We love the warming taste and aroma of Christmas spices, such as cinnamon and star anise. Combine them in this rich and buttery seasonal cake with the luxurious surprise ingredient of white chocolate. For a really pretty finishing touch, simply decorate the cake by placing a doily on the cake as a stencil and shaking on icing sugar. This cake is perfect served with a cup of tea on a cold afternoon or cut into small slices and served with mulled wine at a drinks party.
Makes a 20cm square cake
225g slightly salted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
4 whole star anise
225g caster sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon (try grinding your own, we used fresh Ceylon sticks, £8 for five, Cinnamon Hill, cinnamonhill.com)
2 tsps vanilla extract
4 medium free-range eggs, beaten
350g self-raising flour
150g white chocolate, chopped
4 tbsps full-fat milk
For the decoration
Icing sugar and a doily (Party Porcelain Gold, £4 for 24, Talking Tables)
1 Preheat the oven to 170°C/Fan 150°C/Gas 3. Grease and line the base and sides of a 20cm square cake tin. Grease the paper. Break the star anise into pieces and, using a coffee or spice grinder, grind to a powder with 25g of the sugar. Tip into a bowl.
2 Add the remaining sugar, cinnamon, butter and vanilla extract. Beat with an electric whisk until pale and creamy. Gradually beat in the eggs, adding a spoonful of the flour if the mixture starts to curdle. Add the flour and stir in gently until almost combined, then add the chocolate and milk and stir again until just combined.
3 Turn into the tin and level the surface. Bake for about 1¼ hours or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 15 minutes then transfer to a wire rack.
4 To serve, dust with icing sugar using a doily as a stencil. (We adapted a doily by adding a cut-out star.)
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