Serving up Christmas Cheer

, Food

‘The winter holidays are traditionally all about feasting together with the family and reveling in the festivities of the season. Chef Manuel Olveira Seller whips up two classic Yuletide delights with a modern twist’

Christmas is one of the most widely-celebrated festivals across the world, with food being one of the most crucial elements of this celebration. It is the perfect season for people to indulge their sweet tooth with classic treats from all around the world, including gingerbread cookies from the United States, Japanese Christmas cake, struffoli from Italy, Bûche de Noël from France and the Christmas pudding from England. With new textures and flavours being explored for different palates, the classics have now been infused with modern trends. I come from a city called Toledo in Spain, and for me, Christmas eve holds a lot of importance as it is the time when families celebrate together, with Spanish classics like turrón and marzipan concluding the meals. Turrón is a type of nougat made of toasted sweet almonds and honey, and is usually the most favoured sweet. Whereas marzipan is a traditional dessert of almond and sugar carved into small shapes. These are best paired with cava, a sparkling wine produced mostly in Catalonia, Spain.

A few other classic treats include bundt cakes, eggnog, cake rolls and cookies, which also can be modernised easily. One of the simplest yet traditional desserts for Christmas is a bundt cake. To add a little fun to the occasion, you can mix a small splash of your favourite rum to take it up a notch. You can give the classic eggnog (a sweet egg and milk punch) a new twist with eggnog cookies. Cake rolls can also be modernised by using brownies, instead of the classic sponge cake. The Bûche de Noël (yule log) can be given a tiramisu spin with a chocolate espresso filling or a chocolate hazelnut buttercream filling. Cookies are yet another classic that can be prepared into different styles. For example, a brookie, which is basically a brownie cookie or even a shakashaka cookie (Japanese word for something that you can shake and make noise with), which are two basic sugar cookies put together with a see-through sugar centre and filled with sprinkles that make a sound when shaken!

Shakashaka cookies


1) 115 gm unsalted butter, softened

2) ½ cup sugar

3) 1 egg

4) 2 cups flour

5) 20 pieces hard candy

6) sprinkles

7) ¼ cup white chocolate, melted

8) vanilla extract


• Mix sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla extract. Add flour to form a dough and keep in fridge for 30 mins.

• Roll it out an inch thick

• Take a wide-shaped cookie cutter and cut out the cookies. Take a smaller cookie cutter of same shape and cut out the centre of each.

• Place them on a tray laid with baking paper and put them in a preheated oven at 180 degree C for 10 mins.

• Once done, place a hard sugar candy in the centre of each cookie. Place them in the oven for 2-4 mins till the candy melts.

• Let them cool

• Fill your cookie centres with sprinkles and use the white melted chocolate as a glue to stick the other cookie on top.

• Refrigerate them for 10 mins and serve.

Tiramisu Yule log

Ingredients for chocolate sponge:

1) 1 cup flour

2) 1/2 cup cocoa powder

3) 1 tbsp baking powder

4) 1/3 cup sugar

5) 2 eggs

6) Vanilla extract

7) Milk (as per consistency)

Chocolate espresso filling:

1) 4 egg yolks

2) 1/2 cup sugar

3) 1 cup cold whipping cream

4) 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese

5) 1/4 cup melted chocolate

6) 2 tbsp of strong coffee


• For the chocolate sponge, sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder and set aside. In another bowl, whisk sugar and eggs until pale.

• Add dry ingredients to the egg and sugar mixture in two parts. Add a tbsp of vanilla extract and a tbsp of milk to begin with. Depending on the consistency of the batter, add more milk.

• Pour batter into a sheet tray and put it in the oven for 15-17 mins on 180 degree C.

• Remove the cake from the oven and place it on a clean kitchen towel.

• Meanwhile, cook your sugar and egg yolks on a double boiler till pale and thick. Cool.

• Whip the cream till stiff.

• Add melted chocolate and coffee to the egg and sugar mixture and mix well. Here, you can add and mix mascarpone cheese.

• Add whipped cream to this mixture and fold it in gently being careful not to deflate the air that was whipped into the cream.

• Unroll the sponge cake and put a thin layer of the mascarpone cream. Roll the cake again and wrap it in plastic wrap. Put it in the fridge for 15-20 mins.

• Dust the top with some cocoa powder and slice the cake to serve it up


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