until light and fluffy, about 2 mins.

Mix the yogurt, oil, vanilla and eggs together in a jug. Add the flour and wet ingredients to the butter mixture, along with a pinch of salt. Mix everything for 1-2 mins until smooth and creamy.

Divide the batter between the tins and level the surfaces with a spatula. Bake for 25 mins, or until a skewer inserted into the centres comes out clean. If there is any wet mixture, return the sponges to the oven for another 5 mins, then check again. Leave to cool in the tins for 15 mins, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Once cooled, the sponges will keep in an airtight tin for five days or wrapped well and frozen for three months.

Make the decorations next. Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Lightly whisk the egg white and put the caster sugar in a dish. Bend the rosemary sprigs into curves – this will help them sit around the base of the cake. Brush or dip the rosemary sprigs and cranberries in the egg white, then coat in the sugar. Shake off the excess, then lay on the tray and leave to dry out for at least 1 hr.

To make the almond pinecones, divide the marzipan into five pieces and roll each one into an egg shape. Starting at the wider end, press the flaked almonds into the marzipan at an angle to make them look like a pinecone. Cover one side of each marzipan ball this way, being careful not to snap the almond flakes. Put the marzipan pinecones on a tray and dust lightly with cocoa powder.

To make the buttercream, beat the butter, icing sugar, milk, vanilla and almond extract in a large bowl using an electric whisk, or in a stand mixer until smooth and creamy, about 3 mins.

Put one cake on a cake stand or plate, and spread over roughly 6 tbsp buttercream using a palette knife. Top with the apricot jam, then sandwich the second cake on top.

Pile the remaining buttercream on top of the cake and spread it over the top and sides. This cake looks best with a ‘naked’ style frosting. To create this, scrape most of the buttercream off the sides using a palette knife so the cake is slightly visible through a thin layer of buttercream. Clean the plate around the edge of the cake using a sheet of kitchen paper.

Arrange the frosted rosemary sprigs round the base of the cake, and top with the frosted pinecones and cranberries. Will keep in an airtight tin for up to five days.