Kay Sandhu Written by Kay Sandhu

How sugars enhance favourite festive seasonal cakes

We all enjoy the countdown to Christmas, and with literally only hours to go, now is the perfect time to get into the spirit and explore the rich and delicious cakes and desserts on offer for the festive days to come. Although the products we buy in the shops are manufactured well in advance of the holiday, seasonal cakes are a fun activity to replicate at home, bringing friends and family together.

This week’s blog focuses on how using different pure sugars and syrups impact the flavour and production of the types of cakes and desserts we enjoy during the festive season.

A selection of Christmas cakes with a variety of toppings.

Christmas pudding enriched in dark cane muscovado

Naturally, when we think of Christmas traditions, we think of the Christmas pudding being a long-lasting, firm favourite, especially as over 25 million puddings are consumed each year in the UK alone.

Eating this Christmas favourite can be traced back to medieval times, making it one of the oldest Christmas traditions currently observed in Britain. Also known as ‘pud’, Christmas pudding originated and was consumed as a plum porridge. People ate the porridge on Christmas Eve, using it to fill their stomachs after a day of fasting.

Over time, dried fruit, spices and honey were added to the porridge mixture, eventually turning it into what we know today as Christmas pudding. To be classed as pudding and not a cake, a pudding is steamed in a basin on a hob rather than baked in the oven.

Today, Christmas puddings are still rich in fruit, but often include an added orange zest or are drenched in brandy and topped with lashings of brandy butter. This Christmas dessert is heavy and dense, with the use of spices. Notes of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg are especially apparent and dark cane muscovado sugar is used instead of dark soft brown sugar to elevate this to a deeper, richer flavour and colour.

The Christmas Pudding, one of Britain’s oldest traditions at Christmas.

Tunis cake mellowed by soft light brown sugar

A dessert similar in style to the traditional Christmas Cake, the Tunis Cake, contains a madeira sponge rather than using a fruit cake. The origin of the cake dates back to the Edwardian’s before Scottish bakery Macfarlane Langs commercialised the Tunis Cakes in the 1930s.

This soft cake has a gentle hint of lemon running through the sponge that adds a fresh flavour to mixed ground almonds and brown sugar. Soft light brown sugar is preferred to create a warm amber appearance, and a smoother, softer texture.

This festive treat is topped with thick chocolate ganache and marzipan shaped fruit for decoration. Not only does this look wonderfully festive, is also a great alternative to traditional Christmas Cake if a lighter sponge and chocolate is preferred over cooked fruit.

Dundee cake delights with light cane muscovado sugar  

Dundee Cake is a Scottish speciality that, as the name implies, originated in Dundee. As the dessert is made with Scotch whisky, it is also known as the Whisky Dundee.

Traditional Dundee Cake is a form of light fruit cake, decorated with blanched almonds, and is wonderfully flavoursome and aromatic. With a crumbly texture, Dundee Cake contains candied currants, raisins, sultanas and cherries, mixed with light cane muscovado sugar that gives this cake its warm golden toffee appearance that is traditionally preferred.

Traditional and festive, the Dundee Cake, also known as Whisky Dundee.

Yule log tidings come with golden syrup

The Yule log is a tradition dating back to the 19th century. The cake, called the bûche de Noël in France, Belgium and Switzerland, represents the Yule log that families would burn starting on Christmas Eve and is often served with one end with the spiral sponge layer exposed to resemble a cut branch.

With the rich use of creams and sugars to create this cake, golden syrup is also stirred through the mix to create the chocolate ganache coating that resembles the bark. Golden syrup performs the same function as other invert syrups but with added flavour and colour, giving the creamy Yule Log a more caramelised taste.

This is a wonderfully indulgent cake, and once the creamy ganache is spread over the rolled sponge, it’s given a bark-like texture by dragging a fork through the icing and powdered sugar is sprinkled to resemble snow.

The Yule Log, rich, creamy and  indulgent. 

Sugars play a core role in seasonal cake recipes

So, whether you prefer a fruity rich cake or the smooth indulgence of chocolate, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the company of a festive seasonal cake.

The importance of sugar in quality and variety is what sets each cake apart. From golden syrup to light brown sugar, the applications mentioned in this blog is crucial. Expertly blended with refiner’s syrup, soft light brown sugar gives it the distinctive colour and flavour. Golden syrup, with a soft mellow flavour, is approximately 20% sweeter than white sugar, making its unique flavour instantly recognisable all over the world.

If you would like to learn more about the role of sugar in Christmas puddings or mince pies, visit these blogs on how sugars affect Christmas pudding and about sugars in festive food and drink.

Ragus manufacturers high-quality, pure sugar products for the bakery market. To find out which pure sugar products you should use for your specific application, contact a member of our customer services team on phone or email. For more sugar news and Ragus updates, follow Ragus on LinkedIn.